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Filled to the brim with performances, DIY showcases and all things scientific and artistic Maker Faire 2011 did not disappoint.  Sited at the New York Hall of Science and its environs, the organizers of the event made sure there was something to see at every turn.

Hailing from Houston, Texas, the Sashimi Tabernacle Choir was a hard act to top. It was quite a sight to behold-a Volvo covered in singing and gyrating bass and lobsters, complete with a “Fish Texas” license plate. The fish had an extensive repertoire, singing opera, rock and pop while we watched. The vehicle is outfitted with over 300 pounds of batteries and 31 custom circuit boards, with a total of over five miles of control system wire. Not bad for some singing fish that had been relegated to performing solo from a wall plaque in a former life.

To follow up the singing fish was an entire pavilion of 3-D printers. Have you ever wanted to fabricate a small scale model of, say, your left foot? A 3-D printer can do that. Anything you can imagine you can create with this tiny machine . MakerBot Industries was one of several groups demonstrating 3-D printers, and they will sell you the tools to build your very own printer. These technological wonders will make just about anything up to 5″ x 5″ x 5″ out of biodegradable plastic. Want to learn more? Read up, share your ideas and learn about what others are doing at MakerBot’s Thingiverse.

Not far from the 3-D printers, kids were learning how to blow glass with Jenine Bressner and Brooklyn’s 3rd Ward gave visitors a chance to dome pennies. I took one home with me! A surprising number of youngsters were doming their quarters-clearly they’re not of the age when they realize the working value of a quarter at the laundromat in New York City. Closer to the intersection of art and technology, attendees could learn how to solder, or if they preferred a less hands-on experience they could hop on board the General Electric Solar Carousel. See it in action here.

Among other marvels at Maker Faire was Dash 7’s swing set that rained down water from the upper beam. As the swingers pass back and forth beneath the beam the water stops just long enough to let them pass. The swing set is engineered to be timed just right to the rhythm of each individual who uses the swing, though most riders seemed to get a little splash.

While Dash 7 asks its riders to assume a little risk–they may get wet–the Tornado Intercept Vehicle requires a bit more daring should you choose to step inside. A monolith, this vehicle is designed to plow through the storm, doing exactly what one shouldn’t-drive directly into a tornado. Having spent a significant portion of my life living in what they call “Tornado Alley,” and seeing some serious weather first hand, this wonder car does indeed look like it might be up to the task. The vehicle was built to be featured in and gather footage for an IMAX documentary, appropriated titled Tornado Alley.

Gaiety was certainly afoot around the Anywhere Organ. A mobile organ made of salvaged parts, it plays MIDI tunes when hooked up to a keyboard.

We closed out our Maker Faire experience with a trip to The Museum of Interesting Things, which is probably the only museum in the world that will bring its collection to you. A delightful young man in a top hat presented the photography equipment to us, peppering us with interesting facts and tidbits. In addition to photography, the museum has seven other departments: toys, math, medical, literature, household, science and music.

This year’s Maker Faire marked the event’s second trip to New York City, and I am sure I am not alone in hoping it will return next year with more educational, unique and zany offerings than ever.

1 Comment

  1. Shelagh says:

    Hi! It was my pleasure to show you the Gardens of Alcatraz that day, I’m so glad you enjoyed the work part too! Fantastic photos too!

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