Making

For the past few years, we have ventured out to this little thing called the Ottawa Mini-Maker Faire. This year, sadly, they announced there wasn’t going to be a Mini-Maker Faire.

Instead, Canada held its first official fully-fledged Maker Faire last weekend, right here in Ottawa, and we were so excited to go.

The Maker Faire was held in the beautiful, historic Aberdeen Pavillion at Landsdown.

And it was, to be perfectly truthful, a little disappointing.

In previous years, we have easily spent 3 or 4 hours exploring and watching and listening and trying and doing while we were there. This year, though, we were there less than 2 hours before we had seen and tried everything that enticed us and we were ready to go, and that included spending 20 minutes talking to the delightfully patient gentleman from ParLUGment about the best way to custom paint Lego minifigs.

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There was a surprising lack of artists and crafters, and very few exhibitors blurring the lines between art, science, and engineering. There was quite a lot of hands-on exploration for very young children, but little to fascinate those 9 to 12.  The aisles were a little ragged and hard to navigate, and no one had thought out how, exactly, to make sure there was enough room for more than a few people to be able to stop and watch a demo without being overwhelmed by the noise and visuals coming frmo the booth next door, or behind. Backdrops might have helped, I suspect, making the fair more like Artist’s Alley at ComicCon and less like a jumbled row of table after table crowded round with people.

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There were plenty of people with 3D printers, but not a one of them excited me. Most were showing off boring little models of their favourite TV and video game characters. Not one had something truly innovative or even terribly beautiful or emminently useful. I’ve seen so much gorgeous art and innovative inventions being 3D printed online, it was sad to see little other than character models printed out.

All in all, it was a fun time, just not as impressive as I was hoping for. There were some fabulous displays of creativity and wonder, including an absolutely mezmerizing kaleidescope

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A precisely milled R2D2 builder

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And a fascinating melding of sandcastle building, real-time 3D mapping, and sound that let you change the sound being produced by sculpting sand mixed with baby oil into shapes of various heights.

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The sand box was being continually scanned by a mapping machine that projected various colours on to the sand based on the sand’s height map, and then produced a sound pattern whose frequencies were based on the measurements it had just scanned. It was very cool.

But the Lego…Oh, the Lego! ParLUGment is Ottawa’s adult Lego enthusiasts club and they are fantastic. There was a wide variety of creations ranging from minifig scaled operating rooms to a full-scale Tesla charging station with all it’s swoopy curves (an impressive feat considering it was made entirely from rectangular blocks). But by far my favourite was the Star Wars-themed mechanized marble run that stretched about 3 metres long.

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All in all, the Maker Faire was quite enjoyable and we will go again next year. Hopefully they’ll have learned a lot from this year’s experience and will have worked out some of the kinks.

 

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