My favorite makers at Maker Faire Detroit


I was in Detroit this past weekend for Maker Faire Detroit 2010. It was held at the Henry Ford Museum (look for an upcoming post about this incredible museum) and I'm guessing 20,000 people showed up. There was a great deal of excitement and energy in the air, and I went home with the feeling that Detroit is going to rise to greatness again very soon.

I met a lot of terrifically inventive makers in Detroit, and I managed to take photos of a small fraction of them.

These three boys are about to enter 6th grade. They demonstrated their Blackjack dealer robot, which sensed the presence of players sitting at a table and dealt cards to them. It worked flawlessly, and won first prize in a Robotics competition held by the US Army RDECOM (I served as a judge in the competition).


Chad Chenier showed off his home-built chicken farming equipment, including a chicken tractor and his "Easy Chicken Plucker" made from a cheap drill, a PVC endcap, and the ends of 3 rubber bungee cords.


Andrew Archer, 22, founded Robotics Redefined, a robotics and motor controller company in Detroit and Ann Arbor. He's profiled in MAKE Vol 23.


Tim Marzullo and Greg Gage are graduates of the University of Michigan. Their company, Backyard Brains, sells a $50 kit called the SpikerBox that filters and amplifies the electrical impulses of cockroach neurons.


David Smith makes beautiful handmade instruments, including cigar box ukuleles and this surprisingly sweet-sounding wire violin. Video of wire violin.


Circuit bender Creme DeMentia had plenty of $15 bottle cap contact microphones on hand, which was a good thing because they were selling like hot cakes.



TV-B-Gone magnate Mitch Altman taught a nightmarish giant-headed Henry Ford how to solder.


Ross Hershberger -- who wrote the article in MAKE Vol 23 about how to make a Squelette, an inexpensive, great sounding bare-bones amplifier -- brought along an earlier version of the amplifier.


Alix Stuart, age 19, was homeschooled. She's about to attend college as a music major, but also likes to build robots like this spherical critter designed to run away from a "chaser bot" built by her friend.


If you're sorry you missed Maker Faire, don't fret -- you can buy your tickets now for Maker Faire New York, which take place on September 25 & 26!


  1. Great pictures Mark. You caught my good side – distant. I’m the bald guy in the first photo who’s learning to weld. Now that I’ve learned, I’ve got the Maker bug!

    If only I had the scratch for the full Make electronics kit. I need to start saving my returnables!

    1. And by learning to weld, I mean of course solder. I was so excited to see my mug on boingboing, I freaked out.

  2. Mitch Altman provides a tremendous service. Soldering is the essential step to so much experimentation, repair, fabrication and creative fooling around. Scores of people who had never held a soldering iron built and wore their own Soldering Merit Badge. I spent 2 days in the tent with the soldering shop and I’ve never seen so many smiles in one place. It was thrilling, amazing, inspiring, exhausting and just so much fun. Thanks to Make Magazine for putting this together and to Mark for his enthusiastic encouragement of DIY.

  3. I was there making liquid nitrogen ice cream. The whole thing was awesome beyond words. Life sized Mouse Trap game FTW!

  4. I wanted to see the Mousetrap game drop a safe on a minivan but I was too busy. My wife recorded it for me to enjoy. I hope there’s video of the elaborate Coke/Mentos performance. I could see the tops of the geysers from 100 feet away.

  5. I missed the Coke and Mentos thing, because I had to watch the ice cream booth. Shouldn’t have bothered, no one came by. They were all at the Coke and Mentos show.

  6. Ack!


    Sorry, Electronics class flashback.

    But seriously, please. Your eyes are precious.

  7. I didn’t know the guys from Philly were freezing balloons in liquid nitrogen. I should have snuck off for that. Yeah, I could tell when the Coke/Mentos show was on because our booth became suddenly vacant.

  8. Henry Ford museum is far removed from anything to do with Detroit. Just because it had the name Detroit does not mean that it was about Detroit.
    Dearborn is about 20 minutes outside the city. Hope for Dearborn maybe. I hope for Detroit, but this is just misleading.

  9. I took the family, and we had a BLAST! My 6-year-old daughter disassembled a keyboard at the Wrecklab. We watched the life size Mouse Trap — AWESOME. Lots of local makers and vendors. So lovely.

  10. I’m glad the Detroit fair was a success.

    I’ve been telling friends back East about the NYC Faire.

  11. The giant Henry Ford head is the stuff nightmares are made out of. This would scare the b’jesus out of me if it appeared to me at my bedside.

  12. Hey Mark,

    I was at maker faire day 1 from when it opened to when it closed, and i can safely say that it was one of the best experiences of my life! when i learned how to solder i felt like i could take on the world, or at least instructables! i actually saw you, and i was gonna say hi, but you slipped into the crowd. it was right after your panel on cigar box guitars. I had tons of fun, it was like every cool thing on boing boing in one place. Side Note: saw leo laporte there for twit, i haven’t seen him since he was on call for help when i was 14, really wish i could have said hi. ooh i can’t stop talking about this to all my friends, anyways, i’ll end with the fact that i’m still wearing my merit badge!

    -one very happy mutant

  13. Much of my volunteer time was spent watching the entrance to the Maker Shed. From there I was able to encourage the young people to learn to solder.

    They leave wearing their LED “merit badge” and proud smiles of self-empowerment.

  14. We shared booth space with IFIXIT.COM. I learned that they maintain a huge WIKI database of repair manuals for consumer electronics. Apple doesn’t want you to open up your ipod and change the battery, but IFIXIT.COM has detailed instructions with photos, and sells the battery and a wide range of common replacement parts for Apple products. The next time a piece of gear breaks or you want to upgrade, have a look at IFIXIT.COM. Maybe the info you need is already out there. According to IFIXIT, over 5 million people have used their repair manuals to take charge of their technology, cut the manufacturer out of the repair process and keep devices out of landfills. That’s POWER!

  15. The faire was great!
    Sorry I didn’t see you, Mark. There was so much to see and do.
    We took the survey as we left expressing our enthusiasm for MOAR!

  16. The city of Detroit is about 81% black. The Maker Faire looks 100% white. I applaud the initiative here, but anyone else even notice/bothered by this?

  17. @ Adam B.

    I went to Makerfaire in San Mateo and also noticed it was mostly white but there were some Asians and Latins there, with a handful of African-Americans. As a woman of color, I was comfortable there.

    However, you bring up an important point. IMHO, unless there is some outreach in the communities where there are large populations of non-computer literate or university-educated people, the socio-economic demographic for this event will likely not change. Also, I think public schools could be good breeding grounds for Makers but I have no idea what the current situation is with the “shop” classes that were offered when I was in school. Hopefully, budget cuts haven’t decimated those offerings for anyone interested in taking them.

    1. Well this is a problem with many areas not just maker fares. Im a geek, a big time geek and every year here we have several roleplaying/boardgame conventions, the largest one being in my hometown Gothenburg (in Sweden), they differ allot from those in the US and are real DIY things aimed not at selling or showing wares but entertainment at low cost.

      Anyway one of the things with them is that they are mostly visited by us ethnic swedes. There are very few people who are first to third generation immigrants and the problems we have is that its not like we can force an interest in something so specific (and to be honest, so lame) as rpg’s and boardgames. But if we check deeper into it you some of us have noticed that there is a class issue going. Working class kids and adults are few and far between (Im one adult with working class background but I dont know that many more) and the immigrants are set into our class due to racism (no matter what their class belongings was in their former home countries).

      Its a big issue and I think it goes beyond plain racism and school spending (even though Im all for that too… err to spend money on public schools not racism)

  18. Schools, definitely. I’ve worked in high schools of one of the wealthy Oakland County MI districts, and the technology programs are fantastic. Award winning robotics & all that. But they have literally millions invested in hardware and curriculum. There’s no way that 95% of school districts could match that. If familiarization with science and tech doesn’t start very early, kids grow up seeing everything technical as gadgets that run on magic. Few go out of their way to climb that tall learning curve on their own.

  19. We missed you at the i3 Detroit hackerspace booth! In any case, I’m glad you got to see some of the too-often-overlooked ingenuity and creativity that lurks just below the decayed facade of Detroit!

  20. For those of you wondering about teaching Makers, one of the exhibitors last weekend was They’re hoping to augment (or fill in for, as necessary) shop programs in schools.

    If you’re looking for this sort of activity in Detroit, OmniCorpDetroit is offering workshops in their space at Eastern Market. There’s one this Sunday:

    I’ve found numerous other local groups just since the Faire: i3 Detroit ( ) of course, in Ferndale, and All Hands Active ( ) in Ann Arbor.

    I didn’t know about any of this before last weekend, so this event has definitely raised awareness of our local resources. To those complaining here about the venue or demographics, the state of school funding, or whatever, contacting any of these groups and getting involved would be a lot more constructive.

  21. Although the pictures are pretty much 100% white, the attendance wasn’t quite that skewed. Maybe 90%? I wonder how Make Magazine subscribers and Henry Ford members skew.

    And about kids: there were quite a few tents of Young Makers, including quite a bit of Lego, Lego Mindstorms, and robotics stuff. Although they were kind of in a corner, since they were there in teams they got to explore some as well. I think it’s great that those kids got to see all the excitement in the other parts of the faire!

    My favorite hands-on parts were Replayground, creating things in the Xyron area, and the Arts & Scraps booth. I would have spent more time in the craft area were it not for my maker son who kept me moving!

    My favorite part to see was the Legorchestra musical instruments, made by the same team profiled in your last photo there. My least favorite part was the fact that there was no map of exhibitors – finding folks inside The Henry Ford was kind of hit-or-miss.

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