Thursday, October 8, 2015

San Diego Maker Faire :: Day Two

Day one was outdoors, beneath a blue sky, and it was awesome. Day two started with lots of rain, and called for a completely new plan, and being makers we rolled with that, and it was awesome, too. Check it out!

It was a bit confused and hectic when we learned we would have to move from our outdoor space, but I think I found my second wind, a renewed joy, when I ran into Darrahl. Darrahl, and his wife, Bobbie, are family. Yeah, that about covers it. They are FIRST mentors for our favorite FRC team, FIRST 2102 Team Paradox. They are fun-loving, generous, personal friends, who have joined us for many special occasions, and life events. Knowing them... finding them in the crowd, it's comforting, reassuring, uplifting: Good!

In fact, all day we had the pleasure of seeing yellow on top, red on the bottom, and Paradox all over! There are a lot of new faces on this team, naturally, but one thing hasn't changed... FIRST 2102 Team Paradox is still a winning, gracious, spirited robotics team, with great young people and great mentors. FIRST and Maker Faire go well together!

With help from Kent, from the Maker Zone & Battle Pond, and after meeting Dan, of Open Source Maker Lab, we got space in the Hall of Champions, and more passes for our BOoM team. We even dared to squeeze in Mech-Cthulu, our popular Giant Robotic Tentacle.

I freely admit, these aren't "technically" the best pictures, but what they recall, what they illustrate is wonderful. For outreach, for connecting, for sharing our passion for STEAM education, and the joy robots can bring, these pictures are perfect!

Just {barely} enough room for Mech-Cthulu. Eventually, Geoff added a pool noodle head, because we were determined to not draw blood, or give out free concussions.

Plenty of space for Da Vinci.

The look on Geoff's face. I think his labor is of love.

Today, we had even more help, with Janece and Paul available to help us set up, and demonstrate, plus James and Celine agreeing to help us pack and leave at the end of the day. And we also got fed, when Ruth and Holly arrived with a picnic feast. Dividing the time up a bit, getting some breaks, was a nice difference. Alex and Max were even able to get home to take care of homework demands.

I took advantage of some free time to learn how to solder my very own blinking Makey Robot, with some guidance from a San Diego charter school. {Regrettably, I am not finding that school's name. If anyone can help... thank you!}

I was assured that with a finer tipped soldering tool, my Makey Robot could look a lot less wonky. Still, I am really pleased with my first solo run at soldering.

More friends! Even more friends found us this day, than the first, and it was a lot of fun seeing them, especially when we could introduce our friends to other friends. So, Ido and Leslie got to meet Michelle. It makes me happy when people I admire get to know other people I admire, and I like to think how much this does to make our community better.

There were constantly new moments to enjoy, like when I would see familiar faces, like Steve and Geoff talking, and Janece and Paul keeping Mech-Cthulu operating, and Maria engaged with visitors. Some of it is a blur, and that makes me happy to have these pictures.

The pictures... the faces! Good things were going on, things worth remembering!

We were having fun. It shows. Being connected to wonder, to learning, to sharing new experiences is exhilarating.

Like the day before, we had a child ask whether Da Vinci could make custom art, and we said "Yes." We are poorly equipped to let people use Inkscape on our laptop, but we love trying, and so this young lady drew a fish, and Da Vinci, followed her lead to illustrate her art.

How this is accomplished is explained in this link, from our first day at San Diego Maker Faire.

Making at Maker Faire!

William went out on a long, extended excursion. San Diego Maker Fair was all over Balboa Park, including inside ten museums! He returned with some old friends, Eli and Jessica.

Then we were visited by more familiar faces, namely the Paradox mascot, and Austin!

This was a sweet Maker's moment for me, seeing that costume, that I made almost five years ago! What ever possessed me to try and make a customized, original mascot costume of a Parrot + Ox... I'll never know, but props to me, because it's still holding together!

Having as many of our BOoM team on hand to lend a hand was critical, as new visitors were constantly streaming through. It takes a lot to pack, haul, unpack, set-up, demonstrate, and do maintenance, then pack, haul and load, again. Thank goodness for our crew this day: Geoff, Paul, Janece, Alex, Max, William, Maria, Amira, Celine, and James.

The work and effort are so rewarding!

Especially when our friends share in the fun! We were thrilled to see Gwen, and Sandy at Maker Faire.

At least a few parts in our robots came from stops at Surplus Depot. A store like their's is an indispensable resource for any Maker!

Here is a league of extraordinary gentlemen.

June has the controller.

June has the power.

Makers, coders, artists, musicians, inventors, tinkerers, people who play, people who are curious, who ask how? and why?... these are the future, the hope, the best of our country, our world. The cool thing is, at Maker Faire, they aren't waiting to start. The future is now.

Maria was proud to share her knowledge of Da Vinci with her teacher, June.

We are fortunate... because not only are we interested in learning, in tinkering and playing, but we have access to resources, we care to invest our time and energy in the Maker movement. What we want is for our government, private industry, and interested individuals to notice STEAM education, to fund it, support it, reinstate it, open doors, and listen to young people, we want people to care about their interests in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Music and Math.

It's more than text books, it's better than standardized tests... STEAM education, hands on learning, engagement and broad support for young people to learn how things work, to play with gears and paint, to build what they imagine, is the best education, the best investment, our country can make.

I believe in supporting young people, in rewarding innovation, in crossing borders, reaching out to all, educating everyone by many means. Growing up, I became disillusioned with the saying "the children are our future." I understand its sentiment, that children matter, that down the road they will be our leaders etc, but it strikes me as an empty gesture, a deferral of respect and investment for a later time. I believe children need, and deserve, to be respected now. Good schools now. Metal shops, art programs, science labs, coding classes, cooking classes, dance, yoga, woodworking, film-making, music: Now!

Probably, as a parent of young people, I feel keenly about supporting education and the Maker Movement for children especially, but I think my passion for STEAM extends beyond childhood, because I see the value of a network of mentors, teachers, coaches, and students, of all ages, engaged and interacting for a greater good. We have as much to learn from retired and skilled people, as students coming out of colleges. Grade school children, too, have to know that we aren't cutting their art, defunding their science, putting off for another day any of the support, faith, or resources that they need now to believe in their future, our future. Collectively, government with citizens, corporations with community, families with schools... experienced, young, novices, amateurs, experts, we must interact, and engage, and build this future now.

The future will be great, if we make the world the best it can be, today, and I think Maker Faire demonstrates how rewarding, how hopeful, how fun, today and tomorrow can be.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

San Diego Maker Faire 2015 :: Day One

Welcome to our first day at the first annual San Diego Maker Faire. We arrived bright and early to set up outside the Hall of Champions, in Balboa Park.

Here is our official Maker Faire sign for Da Vinci... seen in his 2.0 incarnation.

First order of business was unloading stuff... tools, parts, limbs, supplies, chairs, the table, the tent. We were invited to create a Young Makers Zone, with two robots, and the Viking tent.

And we were in good company!

When I shared this picture on FB, Paul commented,"Geoff's stride and expression is classic. It looks like he's in a musical and is about to break out in song." If Geoff broke out in song, Paul is the kind of friend that would sing along, and back up with guitar. No misstep.

Surrounded by friends, and the stuff we make, it felt like home. I knew then... This is going to be a great Maker Faire.

Maria was looking certain, too. She's ready.

Paul. Yeah, he's all in.

Max, quiet and reserved, made himself helpful wherever he could.

Still working, never ceasing, Geoff shows Mech-Cthelulu's mechanical claw.

Alex puts the Engineering and the Art in the STEAM.

Here's William's photograph: Paul, Max, and Geoff fine tuning the Giant Robotic Tentacle, Mech-Cthulu. Props to Paul for that name, by the way. It's sticking. {Caution Tape was not for decor.}

The fun of sharing the Giant Robotic Tentacle, Mech-Cthulu, is not just the demo, watching it dance and pop, but handing over the controls, and seeing the thrill in someone's face, when they take command of that 9' tall beast.

Back in the Viking tent, Da Vinci 3.0 illustrated all day... practically nonstop. It's a mesmerizing thing to watch an automaton wire sculpture illustrate, so deftly, so beautifully.

Maker Faire isn't a show... it's show and tell, and this is one of the most gratifying parts of exhibiting and attending a Maker Faire event. We aren't there to perform, or to keep secrets. We are there to share... our ideas, our creations, and to engage with the visitors.

We pull back the curtain, and share the works. Some people ask right away, "How does it work?" And some visitors want the chance to figure it out for themselves. Everyone enjoys the dialogue, the exchange, and just watching the process.

Da Vinci is an automaton, inspired by the book The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick. Beneath his desk are two motors, one for each axis, the x and the y. These motors are controlled by computer from our Eggbot, an open source CnC art robot. To control Da Vinci's hand movements from below, the motors lead to three magnets, which in placement match three magnets in the plate in Da Vinci's hand. Through the glass plate of the desk top, Da Vinci's hand is magnetically attracted to the movements of the motors below. Eggbot's computer directs the hand left and right, forward, and back, and a third servo motor in his hand controls the Z axis, lifting and dropping Da Vinci's pen.

Da Vinci "knows" what to draw thanks to another great open source tool, Inkscape. "Inkscape is is a professional vector graphics editor for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux." The cable running up Da Vinci's right arm links him to the laptop, where we have created illustrations for him to use, like the Centennial Lady Maria made in Scratch.

The wire figure, Da Vinci, is a third version from the original which debuted at Bay Area Maker Faire in 2012. Alex designed and built DA Vinci 3.0 using pliers, a drill, and a reel of rebar tie wire. Alex has an uncanny gift for bringing images in his head to life, in drawings and in 3-D. Da Vinci's arms and stance are not only aesthetic, they are calculated to move appropriately and fit around the desk and motors. The hand was fitted with the Z motor and special plate that holds the magnets and calibrated Sharpie holder.

All that was the tech, the engineering, the art and the math... next comes the wonder! The looks on people's faces, their interest and questions, their suggestions... all of this is what makes it really, really fun!

We are the Benevolent Order of Makers. We love to imagine things, make things, and share them!

At Maker Faire, we are in great company, with hundreds, thousands, of creative, generous, smart, engaged people who love to find the play in everyday life.

Corina, Cris, Geoff, Maria, and Janece... at home, and abroad, we are surrounded by wonderful friends. It's awesome.

I am trying to imagine how many vans it would take to bring all the things BOoM has made over the years! I am really glad William brought his Prancing Pony sign.

His pack was full of marshmallow shooters from Maker Faire. Some cool group was sharing making those... and I really want to make one, too!

When Maria wasn't operating and explaining Da Vinci, she was making new friends.

There were also cousins to play with! Priscilla came with Emma and Maddie, from their Maker Faire exhibit.

Meet Da Vinci...

then, control Mech-Cthulu!

As I explained, the drawings we let Da Vinci share were all in Inkscape, but one little boy asked, "Can Da Vinci draw an airplane?" And we answered, "He can, but you have to teach him how." Our laptop didn't have a mouse, and he'd never used Inkscape, but he was willing, so check out what he managed to accomplish on his first try! He traced his finger on the tiny keyboard pad, and then Da Vinci was able to draw his airplane!

Making at Maker Faire!

No less than five times, this family asked to buy Maria's Centennial Lady, but we insisted they could just take it home. They didn't want to take it without a picture with the artist.

At the next event we plan to have BOoM and our URL printed on Da Vinci's drawings. And wouldn't it be great to have the resources to let more children use Inkscape to make their own pictures, too? Dreaming big. Dreaming BOoM!

Maria is posing for the La Jolla Light reporters who wanted to know all about Da Vinci and BOoM. Maybe we'll be featured. We are less interested in the attention on us, and more keen on sharing the idea of Making, of funding STEAM education, restoring metal shops in schools, maintaining Regional Occupation Programs and sharing the efforts of like minded friends, like Mike Fulkerson,and AR-Duo. At San Diego Maker Faire there were hundreds of people who are passionate about STEAM :: Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math, and Music, and any news about efforts to promote STEAM education is good news.

Here is a dear Maker... Happy Birthday, Bambi! All dressed-up and helpful, as always, in the very dress she was designing and cutting patterns for at our last BOoM meet-up.

Stayed tuned for Day Two, when we got rained-in and I learned to solder!