Obama, Steampunk, and Steve Wozniak on a Segway: Highlights from a Decade of Maker Faire

Over the past ten years, thousands of learners and creators of all ages have attended Maker Faire, from its launch in the Bay Area in 2006 to 119 independent Mini and Features Maker Faires across the world in 2014, including events in Tokyo, Rome, and Oslo. So, what are some of the attendees favorite moments? Maker Faire asked, and learners the world over answered. Here are a few of the standouts—check out the full top 10 moments list on Make Zine, and highlights from this year's Maker Faire here!

Woz playing Segway Polo

Apple co-founder and hacker icon Steve Wozniak was an attendee at the first Maker Faire in 2006. That was the year that Segway polo was played on the lawn and Steve was one of its players. Other memorable mallet-wielders included Adam Savage and Grant Imahara of MythBusters. Rumor has it that the Woz even Segway’d into the bathroom and used the urinal from atop his robotic steed, but that remains unconfirmed.

The Contraptor’s Lounge

In 2008, Maker Faire reached out to many of the movers and shakers in the steampunk community and invited them to create their own mini happening within the Faire. Together Make: editors and the steampunks created The Contraptor’s Lounge. Icons of the movement such as the late Datamancer, Jake von Slatt (Steampunk Workshop), Libby Bulloff and Margaret Killjoy (Steampunk Magazine), the steampunk rock band, Abney Park, and many others showed up. For many, it was the first time they were meeting face-to-face and the event proved to be an important one in the history of the steampunk scene. Volume 17 of Make:, the “Lost Knowledge” issue, was an outgrowth of this event within the event. Steampunks have been an official part of Maker Faire ever since. [Top two photos by Libby Bulloff, bottom illustration, of Jake von Slatt and Datamancer, by Suzanne Forbes]

The Hand of Man

We already wrote a profile of Christian Ristow, featuring his Hand of Man kinetic artwork, but we had to include it again as it was on so many people’s lists of Faire favorites. Not only did the piece look amazing, but you cannot imagine how satisfying it was to crush a giant object within a giant robotic hand and forearm controlled by your puny meatbot arm and hand. This is the kind of stress-reliever that everyone needs in their backyard.

First White House Maker Faire

In February of 2014, the White House announced that it would be hosting a Maker Faire on its grounds. That event took place on June 18th, 2014. Over 100 makers from 25 states got to show President Obama and other lawmakers, the media, and the world their passion for making and innovating. The President also declared June 18th a National Day of Making and challenged individuals, companies, and organizations to join the Maker Movement in helping to foster innovation and STEAM education in the US. Make:founder and publisher, Dale Dougherty, Maker Media V. P. Sherry Huss, Maker Faire Producer, Louise Glasgow, and many others from the Maker Media team where hosted at the White House. I can’t think of a better way to end this piece, tracking the dramatic arc of Maker Faire and the Maker Movement, than finding our team proudly taking group photos and selfies at the White House while attending a White House-sponsored Faire. This month, the White House officially announced the National Maker Faire on June 12 & 13, 2015 and a Week of Making (June 12-18). For more info, you can sign up here.

And here’s a special favorite from this year’s Maker Faire from one of us here at EdSurge, Alice Myerhoff!

The Illuminated Forest

In the "Dark Room" hall of the Maker Faire, after my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I was immediately drawn to the surreal Illuminated Forest. In the Illuminated Forest are inflated asparagus tip-shaped "trees" that glow from the inside. This area was cordoned off by a wall of tables and tape with a person who was trying to act as a traffic manager, controlling the flow of people in and out of the forest. This role was important because, if my child was any indication, kids were having a blast in there and did not want to leave. It was a perfect place to play hide-and-seek and tag. My daughter and her friend quickly disappeared once we went into the forest and they allowed me only momentary glimpses as they taunted me from behind the glowing trees. I'm not quite sure how we escaped without knocking heads with other kids who were engaged in the same shenanigans, but we eventually exited unscathed to explore other glow-in-the-dark experiences.

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