Maker Faire Austin 2008

This weekend I went down to Austin, Texas for Maker Faire Austin, the 2008 edition.  ITP resident researchers Rory Nugent and Hyeki Min went with me, as did recent alums So-Young Park and Young-Hyun Chung.   Between us, we took eight ITP projects: Young-Hyun’s Digital Wheel Art, So-Young’s  Music & Fashion Coordinator, Tom Gerhardt’s FireLight, Christian Cerrito’s Brushbots, Che-Wei Wang and Kristin O’Friel’s Momo, Rory’s Square Band, Alex Reeder’s Butterfly Dress,and Eric Rosenthal’s Liquid ID Spectrometer. It was exhausting showing work for two days straight, but a lot of fun as well.

In addition to our own work, ITP was represented well by alums Tarikh Korula and Josh Rooke-Ley’s Purple Pedal Project for Yahoo! was there, along with Tristan Perich and Kunal Gupta’s Loud Objects.  Ariel Churi and Amy Parness of SparkleLabs were there as well, selling SparkleKits electronics kits. Alums Jim Moore and Billy Taylor came out to see the show as well.

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One of the valuable things about showing work at an event like this is that you have to get really good at explaining things quickly so that people can start playing.  Some projects speak for themselves; Christian’s Brushbots were a hit with everyone, because they are so lively and graphic.  Alex’ Butterfly Dress, on the other hand, needed a little explanation, unless it was turned on at the time. There’s a slight delay in its startup, so we got in the habit of filling the delay with a five-second explanation, ending with the butterflies starting to flap.  People were always pleased when that happened.

Momo also had startup time, but because its initial behavior is so dramatic, I found it was more fun to put it in people’s hands, then wait until it kicked in. “How do I know it’s working?” they’d ask. “You’ll know,” I’d reply, then it would jerk suddenly in their hands.  It was great seeing how far people would follow it. One guy walked almost all the way to the end of the barn (a couple hundred yards) with it before I caught up with him and told him he’d end up at the airport if he kept walking.

Hard to say what my favorite project there was, though I am always partial to the life size mouse trap game. The crafts were really good this year too, including one company that made great jewelry from antique typewriters and watches (sorry I didn’t get a link).  There was also a really great food makers’ section this year.

I was pleased to see that Massimo Banzi’s new book, Getting Started With Arduino, was released at the Faire. It’ll be useful to physical computing beginners.  I picked up a few other good books too, including The Best of Instructables, Cabaret Mechanical Movement, and the Make Pocket Reference. I also got some great soap from the people at S.O.A.P.

There was a lot of enthusiasm from the crowd, and we got tons of visitors and many great questions.  I look forward to the next one.  PIctures from our booth are available on my flickr site.

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