Maker Faire Bay Area 2017: Day Two

      Major Takeaways
  • The Bay Area has a relatively enormous food/kitchen-hacking community.
  • No matter what you want to do, there’s a board for it.
  • Arduino has a ton of users. No, really, the numbers are shocking.
  • Maker Faire never fails to have a large number of “Okay, cool, but…why?” projects. Bay Area doubly so.
  • Grant Imahara is very nice. And short.


  • The biggest competition for mobile apps? Pen and paper. Keep this in the back of your mind as you design.
  • Makers who buy only off-the-shelf tools will find their creations circumscribed by the tool’s limitations. Never be afraid to build your own tools! (h/t Jeremy Ashley of Oracle for that tidbit)


General Observations

Just some bullet points based mostly on sessions I sat in on.

TinkerCad New Features Sneak Peek

  • Personal Custom Objects & Parts: Design a finished part and add it to your personal library for reuse.
  • Integration of Electronic Components: Add components (for example, an LED and battery), and TCad will automatically create the carve-outs to incorporate them into your finished piece. Circuit assemblies also coming.
  • Greater Fusion 360 Interoperability
  • Integration with MyMiniFactory (finally, a non-Thingiverse option). If you aren’t familiar with MyMiniFactory, have a look. All their objects are guaranteed printable, and there’s some spectacular work on display.
  • Brickify! They were extraordinarily coy about this, but it was obvious that just as you can convert objects for use in Minecraft, you’ll soon be able to design for Lego construction. I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t the one I want most.


The State of Arduino: Massimo Banzi

  • Lots going on with the venerable maker microcontroller
  • IDE is downloaded once every 2.6 seconds!
  • Development of new features is heavily focused on IoT (see what I meant?), connectivity, and cloud technologies
  • >4000 available libraries supporting dozens of architectures
  • Efforts are underway to simplify external contributions, and to separate the common API from the HAL to ease porting to new architectures
  • IDE is available for Windows 10S
  • When Banzi starts talking about stuff he calls geeky, I’m out of my depth
  • LoRA gateway shield in the works!
  • Expansions and feature enhancements to
  • Chromebook support is in the works, as are a slew of new kits

I won’t devalue Tim Dye’s Hacking Crosswalk Buttons to Change the World by summarizing it, but if the title catches your fancy, have a look. It was one of the best things I saw all weekend.

Critical Making

  • Field activities use making to critique design and technology
  • Do dark activities (“Noir Design) as well: Technological ways to, say, prolong a breakup, or lie better (these are rarely anything you actually want to see made
  • Provocations are larger projects designed to address social issues (Farm to Label, interactive tampons…yes, really, he didn’t elaborate, but the group has been VC funded…make of that what you will)


From Maker to Content Creator

  • Essentially a panel around how Laura Kampf, Bob Clagett, Mark Rober and Peter Brown monetized their making habits
  • YouTube is the way to go for reach and ROI
  • Do what you like and grow your audience organically
  • “Don’t trade one boss at work for 450,000 bosses on the internet.” – Peter Brown


Human Experience, Design, and the Maker Process

  • The biggest competition for mobile apps is still pen and paper, because its ease-of-use can’t be beat
  • If you buy one-size-fits-all tools off the shelf at the big box, your making will necessarily be limited by and oriented around their limitations…don’t be afraid to roll your own!



The Vive tent was enough to make me glad we own one (a Vive, not a tent). This was five minutes after the gates opened. It never got shorter. This constant line, though, does indicate the popularity of virtual reality.

What you get when you mix propane, welding torches, scrap metal, and bugs? I don’t know either, but The Flaming Lotus Girls certainly seem to have some ideas.

The Dark Room,which really ought to invite some super creative making, almost always seems to invite more of a mix of oddities and light up toys. Not that this is entirely a bad thing, but it does usually feel like a letdown. Bonus weirdness points to Peter Hudson’s 3D Strobocopic Zoetrope, which is absolutely creepy. Tapigami’s masking tape Millennium Falcon does beg the question “Why?”, but is extraordinarily cool nonetheless…not least because it lights up.

Particularly surprising to me, as a regular attendee of the East Coast World Maker Faire, was a large number of culinary hacking activities. These ran the gamut from beekeepers to dinnerware to “tinkering kitchens”. Given the Bay Area’s cultural history, and California’s agricultural production, I probably shouldn’t have found this surprising.


Materials crafters from glass workers to blacksmiths demonstrated everything from coal forging to lamp working to vehicle construction. The number of vehicles particularly boggles the mind, almost all electric, and most sporting some sort of fanciful modification.



Of course there were a variety of Star Wars-related items, but the most prominent was easily the display of replica astromechs. The level of sophistication was astounding, and according to one builder, some modelers spend up to $40000 on a really complex R2 unit.

That, my friends, is dedication to craft.

Or obsession.

Or both.

If you want to watch the progress of premium technologies from the rarefied air of niche markets to the wider maker audience, the Faire is as good a place as any. Telepresence bots are something I first saw six or seven years ago at a Mac conference, running about $8000. One vendor at the Fair offered a comparable unit for a few hundred. At least three vendors offered custom 3D-printed shoes. And then there’s all the IoT stuff I noted earlier.

Attendees had the chance to vote with their feet on a variety of questions.

I finished out the day spectating a few drone races (of varying lengths). The unsung heroes of this event? The guys who fish tangled drones out of the protective nets.

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