May 24th, 2011
San Mateo Gets a Makeover
Last weekend was Make Magazine’s 5th Maker Faire in San Mateo. As a new transplant to the Bay Area I found this annual pilgrimage, the third trip for some in my group, was something I could not pass up. After some intense traffic and having to stow my car illegally in a nearby Safeway, I finally made it to the fair.
My first impression was that the place was enormous – Maker Faire took place over five acres and included six large-scale pavilions. We had arrived late in the afternoon and yet the fairgrounds were still swarming with people, and it was easy to see why. Demonstrations, artwork and performances of all kinds were held both indoors and out at a scale and variety I have never before seen at a convention. I’m a pretty big nerd, so to see quickly a host of unrelated, but equally entertaining events on the program, I knew I had a lot to cover in a short amount of time. There were things for the practical geek, like Arduino seminars to those curious to know how to actually pick a lock. Not everything was purely academic, either. In addition to the random cos-play fanatics, there were many demonstrations on hand to simply show off: a homemade velodrome made of whiskey planks, handmade wooden ties (wtf?) and muffin-shaped go-karts just to name a few. Four short hours later, the show was over and I had only covered maybe a third of the entire fair. Lame.
My only true regret was having gotten there too late. My heroes Adam Savage and Mike Rowe were speakers on Sunday and had missed them by an hour. It was poor planning on my behalf, but I will return next year with greater anticipation. What I took away from this particular year wasn’t necessarily something I saw that was revolutionary, but simply the energy and commitment that so many people had to their specialized and nuanced hobbies. Let’s be fair, the people at these shows aren’t “tinkerers,” they’re serious and they’re hardcore in their belief of their creative, and unusual talents.