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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

“I try to stress at FamiLAB that it's OK to go and learn by yourself, but you also have the opportunity to draw from the skill sets of different people and put them together to make something better,” says Mack Hooper, one of FamiLAB's founding members.

In one corner of the lab, you'll find 16-year-old Liam Starkweather laying out his plans for a strandbeest (a self-propelling “animal” that walks along the beach) built from PVC pipes. At the other end, college student and artist John Bent Cope explains the code he's written for his own booth at the weekend's show, where he'll display his original drawbot, a robotic graffiti artist. Along the back wall are multiple 3-D printers where, at the moment, strings of plastic are being transformed into cat toys. In between are workstations, transportable cabinets and lockers. Each member of FamiLAB gets a free membership card that grants that person 24-hour access to the facility, which Cole describes as kind of like a gym membership, only with tools.

Perhaps the grandest thing to come out of FamiLAB so far, though, is the Orlando Mini Maker Faire itself, which is being touted as a family-friendly celebration of DIY science, technology, rockets, robotics, crafts and music. All day, showgoers will be treated to air-conditioned exhibitions, educational talks, hands-on workshops, live music and even a power racing car event, pitting maker against maker on the track. And in the spirit of the fair, questions are more than just welcomed, they are encouraged.

“Just an example: I went up to the Hoverfly office, and they got out all their toys and we played,” Cole says about one maker who will be displaying on Saturday. “Those are the types of booths that excite me, because those people are going to come out from behind the desk and have a really amazing experience showing what they know.”

Most of the original makers added to the fair were obvious choices that the FamiLAB crew had encountered over time through shared interests and networking. But Cole also came across an alternative method of discovering new talents, by tailoring his searches on the popular DIY community Etsy. By looking for vendors in his area under the category “Geekery,” Cole uncovered the buried whimsies of some of Orlando's crafty elite, many of whom you'll see showing and selling at the event. Some you may even recognize from other community events, like circuit-bent instrument builder Max Schwartz (aka Dr. Moonstien), whose work has been featured at Urban ReThink, Grandma Party Bazaar and countless shows around town.

The term “maker” at this point may seem too general for those who are still struggling to understand what to expect this Saturday. Any creative could be viewed as a maker, but the distinction that Cole and all the makers want to communicate is that a maker doesn't simply invent or create. A good maker takes the time to educate himself or herself on every aspect of the creative process, often including complicated mathematics, physics, science or other studies, resulting in two outcomes: innovation and education. For most makers, the education is the true addiction.

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