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Orlando Mini Maker Faire

Driven by curiosity and the desire to educate, Orlando's makers show off their skills May 26

Photo: Joseph Grey, License: N/A

Joseph Grey

Most of us are complacent. We accept things the way they come, without question, and we prefer our gadgets to remain intact and under warranty. With each new toy that finds its way into our homes or, dearer still, our pockets, the focus is on what it does or, more importantly, what it can do for you. But for others, innovation is not to be collected or consumed – it's to be explored. These are the types whose first instinct after using new technology is to take it apart, driven by a compulsion and motivated by sincere curiosity to find out: How. Does. It. Work. These are the makers. And they're assembling their latest toys and technologies to showcase at Orlando's first-ever Mini Maker Faire.

On Saturday, May 26, walking around the Central Florida Fairgrounds will be somewhat akin to wandering onto the pages of Wired magazine. Close to 100 exhibitors, the vast majority from Orlando, will display gadgets and creations that form the pulse of a certain sector of geek culture, ranging from robotics to kinetic sculptures, constructed from the kind of odds and ends you'd find at SkyCraft Parts & Surplus.

The original Maker Faire was put together in San Mateo, Calif., by the people behind Make magazine, who advertised it as “The Greatest Show (and Tell) on Earth.” That element of “telling” will not be lost at the Orlando Mini Maker Faire, as one of the community event's organizers, Ian Cole, explains:

“It's a hands-on operation,” Cole says about the way the show will be presented on Saturday. “We've actually turned away people who only want to show and who don't want to explain their craft. Actually what makes Maker Faire what it is, is when I took my son to the one out West, he could ask anything of anyone, and nobody treated him like a kid. They're all there to talk about the process, to go through it, which means it's not just that there's art and science and technology and craft, it's kind of about understanding how they bump up against each other.”

Cole is one of nine organizers who petitioned Make tirelessly to allow their version of the event to take place in Orlando. Make that 10 organizers, if you count Cole's 12-year-old son Adam, who is as big a part of Orlando's maker community as his tinkering father. All of the organizers met through a local “hackerspace” called FamiLAB in Longwood and include: Dave Casey, Jen Casey, Ian Cole, Tom Long, Amber Whitmer, Aaron Cunningham, Mack Hooper, Matt Armstrong and John Soucy.

So what, exactly, is a hackerspace? It's a community lab where makers meet to collaborate, build and socialize, working toward the common goal of creating and learning. They can be found in many major cities, and not surprisingly, many of the members who discovered FamiLAB did so by actively searching online for a hackerspace in the Orlando area. What they found does not disappoint: a 4,000-square-foot open workshop, filled (but not cluttered) with tools, computers, lasers, electronics, cable and, of course, electrical tape. Lots of electrical tape.

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