Maker Faire launched in 2006 as a place for makers to meet up and show off their stuff. 20,000 people attended that first year. It was a mind-blowing experience to witness such an exuberant celebration of ingenuity.
I just returned home from Maker Faire Bay Area 2013, and it was the best one yet. At least 120,000 people attended. The variety of projects was impressive, and the trend of "makers making tools for other makers" has accelerated. Who needs an organization to make and sell products when you can use low-cost, effective DIY versions of R&D, prototype development, vendor sourcing, funding, manufacturing, and sales & marketing? The level of sophistication I saw in many projects at Maker Faire is a sign that makers are going to make a difference in the world.
It was nice to see traditional companies come to Maker Faire to support it as sponsors, and to engage with makers in discussions about the future of manufacturing. For example, I checked out Boing Boing sponsor Toyota's RAV4 EV 2013 that was on display at Maker Faire.
Sheldon Brown (below), Toyota's Executive Program Manager, was on site and I chatted with him about this all-electric vehicle. It has an EPA-Rated driving range of 103 miles and takes about 6 hours to charge using a Level-2 (240-volt) charging station. It's rated at 78 MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent) and looks roomy. I'm looking forward to driving it for several days next week!
The Rav4 EV 2013's motor was of great interest to the attendees, who crowded around the open hood, but I couldn't take my eyes off the brightly-colored liquids in neatly lined up plastic jars. They reminded me of the sweet syrup that you find in those tiny wax bottles of Nik-L-Nips. Unfortunately, by the time I returned to the car with a drinking straw, the hood was down.
The RAV4 EV wasn't the only wheeled wonder on display. I saw dozens of rolling projects on exhibit that had little purpose other than to spread cheer to others. I took photos of a few, which you can see below.
A member of the Cyclecide Bike Rodeo on one of their many custom novelty bikes.
A sweet-looking battery powered bike with a metal saddle. I hope the suspension system is good!
Very young children at Maker Faire didn't care for this android.
This fat-tired vehicle moves when you bounce on it. Not the most efficient way to ride, but it looked like fun.
I never found out what this does, but my guess is that it's a smoke ring cannon on wheels.
Lined up and ready for remote control battle.
This creative young maker brought his own awesome remote control rover to Maker Faire.
Tall Bike Bobby rode his custom two-wheeler from Vancouver to LA last year. Here's my MAKE post about him.
Jon Sarriugarte and Kyrsten Mate's Serpent Twins cars are always a crowd favorite. (Who's photobombing on the right?)
And here's a video of four more weird wheeled wonders I encountered at Maker Faire:
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. His new book is Maker Dad: Lunch Box Guitars, Antigravity Jars, and 22 Other Incredibly Cool Father-Daughter DIY Projects