Angela and I went to the Las Vegas Mini Maker Faire last Saturday and had a pretty awesome time. About 40 exhibitors were present, and each was very passionate about the items they were presenting, what they’d created and the chance for the average person to build really cool stuff. While we didn’t talk to every single exhibitor, there were a few that really stood out in my mind.
The first exhibitor who made me stop in my tracks was the Nevada R2 builders. These individuals build robots from the Star Wars universe (most notably R2-D2). They had two completed astromechs and one that was about halfway done. The robots were controlled via regular RC remotes like you would use for a plane or car, and they were quite expressive. I overheard one of the individuals at their booth saying a completed astromech costs about $10,000 to build.
Next, we scoped out a booth hosted by an individual who had built their own underwater reconnaissance vehicle. They had the vehicle at the booth along with some information about assembling it and a video of the vehicle diving into Lake Mead. For me, this exhibit kind of personified the whole event – here was someone who wanted to build something just because and then came and talked about it to strangers. I loved it!
Moving on, we found an exhibitor who sculpts fantasy landscapes out of modeling clay. The landscapes were half of her own imagination and half inspired by existing fantasy works. Each landscape had an impressive amount of interesting details and you could readily see the creativity flowing from the woman’s hands. If you look closely at the first image here, you’ll see a little sign. That sign says “Danger: Don’t Feed the Dragon”. Angela and I really liked that particular detail.
As we continued, we found a large booth filled with robots and robotics gear headed by a company called Pololu. The company manufactures small controllers and electronics components that you can use to build a ton of cool stuff. Just taking a look at the home page of their website should give you a good idea of the kind of things you can build with their components, but they went a step above and built a few demo pieces for show at the Maker Faire. My two favorites were a light up owl lamp that you could reposition via magnets to change the light color and a glowing LED strip that could run a variety of patterns through it with just the click of a switch.
One of my personal highlights was talking to one of the guys behind Pinoccio, an awesome little component that, in a nutshell, allows you to construct web connected devices that do a bunch of different things. I’m super intrigued and totally want to buy one, but I’m not sure what I would do with it, so I’ll probably hold off.
A fun little thing we saw on our way out was this mega-sized d20 containing a bunch of different programming languages. It was built at SYN Shop, the Las Vegas Hackerspace.
On our way out, we saw one of the cutest things at the Faire: Flaky Friends. Their tagline is “plush with issues” which totally summed up the feel I got from the toys. They were really awesome. Take a look at their website for pictures.
We finally had our fill of the exhibitors inside and headed out to the courtyard. Out there, we save a DeLorean which had been retrofitted with an electric engine. They had all the electronics components open and shielded behind clear plastic so we could take a look at the work. It was pretty amazing.