Maker Faire Austin: It's Alive!
Maker Faire, a celebration of DIY ethos and meeting-place for citizen engineers, has come to Austin, Texas for the very first time. Austin is no stranger to innovation, playing annual host to the South by Southwest (SXSW) film and music festival.
"By far the biggest obstacle is fear," said Jim Newton, the founder and managing director of TechShop, a business in Menlo Park, Calif., that offers drop-in access to a wide range of fabrication tools. "People are afraid to try this. Very few people want to make things anymore because they've built up this fear. Aside from providing the actual tools, (it's necessary) to get people past the fear. It's (about showing) people that they can do this: 'You don't have to be an engineer. You can do this yourself.'"
Another meeting attendee, Make senior editor Phil Torrone, suggested that the way to getting people interested in using these kinds of tools, particularly young people, is to show them how to use the technology on their favorite devices.
"People under 18 want to (laser) etch their iPods and cell phones," Torrone said. "But the people that have this equipment are engineers. It's like a drug (though). You let them try it and get them addicted. You have to have a gateway drug. You have to give them something interesting first. And there are a hundred million iPods."
CNET (with Daniel Terdiman on-scene)has some photos of the setup here.
I'm high in the air, aboard a carnival ride cum Burning Man art piece cum bicycle-tech-powered people mover known as the Star Wheel.
It's hard to describe this: It's a giant wheel, maybe 20 feet high that has three seats built into the middle of it--independent of the outer frame--that are geared to spin around when their occupants pedal like crazy. As they pedal, the wheel moves slowly forward while those inside whoop and scream their way through rapid 360 degree rotations.
It's quite the experience. I had first seen this at Burning Man 2004, and then again the following year. I had always wanted to ride it because of its particularly silly blend of carnival attraction and obvious genius engineering. But I'd never gotten the chance.
So when I arrived Thursday at the Travis County fairgrounds--where Maker Faire Austin is taking place this weekend--to report on the preparations for the event, I was very pleased to see the Star Wheel being assembled.