Gas station without pumps

2016 January 7

Santa Cruz Mini Maker Faire 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 19:39
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On 2016 April 16, Santa Cruz is having its first mini Maker Faire. I stopped going to the big Maker Faire in San Mateo a few years ago (too crowded, too noisy, too much hassle to get to, even though it is not far from a Caltrain station). The early days of the Maker Faire were more fun, because there was more space per maker and it was uncrowded and quiet enough to talk to people. Perhaps the mini Maker Faire can recapture some of that fun.

I think that the private Gateway School is doing a very clever bit of advertising by hosting the mini Maker Faire.  They have a small makerspace at their school, and maker parents who come to the Maker Faire might become very interested in Gateway as a result—a school they might never have considered otherwise.  (If they had set up their makerspace about 10 years earlier, I would have been seriously considering them for my son.)

I’ve let the Futuristic Lights founders know about the mini Maker Faire, but I don’t know yet whether or not they’ll participate. It isn’t quite as good a fit for their gloving lights as the Glow festival at the Museum of Art and History, but it might be worth their time to go anyway. Makers might be more interested in knowing how the lights were designed and manufactured than in buying them to play with, so it’s too bad that my son will be at UCSB that weekend.

That reminds me—I should mention the mini Maker Faire to the freshman design seminar.  They will have finished their projects by the March 15 deadline to register as makers, so they will be able to decide whether or not they want to show them off.

I’m definitely going, but the question is “should I just buy a ticket and go, or should I register as a maker?”

If I just go as a spectator, the cost is low ($8 for adults before April Fools’ Day, according to, and I can spend just an hour or two there if there isn’t much to see or do. Gateway School is only 1.9 miles from my house, so an easy bike ride.

If I register as a maker, I’ll have to be there about 9–10 hours (including setup and teardown), and I’d have to spend time and a little money on preparing for it. I could display all the PC boards I’ve made, hand out flyers for my book and this blog, and talk to people about electronics as a hobby.  I’d have to do some prep work (like designing flyers for my book), but that might even be fun. I think I have time to do it this quarter, since my grading and teaching load is fairly light, with just 13 students in the freshman design seminar.  But what if I do all that work and no one at the Faire is interested in my stuff?

I know that the most popular things at a Maker Faire are interactive things for kids. Is there something I could do along those lines? Perhaps a simple soldering project?  That would be a good deal more work to set up, and a bigger monetary investment as well. Or I could just dig through my garage until I found a bunch of soda bottle rocket launchers—that is always a popular activity—but supervising that would not be compatible with showing off the book and PC boards.

The nerf gun prototype is probably too dangerous—someone would shoot someone else in the eye, and even body hits could cause bruises. My wife did make me take it off the mantelpiece this winter—it had been cluttering up the living room for the past 3 years, and it will be boxed up and put in the attic, until such time as my son or I feel like doing some work on it.

So blog readers, what do you think? Should I go as spectator or as maker? Should I try to come up with an interactive project where kids put something together?  If so, what? Soldering?  Soda-bottle rockets?  Or should I just have a tabletop full of projects to show and talk about?


  1. Drat. Since it was my idea for you to pose questions to readers, now I feel obligated to answer. I think you should skip the Faire. I’m not entirely sure about who attends the mini Maker Faire…is it younger children and their parents? Is this your target market for your book? It looks to me like a lot of wasted time. Since you asked.

    Comment by V John — 2016 January 7 @ 20:00 | Reply

    • I have no idea who will attend the mini Maker Faire in Santa Cruz, since it is the first one here.

      Ones elsewhere have generally been attended by families and by hobbyists of all ages (but including a lot of middle-aged or retired guys).

      The Maker movement is certainly where I expect to find the “autodidact” part of my audience. Whether that is a large or a small audience compared to the university textbook audience is really hard for me to tell—selling well in either is a matter of luck at least as much as it is of quality.

      Comment by gasstationwithoutpumps — 2016 January 7 @ 20:34 | Reply

  2. I think you should attend as a maker, especially it is so close for you. Take it as an opportunity to get others an opportunity to learn from you and give back something to the community. There might be no immediate pay off for the time and efforts, but I’m sure it pays off one or the other way in the future. I would not only have some boards on display: have something noisy, blinking, moving! This always attracts especially young people, and is a great way to get discussions started. I have not checked all the details of your nerf gun, but that sounds a good thing (just present it in a safe way). My 1 cent :-)

    Comment by Erich Styger — 2016 January 7 @ 21:37 | Reply

    • The only way to make the nerf gun safe is not to pressurize it. Pressure vessels made of PVC are inherently dangerous.

      Comment by gasstationwithoutpumps — 2016 January 8 @ 09:34 | Reply

    • I was thinking of setting up an optical pulse monitor that you stick a finger in and have your pulse waveform displayed on the laptop.

      I could also have a strobe set up using my desk lamp LED boards.

      Comment by gasstationwithoutpumps — 2016 January 8 @ 09:37 | Reply

  3. Thanks for letting me know about the Santa Cruz Mini Maker Faire. It should be interesting. Depending on the attendance, even the parking at Gateway should be interesting.

    Comment by prevailingtech — 2016 January 8 @ 11:59 | Reply

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