Vancouver_Mini_Maker_Faire_7 Events

The 4th Vancouver Mini Maker Faire 7 June 2014

Community faires usually emphasize the locality of place

For the assemblage of technologists and artists at the Vancouver Mini Maker Faire (VMMF) the emphasis was placed on the locality of the future. Now on its fourth year, and at a new location at the Pacific National Exhibition forum, the two day faire (June 7th and 8th) featured fine arts, handcrafts, food, music, and of course, the fascinating displays of technology community groups.

Ryan White is a member of eatArt and part of the team behind Prosthesis, the Anti-Robot. “Alfa Leg,” is a prototype in a 2/3rds scale of the final machine. The leg’s hydraulic mechanism is powered by electric motors and controlled completely by the analogue feedback from an arm armature. Eventually there will be four of these limb armature controls, each corresponding with a limb of the machine.

The ultimate goal of the mobile suit, which will stand 5 meters tall and weigh 3 tons, will be racing; for this it will only be as good as the pilots inside it. This is a point White stresses, the machine will be an extension of its users, without a digital interface or a user friendly automation. Hence the name of the project. While the Vancouver Hack Space had nothing as big as Prosthesis, it engaged the public through workshops like the “Blinking Led Badge” and the newer “Line Following Robot” do-it-yourself kits. VHS member John Craver explained how both projects focus on teaching practical skills (in this case soldering) to the general public. Moreover, he reports that VMMF is a good place to promote the group and recruit new members.

VMMF co-Founder, Emily Smith, relates how the faire sparked from the collaboration of Vancouver Hacker Space, eatArt, and Vancouver Community Lab. It was inspired by the first Maker Faire in San Francisco Bay Area in 2006, and thus the founding members became partners of the Maker Movement, yet the Vancouver Maker Foundation is entirely local. For Smith, organizing the faire has been demanding, but she, as well as the other organizers, have been passionate about the project. The fair appreciates their work, as well as that of the volunteers who signed up in advance. However, part of the costs still depends on funding from institutions and corporate sponsors.

In this regard, Smith commented that their main resource has been a grant by the City of Vancouver for Community Development. Other sponsors [e.g. Modo, Vancity Bank, Zaber, the Hackery] have values around community and sustainability, values which Smith considers a characteristic of the Vancouver Mini Maker Faire itself. As a grassroots initiative, it is unsurprising that promotion of the faire has been only through word-of-mouth and social media. However, due to its success, VMMF has increased its media appearance, and for the first time has hired a publicist.

Despite its expansion, the faire continues to be focused on accessibility. Stands, workshops, and speakers engaged the audience with questions about community organization, technological innovation, and small scale and do-it-yourself projects. This is why Smith describes the VMMF’s aim as “teaching how the devices we consume operate, so we can be active producers in our world.”

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