Author Archives: sannmer

Get Yer Combat Robots!

David Calkins is the founder of Robogames, the “olympics of robots,” where operators and their creations compete in over 50 different events, from fire-fighters, LEGO bots, hockey bots, walking humanoids, soccer bots, sumo bots, and even androids that do kung-fu.

David and his crew are not only bringing combots for show at the East Bay Mini Maker Faire, but he’s also doing a workshop Sunday on “How to Make a Combat Robot.” David will cover all the basics of how robots move and control their speed, as well as how to build a basic bot using cheap parts, pitfalls to avoid, and all sorts of other tips.

The Piedmont Scotbots, a U.S. FIRST robotics team from Piedmont High, is bringing their combot arena and will be letting folks operate their robots. !!!  The FIRST Tech Challenge is an exciting robotics competition designed for high school students. An accessible and affordable robotics kit is used to solve a different challenge each year. Thousands of teams from all fifty states compete in local contests to go to the annual world championship. Here’s one of their entries for Robogames last year:

Troy Mock is bringing his Rambunctious Combat Robots:  Warpig, a 1 pound bot with a powerful lifter and ultra-strong titanium armor, and Attitude, a 3 pound bot with an 8 inch titanium saw blade, designed to cut, rip, and shred!  Most recently, both these robots competed in the international 2011 Robogames.  Out of nearly 60 battlebots total, Warpig and Attitude both took a well earned bronze medal.  Check them in action:

More robots at EBmMF are coming from The Pioneers in Engineering (PiE) Robotics Competition for Bay Area high school students.   This cool program offers UC Berkeley students to mentor local high school students as they design, construct, and program a mobile robot.   A key feature of the competition is the $100 per team entrance fee, which ensures that finances are not a barrier to entry.  You’ll be able to drive one of their robots as well.

The Miller Institute for Learning with Technology hosts a wide variety of hands-on workshops, including Program-A-Robot, Build-A-Computer, and Troubleshooting 101. Their East Bay Mini Maker Faire booth will illustrate several of the workshops, and they’ll also be providing hand-on examples of robots, computers, and music.

A Maker Space Near You: Ace Monster Toys

Let’s say you want to build a radio-controlled polystyrene airplane or mess around with fabrication robots.  It can be messy, noisy, and even a bit dangerous to explore new technologies.  The kitchen table is not an option.

AMT at last year's East Bay Mini Maker Faire

 Ace Monster Toys is a hackspace in North Oakland.  While they have advanced tools and organized classes, they are primarily a place where people come together to share a passion for making things. Members are provided with a workbench and unlimited access to the shop.  Rather than being project or class based, the group encourages collaboration, experimentation, and community.

Board member Christian Fernandez, puts it this way. “We have cool stuff, but really it’s about having these interesting, creative people, have them all in the same place at the same time, and see what comes out of that.”

Fernandez recently completed a decidedly low tech project, an Aleut baidarka, or skin boat.  Of course he replaced the traditional seal skins with an advanced material.  “It’s cool, you can see the waterline from inside the boat.”  Other members are hard at work figuring out cool things to do with their new cutting laser.

Visit the Ace Monster Toys booth at the East Bay Mini Maker Faire for more information.  If you decide you need more making in your life, they have a bench for you!

The 21st Century Shop Class: Bringing Making Back to School

We are thrilled to announce a fantastic panel discussion at East Bay Mini Maker Faire:  The 21st Century Shop Class:  Developing the Creative and Critical Doers in Today’s Schools.  David Clifford of the East Bay School for Boys will lead the discussion along with a variety of “shop teachers” from around the Bay Area to discuss why learning with one’s hands is critical in today’s complex world.

Shop class?!  Surely you remember shop class:  Bookcase projects? Cutting boards?  You might not know this, but those classes and projects have gone the way of home phone service and the decline in manufacturing jobs in the U.S.  Shop class is pretty much gone.  Lathes, band saws and routers liquidated.

Maybe those bookcase projects were one-dimensional.  But in the vacuum of any hands-on learning opportunities in school, there is rising recognition that shop class might have purpose after all.  There are studies to prove it:  many people show improved comprehension of science and math principles when they get to MAKE something instead of read it in a book.

Spanish class desks 8th graders designed and built at East Bay School for Boys

Clifford knows it from experience. He spent 13 years as a “shop teacher” at Lick Willmerding High School in San Francisco—part of that as the Director of the Technical Arts program (he is now Innovation and Outreach Director for the new East Bay School for Boys—check out the nice set of resources he has on design and building.)

Clifford and Lick’s approach to Technical Arts is interdisciplinary in the best way:  ” Application objectives include cross-disciplinary and collaborative learning, skills for engineering, effective problem solving, creative expression, competency in the language of craft and design, and personal empowerment through self-confidence and self-esteem.”

Clifford will be making a presentation on his findings and curriculum objectives for this kind of class, and then will moderate a panel discussion amongst “shop” teachers from across the Bay Area, including:

  • Eric Temple, Head of School, Lick-Wilmerding High School (San Francisco)
  • Alex Vitturn, woodshop teacher, Aurora School (Oakland)
  • Liisa Pine, welding instructor at Laney College High School Machining and Welding Program (Oakland)
  • Casey Shea, math teacher and Project Make instructor at Analy High School (Sebastopol)

If you are a parent interested in bringing shop back to school, or if you are an educator working towards this, we encourage you to come participate in the discussion.  Bring shop class back to school!

Digital Fabrication with Because We Can

Jillian Northrup and Jeffrey McGrew are Because We Can, a full service design studio in Oakland that specializes in architecture, interiors and “fantastical things”.  Even though they are a very small team, they are able to do digital design all the way through fabrication because they are leveraging a new class of affordable yet advanced tools like the ShopBot, a computer-controlled router for fabricating with wood, plastic, aluminum & more.

If you’re someone who loves visual design, but has never ventured into physical making because power tools are a tad bit intimidating, come to Jillian and Jeffrey’s workshop presentation at East Bay Mini Maker Faire, “Using Digital Fabrication to Change the World: Empowerment Through Automated Tools.”   Jillian herself comes from a graphic design background, but found her way to making physical structures through output of digital files to these computer-controlled tools.  Jillian and Jeffrey (the other half of Because We Can, an architect) will explain  how this new class of mills, routers, lasercutters, and even 3D printers can empower you to change the world for the better, turn a hobby into a business, and make the world a more interesting place.

A good example of Because We Can’s process is this tail for The Serpent Twins, a 2011 Burning Man electric art car/sculpture.  Jillian is holding a prototype she fabbed using their ShopBot in the first picture below; scroll down to see how it translated to full-scale in sheet metal.

Because We Can actually has a great post documenting in detail the process they went through for the Serpent Twins—check it out.

Keep watching for the full schedule of workshops and talks.  Come to their presentation, and look for Because We Can’s “Big Trike” at the East Bay Mini Maker Faire on October 16th.

Put It Up for the Urban Food Swap!

Did you put up some jam or veggies this summer?  Roasting your own coffee?  Making syrups or soda?  Baking bread?  Drying fruit?  Got the still going?  Bring your makings to East Bay Mini Maker Faire on October 16th for a special edition of Kendra Pomo’s East Bay Homemade Food Swaps.

We found out about Kendra’s cool events through out Homesteader Stage media sponsor, Edible East Bay.  They wrote a great article on all the gleaning and food sharing activities going on in the East Bay.  Kendra’s version is a super fun one.  The idea is this:

The event operates like a silent auction where swappers jot down their offers. This gives other swappers an idea of who wants their goods and what they’d score in exchange. At the end of a designated bidding period people can decide who to trade with. Typically, there’s a tasting station too. For the first hour people mill about, chatting and checking out the chow. Then the bidding begins. Once everyone has had a chance to make their swap choices known the actual trades take place. Informal verbal requests for unclaimed items follow, once written swaps have been honored. The idea, after all, is to go home with different foods than the ones you brought. (From Edible East Bay.)

Intrigued?  Want to participate? Here’s how:

  1. Register to participate at There’s only 30 slots available, so you’ve got to do this ahead of time.
  2. Kendra will send you your special discount code for tickets to East Bay Mini Maker Faire.  Buy your tickets!
  3. Arrive at the Faire and check in your goods at the Urban Food Swap area by 12:15 p.m.
  4. Food swap begins promptly at 12:30 p.m. and will finish up by 1:30 p.m.

And, hey, if you don’t have something right now, no sweat!  You’ve got 3 weeks to get it done… But don’t miss the opportunity – sign up today!

Honey Harvesting with Novella Carpenter and BioFuel Oasis

Novella Carpenter has to be our most famous East Bay urban farmer. No one has written as engaging, entertaining and honest tale of an enterprising young inner-city homesteader as Novella has with her 2009 memoir, Farm City.

But Novella has done more than raise pigs and rabbits in Oakland; she is also an early member of the BioFuel Oasis collective, an Berkeley worker-owned Biodiesel Station and Urban Farm Supply Store located on Sacramento at Ashby.  Watch for her new book, The Essential Urban Farmer, coming out at the end of the year.

We’re super excited that both Novella and BioFuel Oasis will be at East Bay Mini Maker Faire on October 16th.  Novella will be doing honey extraction workshop on our new Homesteader Stage, demoing a manual honey extractor and spinning out a few gallons of honey from her home hive.

BioFuel Oasis will be there to share all their offerings, including the fuel they sell that is made locally (Mendocino County) from recycled cooking oil, and supplies for your urban homestead (e.g. organic chicken feed, beekeeping supplies, cheesemaking kits, books and tools). They also offer tools on loan—a honey extractor (same one Novella is using!) and have a tremendous lineup of great classes and workshops.

Stay tuned for the full schedule for our Homesteader Stage; we’ve got great demos and workshops from home coffee roasting to wildcrafting to bread making to a flat tire fix clinic and race (!).  Check back here soon—but also follow our Facebook and Twitter feeds for regular updates.

Influence Machines by Anja Ulfeldt

Remember Ice Brain in our “dark room” last year?  The glowing and growing brain-like ice form generated by refrigerator coils + condensation?

That piece was by Anja Ulfeldt, an interdisciplinary artist and curator based in Oakland, CA. Anja co-directs Basement Gallery Oakland and manages a cooperative art and photography studio in Downtown Oakland.  She is a graduate of the California College of Arts and Crafts, and a recent artist in residence at the Exploratorium.

This year, Anja is going to bring her hand-crank electrostatic generators, The Influence Machines, to the East Bay Mini Maker Faire.  They are beautiful and interactive sculptures that animate the making of static electricity.  Something about the feathers and textiles she uses turns science into poetry.  Watch:

Peeking Back / Gearing Up

Local filmmaker George Spies recently pulled together his footage from last year’s East Bay Mini Maker Faire  So nice to remember the crazy, wonderful, myriad of things going on simultaneously during year no. 1—all in absolute and  gleeful defiance of the rain.

There’s a bit of writer Michael Chabon and Howtoons illustrator Nick Dragotta teaching their “How to Make a Super Hero” workshop (so wished I had made that!). There’s proof about 2/3rd of the way through that thinker+tech publisher  Tim O’Reilly indeed taught jam making. Nice to see Cyclecide‘s Laird Rickard having fun on his own Dizzy Toy.

Music from EBMMF’s 2010 lineup carries the mood:  the music of El Cerrito from Daniel Popsicle orchestra, lady-toy-hackers Toychestra, and one-man band Hungry Hungry Ghost.  Vintage bicycle maker Slimm Buick makes tunes in a corner with a SPAM mouth harp, and Tin Can Banjo project generates jig with a homemade fiddle.

Makers, take a peek—Flaming Lotus Girls, Alameda County 4-H Club, Poetry Store, Ice Brain, Ace Monster Toys, Bucepheless, The Crucible, Nightside Studios, Paul’s Rides, Church of Craft—so many of you in there, doing your thing and making people very happy.

East Bay Mini Maker Faire No. 2. is just two months away now. The Call for Makers closes at the end of the month—but please don’t wait to let us know you want to participate.  And watch for news and updates of makers, performers, and workshops.  It’s all coming very soon!

Major Maker Inspiration: Musee des Arts et Metier

All of this coverage of the Detroit Maker Faire at the Henry Ford Museum has me desperate to share my summer find, the very best museum in Europe:  Musee des Arts et Metier in Paris.

Clément Ader's steam-powered bat plane, Avion III.

Founded in 1794 during the French Revolution, the Conservatoire National des Arts et Metier was charged with collecting scientific tools and inventions.  217 years later, the permanent collection is jaw-dropping, old, exhaustive, and beautiful. It’s where you’ll find first inventions in everything from energy, flight, transportation, measurement and calculation, to communications and architecture.

Like the Henry Ford, the museum’s prototype machines have that magic of industrial “simple:”  you can almost understand how the machine works by seeing all the parts.   And the inventors were often also the fabricators.  Here are just a few gems in the collection that caught my camera’s eye:

1844 electric motor by Gustave Froment

Volta's "pile" from 1799—the first electric cell

Car with propeller, Leyat, 1921

Gorgeous gears

One of many stellar, styly early bikes

Early mathematical models. Good sculpture.

Needless to say, all prime inspiration for coming home and gearing up for the second annual East Bay Mini Maker Faire.

We want flying machines, hand-built bicycles, solar ovens, goat-butchering workshops! Help us spread the word to all the quiet geniuses in garages, basements, machine shops, kitchens, gardens, and office corners across the East Bay.

Call for makers, performers, crafters, vendors for our own “museum” of arts and innovation is open through September 1.

P.S. Faire means “to make” in French.

Calling all Makers, Performers, Crafters!

So it’s the lazy days of summer.  But fall is just around the corner—including the second annual East Bay Mini Maker Faire on Sunday, October 16th.

Makers, performers, crafters, workshop leaders, and food vendors wishing to participate in this year’s faire should fill out our simple online form and apply today!   We ask you a few questions about what you’d like to show at the Faire, your production needs, your contact info, etc.  Deadline for applications is September 1. 

Calling all Makers, Performers, Crafters!

What are we looking for?  Pretty much whatever you make or do that you’re passionate about, as long as it’s something you can share with others.  Maker Faire features a huge range of things:  robots and electronics projects, homesteading arts, animal husbandry, kooky inventions, poetry writing, screen printing, music making, crafts and hacks of all kind…  Anything Do-It-Yourself, and especially anything Do-It-Together.

Your Mini Maker Faire submission can be a display of something you’ve done, an activity or workshop you offer, a performance, or for a space to sell your finished work.  Take the leap, set yourself a deadline, and apply today!

And shout it from the highest rooftops!  Send smoke signals, tweets, morse code, carrier pigeons, and paper airplanes…