ADULTS ONLY SCIENCE FAIR

Senior Technical Editor Dan Hebert here with an excerpt from a recent column that I wrote. Was your childhood scarred by science fairs? Did you work for weeks on a project that turned out to be incredibly lame compared to other kids’ stuff that was obviously done by their engineer parents? Here’s your chance to get even. Maker Faire (makerfaire.com) is three-year old science fair open to all ages but dominated by adult projects. It is held twice a year, once in May in San Mateo, CA and once in October in Austin, TX. The event has grown from humble beginnings to a major shindig. The most recent event in San Mateo in May featured projects from over 500 makers, record attendance of 65,000, and a new educational program. Major companies are also getting into the act as sponsors and exhibitors. At the most recent event, Disney Consumer Products announced its entry into the robotic toy market. Other big name sponsors and exhibiters included Microsoft, Google, and IBM. All prospective makers must submit pre-event proposals to the fair staff. Approved exhibitors are given a 10’ x 10’ booth space to show their wares. Although there are no prizes or judges, recognition is doled out by fair attendees and by media covering the event. Commercial firms pay to exhibit at the event, no doubt hoping to promote their products to fair participants. Some companies such as Disney sell ready made toys at the event. Other companies such as sparkfun electronics (sparkfun.com) sell components that makers can use in their own projects. Everyone likes to play with fire, so a blisteringly interactive large-scale fire toy that translates anyone's movement into fire was a huge hit. A central stage was lined with proximity sensors and surrounded by an outer ring of flame effects, creating huge bursts of flame when a dancer moved onstage. All of the projects mentioned above are described in more detail at makerfaire.com via words, photos, and sometimes videos. Evaluate the competition and join in the fun!

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