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Maker Fairy.

I had absolutely no expectations when I landed in San Francisco for my first Maker Faire event. I’ve attended self-proclaimed cool trade shows in the past (I’m looking at you, GDC) but nothing prepared me for the geek-fest that was the 2015 edition of Maker Faire Bay Area.

Since the company I work for was exhibiting in the main hall, I had the pleasure of being an overall booth babe for the entire duration of the event, demonstrating the latest dev boards using MIPS CPUs and PowerVR GPUs.

Maker Faire - robots (3)Very friendly, definitely not scary, glow in the dark cat.

Let me tell you what I saw, Sergio Leone-style.

The good

There were many interesting things that happened at our booth during the event.

Here are my personal highlights:

  • A nine-year old completed our programming challenge

We hooked up a robot to a Creator CI20 and a chipKIT Wi-FIRE board via GPIO. To complete the task, one had to write a sequence in Python that would move the robot around in the shape of our Imagination logo (a circle and a square).

I personally counted over 80 people taking the challenge but the one that made me all gooey on the inside was this kid who completed the task in little over the 10 minute mark.

  • Jeri Ellsworth visited our booth

Over the years, I have met several famous people at tradeshows, including Broadcom co-founder and Anaheim owner Henry Samueli, Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth or NBA Hall of Famer and professional children-maker Calvin Murphy.

Maker Faire added a new name to my hit list since I had the pleasure of talking to Jeri Ellsworth twice. You can follow her progress on the CastAR project for augmented reality gaming here.

  • Deep fried chicken breast and maple butter-covered waffle sandwich

Pure heart attack wrapped in a bento box, this authentic (?) Korean American (!?) comfort food packs every single nutrient one would need to take on Mount Kilimanjaro.

The bad

I have to say Maker Faire was a well-organized and generally relaxed event. However, there were times when it seemed like rush hour on an expressway.

Saturday was perhaps the busiest day I’ve ever seen at any event, ever. There were rivers of people flowing in from every direction and I felt a bit claustrophobic. Luckily, we all gave it our best and even managed to take individual breaks from time to time.

If you’re an exhibitor in the main aisle, make sure you get plenty of rest beforehand because the event can be somewhat exhausting.

Maker Faire - robots (2)I am robot(s).

Parking was also a problem for those who had to carry a lot of kit; even though we were allowed to drive in on the first day, we had to hand-carry everything back on our way out and the nearest car park was at least a mile away.

The weird

I saw many weird inventions at Maker Fair, including a robot that spoke in a very Terminator-like way.

Maker Faire - robots (4)

He’ll be back.

The clear winner in the most random thing ever created category was an iPad-controlled balloon. The rig consisted of an elongated rubber bladder placed on a middle-aged man’s head; the movements of the balloon were controlled by an app running on an iPad and the tablet was stuck to his chest.

He would walk up to individuals, ask them to vigorously rub his iPad and make strange noises as the balloon went up and down. Obviously, I had to try it multiple times.

See you next year Maker Faire!