It’s Maker Faire season, but what, exactly, does that mean? Are you scratching your head and asking, “What is a maker faire?”

A maker faire is marketed as “The greatest show and tell on Earth.” I like to think of it as being similar to a county fair. At a maker faire, individuals and groups display, demonstrate and may offer activities of the projects they have completed or are in process. If you read Adventures in 3D Printing, then you know that Jason’s projects revolve around 3D printing, and he participated in the flagship Bay Area Maker Faire near San Francisco, California.

The flagship maker faires are the bigger venues, such as New York, Chicago, Kansas City and Detroit. Mini-maker faires, though, highlight smaller cities or regions. These events are family friendly, encouraging everyone’s participation. Plan to spend some time there to explore. Makers tend to be excited to share their experiences. Ask questions!

The Kzoo Makers participated in the Southwest Michigan Mini Maker Faire this past weekend, on Saturday, June 4th. We had two tables of items, with the grandfather clock standing tall between them. Behind the tables several members took turns chatting with attendees. I sat in one of Don Batt’s hand carved chairs and observed from the front side of the table, sometimes connecting with people. Don made sure to point out the 3D printed clock. He also pointed out the tools for carving the handmade chairs, including the chair I sat in for most of the day. The fascination with Dan’s robot sometimes came down to its teddy bear pilot. Most people thought Chris’ laser cut helmet would weigh more. The material? Paper. The polymer clay hearts equaled love at first site. It’s a good thing the hearts are attached to the backing!

Part of the maker faire event is being able to do things. In particular, I have wanted to learn to solder, and there is a kit specifically at maker faires. Volunteers are there to walk people through it. I sat next to kids with a mom helping the younger one. In the end, the volunteer looks for the big smile on your face that indicates the light is blinking. Plus, you get to keep the (rocketship!) pin.

While the Southwest Michigan Mini-Maker Faire is based outside in tents, this can vary. The Lansing Mini-Maker Faire took place inside of a mall. The Grand Rapids Mini-Maker Faire is at the public museum.

If any of this sounds interesting, know that maker faire season is just starting. The Maker Faire in Detroit is in July and includes access to the Henry Ford Museum. Kzoo Makers will be participating in the Grand Rapids Mini-Maker Faire in August. You do not have to wait to attend a maker faire to learn about projects. In fact, you are invited to check out the Kzoo Makers during open hours. More information is here.

What project do you want to make?