In 2006 Maker Media, the company behind Make Magazine, launched Maker Faire in California's Bay Area. The idea is both simple and abstract: a safe haven for geek crafters and DIY enthusiasts with the distinction of being an entirely kid-friendly environment. The event was a runaway success and since 2013 there have been 98 officially endorsed Maker Faires all around the world. In Toronto, we've been hosting the Toronto Mini Maker Faire since 2011, with this year's being held at the Toronto Reference Library, the biggest venue yet.
Maker culture, for those who don't know, is built around tech-based DIY solutions, creations, and incorporates 3D printing techniques as much as standard woodworking and traditional arts and crafts. 'Cyber-hippie' would be a good way to explain it to your mom.
I didn't really know what I was getting into when I arrived this past Saturday. As someone who's only experience with geek exhibitions is limited to standing around with sweaty adults at Fan Expo I was pleasantly surprised to see that 'kid-friendly' meant more 'kid-focused'. It felt like the world's coolest science fair.
Upon entry you were immediately greeted by a homemade R2D2 courtesy of The R2D2 Builders Club and booths ranged from Action Potential, an all-ages laboratory that merges science and art hosting a free slime making workshop to the simple things like teaching kids how to use a soldering iron.
Obviously with the advent of cheap 3D printing, that component was largely front and center, but nothing overpowered anything else. The tactile arts and crafts elements blended with the high tech seamlessly. The intent was deliberately about setting people up with the tools and knowledge to really build things. There was even a build your own skateboard station, which was totally rad.
There were a few nods to the past as well. One of the most endearing booths was for the Toronto PET Users Groups, which is a Commodore computers hobbyist group. Some children actually had to be taught how to use keyboards to play games on Commodore 64s, which I found equally adorable and a terrifying reminder of my mortality. Toronto Prop Party also brought some original movie props from Ghostbusters, which obviously didn't interest me in the least.
This was the biggest Toronto Mini Maker Faire yet and it seems unlikely the interest will die down anytime soon. Seeing a kid dressed as Iron Man swatting at a drone while playing with homemade slime is everything being a geek is supposed to be.