A few of us Adaptive Computing employees (Spencer, Thomas, and myself), and one friend of the company (Kevin), recently attended the Mini Maker Faire in Salt Lake City, UT with our “All Spark Cube” – a 4096 RGB LED 3D cube. Say that three times in a row. We had a few people from The Leonardo, an art, science and technology museum, that wanted to keep our cube as a permanent display. We were flattered, to say the least. When people from The Leonardo, and other attendees, asked how much this would cost to make and sell, the price kept rising… We were proud to show our work, and it was well received, which was very rewarding.
The whole experience, in fact, was very exhilarating, for those that have never been to a Maker Faire. We met some very interesting characters, who were very passionate about what they do. The projects were as incredible as the people making them. There were robots abound, a Jacob’s Ladder, tube audio devices, a flying-saucer like solar-powered DJ station, a Jellyfish vehicle, rockets, and more robots. There were even Lego and junk robots. The diversity of the group was interesting to note too – typical nerds like us, environmentalists, old, young, interesting smelling people, and just fans of science. The gentleman with the old glass tubes and mad woodworking skills next to us had to be in his 70′s. Some of the young makers had to be in the single digits.
What really struck me was not just the age of some of these young kids, but the vast amount of knowledge they had acquired by “making.” During one conversation between the hardware designer and project lead on the All Spark Cube, Kevin, and a fine young gentleman that couldn’t have been more than 12 years old, I was absolutely floored by the knowledge this kid had about electronics. He spoke like an adult, with the knowledge of an EE, and was intelligent and well versed in the politics of good conversation. My jaw was agape when he left, and Kevin turned to me and said “that kid knows way more about Arduinos than I do.” Kevin had just used 16 Arduino Mega 2560s, operating in serial, with his custom designed PCB boards. That says a lot.
He wasn’t the last kid to come by and teach us a thing or two. We had a couple other Arduinoids that were pretty young, also some that were in their 40s and 50s, and some very young robotics engineers who were incredibly brilliant. One young man approached me as I fiddled with my monochrome Rubix Cube, and he couldn’t have been more than 14 or 15. He was dressed in Steampunk fashion, chain mail gauntlets and techno-stalgic goggles. He asked “You’re a cuber, huh? What’s your fastest time?” I told him I was fairly proud to get a sub-three minute time – 2:56. He said, in very humble fashion, that he’d finally worked down to 48 seconds. And, I let him prove it. He did.
Some makers do get ridiculed for doing what they love, because, in fact, some of the projects border on ridiculous. Some kids are outcast and even bullied for being into science and the art of making. As a product of Odyssey of the Mind, I occasionally knew the pain of being into such “nonsense,” but I didn’t get ridiculed nearly as much as others, thankfully for me. That being said, these bright young minds are the future of technology and innovation. They will move on to become electrical engineers, computer scientists, programmers, research scientists, lowly rocket scientists, and for one of my favorite fictional characters, Dr. Sheldon Cooper, theoretical astrophysicists. Be careful of ridiculing these makers, because they might one day change the world, or even worse, they might own the company you work for.
Here is a great video from Adam Savage, of Mythbusters fame, speaking at the 2011 Maker Faire about why we make and the importance of making…
To see more about our good friends, SLC Maker Faire and The Leonardo:
And, of course, the All Spark Cube project site: