Category Archives: Makers

Chris Anderson’s DIY Drones

Reason #235 to come to the East Bay Mini Maker Faire: Where else can you enjoy a taco from Zamoranos while you watch Chris Anderson demo the latest in DIY drones?

Chris Anderson & DIY Drone

What’s that, you don’t know what a DIY drone is?  Well it’s also called an amateur Unmanned Aerial Vehicle or UAV, if that helps. Basically it’s an aircraft that can fly by itself, without a pilot in control.  And the point is, you can make one at home.  Berkeley resident and Wired magazine editor-in-chief Chris Anderson does, along with his kids.

Chris not only makes these amazing machines, but he’s also convened the community of DIY drone enthusiasts online, and catalogs the collective intelligence of these tinkerers for everyone’s benefit.  If you’re interested in checking it out, his Getting Started page on is a great place to, well, get started.

Or just come get the scoop from him in person at 1pm on Sunday, October 16th, taco in hand.

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.

Maker-Palooza (aka Fogeys Who Rock)

Here’s a teeny reminder that it’s not only Kids Who Rock at the East Bay Mini Maker Faire. Just look at the lineup of fantabulous “adult” creators who will be busting it out for us on the 24th!

Daniel Popsicle is the brainchild (lovechild) of local composer, musician, and impresario Daniel Plonsey. Legend has it that he got the idea from a meeting with his mentor Anthony Braxton who told him he needed to start making “music for a new millenium” – flexible, present and new.

The music played by Daniel Popsicle can’t be confined to any label or category. As Dan calls it—it’s Music Of El Cerrito—connected to it’s moment and time and whoever happens to be hanging around playing it

Lest you think we take ourselves too seriously, here come the Devil-Ettes and Pip Squeak A Go Go with Cowboy Jared!

These go-go goddesses have gained notoriety for settin’ the fringe a flyin’ at their wickedly wild high-energy shows. Keeping the lost art of go-go alive, these gals are masters of the historical dances from the hey-day of  the 1960’s…get on your feet and prepare to go-go.

Toychestra is an all-women, arty, experimental ensemble that plays original music on toy instruments.

We (in the interest of full disclosure I should add that I’m a 12 year member) have recorded several albums, toured widely in Europe and brought joy and levity to children—and adults who feel like children—everywhere, including ourselves. I promise you won’t be able to repress your smiles or stay seated for long.

Eric Glick Rieman will be playing his prepared and extended Rhodes electric piano for us. His modifications to the Rhodes and other instruments have garnered him even more street cred in the experimental world and he has been playing with other masters of the arcane like Fred Frith, Ikue Mori and Lesli Dalaba. He’s a multi-talented, multi-instrumentalist performer and composer—and we welcome him to the EBMMF.

And as if that wasn’t enough…the one man wonder band Hungry, Hungry Ghost plays his first gig since moving to the Bay Area!  Check out his rad video (that refuses to embed properly!!)

Don’t forget, though, the kids who will be giving the Fogeys a run for the money on the main stage: The Black Bones, Poison Apple Pie, and The She’s! Young hutzpah and energy VS. older wisdom and experience…  Who will emerge victor?

Who is Kimric Smythe?

A) Is he a steampunk magician?
B) Is he the neighborhood accordion repairman genius?
C) Is he a punk rock roboticist?
D) Is he a bovine pyrotechnician?
E) Is he a TV star?
F) Is he the personification of an East Bay Maker?

Why, you guessed it!  Kimric Smythe is G:   ALL OF THE ABOVE! We’ve done our best below to provide some backup to these assertions, but if you want t0 see for yourself what it feels like to be around a Renaissance Maker Man, you’ll have to come visit Kimric Smythe’s prime space at the East Bay Mini Maker Faire.  Now for the evidence:

A) Is he a steampunk magician? Kimric helped build and plumb and fancify the Neverwas Haul, the fantastic and fabulous Victorian house-on-wheels.  This is Kimric’s steampunk era, Kimric stepping out into the world of early-industry fantasy and innocence, a celebration of “an era when technology and exploration fueled the imagination of the Continent, and gentlemen and ladies of leisure set out in pursuit of the strange and wonderous.”

Kimric actually excels in steam power applications, has made steam-driven calliopes to buggies to whistles,  and will be bringing a range of steam powered devices and whirlygigs to the EBMMF.

B) Is he the neighborhood accordion repair genius? Why indeed, Kimric is the fair proprietor of Smythe’s Accordion Center in downtown Oakland.  Kimric and some friends have also designed and built the best accordian amplifier on the market (a dubious distinction in some people’s minds, but certainly a feat of maker prowess).  If you visit the Accordion Center, you’ll find Kimric has an incredible array of gorgeous accordions for sale.  And for sure if you have an accordion that needs love and tender repair, someone has already probably told you to take it to Kimric.

C) Is he a punk rock roboticist? Certainly.  Or something like that.  Kimric has been a team member of the legendary machine performance troupe,  Survival Research Laboratories (SRL), for over 20 years.

SRL was born way back in the late 1970’s by Mark Pauline along with Matt Heckert and Eric Werner. Along the way an astounding array of Bay Area artists have made their way through the SRL clutches, learning tricks and skills, and putting on often outrageous displays of remote control debauchery.  Kimric persists, and always brings solid quirk to SRL shows.  He’s good at dynamic and funny props that taunt the machines, as well as for providing irritation like an excruciatingly loud jet engine on a forklift—or the Kimric Kill Kart with its 6-barrel shockwave cannon.

D) Is he a bovine pyrotechnician?
Most early “Burners” remember Kimric.  He led the pyro design and detonation of the Man at Burningman throughout the 1990s.  But even just this past Burn, Kimric worked with Temple of Flux to design the pyro for their 2010 Burningman temple. (Image courtesy Extramatic.)  Kimric is also fondly remembered for the legend of the Java Cow, a early morning playa apparition offering unadulterated caffeine.

E) Is he a TV star? Why yes, of course. Back in the 2000’s, Kimric led a winning Junkyard Wars team, meeting the challenge of building a machine using a car and a soccer ball to play golf.  (!?)  Kimric’s idea was to build an industrial version of a tennis ball pitching machine, and with his dad by his side, Kimric not only wooed the audience of millions, but his team won the challenge.

F) Is he the personification of a Maker? Yes.  He can’t stop and you can’t stop him.  It’s in his blood and his genes and his clothes.  If you’re still on the fence about his qualifications, come see for yourself at the East Bay Mini Maker Faire.

>>Kimric’s tophat photo courtesy of Lisa Swehla

Help for Hackers: MakeSF and More

Let’s say you want to build a robot and you live in the East Bay. Or you’re designing something that needs a bit more human / computer interaction than you know how to execute. Where do you start?

Tools are expensive. So is a formal engineering education. Thankfully we live in the Bay Area, and there’s a whole community out there of software and hardware people sharing resources who are helping each other figure out how to make stuff.

One such resource is MakeSF. Inspired by Make: magazine, MakeSF was founded here in the Bay Area by NYU’s ITP program alum Andrew Milmoe. MakeSF really is a Bay Area group, meeting regularly both in San Francisco and in Oakland, and their mission is to meet with local people and to discuss and show-and-tell new technology.

MakeSF hosts meetings with speakers/makers like Cool Neon on learning how to light up anything with their EL wire kits, and Because We Can on “Turning Pro: Becoming a Professional Maker.”  (Look for Because We Can at the East Bay Mini Maker Faire!)

Recently the MakeSF group has been meeting in the East Bay at Tech Liminal, which is an emerging space in Oakland that has an open workstation for makers to do little electronics projects but also have good facilities for printing photos, access to the web.  (MakeSF will be hosting a soldering workshop at the East Bay Mini Maker Faire.)

Another new and exciting resource is a group called Ace Monster Toys, a recently formed hacker space in North Oakland at 6050 Lowell Street.  They have meetings every Monday at 7:30 p.m., and are also doing regular workdays to finish building out their shop.  Ace will also be at the East Bay Mini Maker Faire, demoing 3D plastic fabrication with three or four MakerBot Cupcake CNC machines.  Their MakerBot orchestra will be crooning the audience with MIDI magic, and they say they will have edible 3D frosting sculptures too!

Another EBMMF Maker, The Crucible, has been building up their Kinetics & Electronics offerings, teaching classes like “Electronics for Artists” and “Programming Interactive Art and Games with Processing.”

For other Bay Area hacker groups and spaces, check the excellent resources page at  One thing that is not on their page is the forthcoming San Francisco edition of TechShop, a membership-based facility with everything from large scale machine tools to sand blasting equipment to computers to popcorn.

And don’t miss your chance to get connected and chat up Ace, MakeSF, Because We Can, and the Crucible at the East Bay Mini Maker Faire!


The first time I went to Maker Faire in San Mateo was in 2008, as a performer with my band Toychestra.  Except for the time on stage,  I spent almost the entirety of my day (and indeed, each time I’ve returned) inside the Swap-o-Rama-Rama — a pavilion loaded with mountains of donated clothing to sift through, unmake, re-make and up-cycle.

But it’s not just clothes.  There’s sewing machines as well as freestyle use of buttons, ribbons, glue guns, feathers and googly eyes.  A veritable textile buffet!

My favorite part was the screen printing.  You just pick out an article of clothing from the stack, take it over and choose from one of the ten or so available screens.  Mr. or Mrs. ScreenPrint would swipe the ink that you like and Voila!  A super cool t-shirt for my son—and a much improved hoody for myself.

screenprinting station @ Swap-o-Rama-Rama

When we started producing the EBMMF my personal Maker priority was to ensure some kind of clothing mash-up section—especially because our Mini Maker Faire will happen on the Sunday before Halloween! Costume-O-Rama-Rama! So I did a little internet searching and discovered a bit about the inspired and fearless leader of Swap-O-Rama-Rama—Wendy Tremayne.  Here are a few inspired words from the Swap website:

In 2005 Wendy created Swap-O-Rama-Rama (to observe and respond to) some of the issues that perpetuate consumerism. It got off the ground with a grant from Black Rock Arts and now takes place in cities all over the world. It has repurposed hundreds of thousands of pounds of textile waste and transformed thousands of consumers into creators.   … At Swap-O-Rama-Rama objects are imbued with meaning as would-be trash is revivified with authentic, communal creativity and spirit.

This year, the East Bay Mini Maker Faire will stage our own Swap-O-Rama-Rama thanks to Wendy and her SORR sponsor YUDU (!  WooT!

If you want to play, just come on down on October 24.  It’ll be a great opportunity to make that ultra fabulous Halloween costume, remake some favorite clothing, or find and make some new treasure you can take home with you. And, it’s all FREE with your EBMMF admission!

If you want to help—donate some clothes—any womens/mens/kids clothing that still has some life in it. We also need sewing machines to use that day, volunteers to help with all the hijinks, and any extra materials, notions, trims or embellishments you can part with. Contact Corey for more details at

Swap-O-Rama-Rama by Wendy Tremayne is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.

Paul’s Rides and Cyclecide

The Maker Faire in San Mateo doesn’t draw 90,000 people over a single weekend because it is dry, dreary or serious.  JOY is the subtext of Maker Faire.  People come in droves to the Maker Faire because it is fun!

You might dispute this, but I would wager that the most fun and joyful exhibit at Maker Faire is the two-punch combo of Paul’s Rides and Cyclecide.   That’s why I’m particularly thrilled to announce that Paul’s Rides and Cyclecide will be making their magic happen at the inaugural 2010 East Bay Mini Maker Faire!


Paul’s Rides are pedal-powered carnival rides.  Two- and three-person ferris wheels; tiny and big carousels, two- and six-seater dizzy toys. These are rides that make you scream out loud and make you dizzy with good old centrifugal force.   You get off and can’t walk straight.  Paul’s Rides are human-powered hilarity.



“Paul” is artist Paul Ceseskwi (AKA Paul the Plumber).  He started his exploration of these circus rides in 2000 with the Dizzy Toy and building up to his 2004 masterpiece, the Star Wheel.  The Star Wheel debuted at Burning Man (which sponsored its creation), went to the 2007 Austin Maker Faire, and has been a rare experience since because of its need for space to roll. You’ll have to see this beautiful short film here to see why:

Cyclecide, though, is the band of kooks and tinkerers and performers who helped build the rides with Paul and who have incorporated the rides into a kinetic circus involving jousting, clowns, mash-up cycles, rodeo rituals, inner tubes, and tu-tus.  The Heavy Pedal Cyclecide Bike Rodeo makes it all come together.

Inspired by discarded bikes, American rodeo culture, and punk rock, Cyclecide assembled itself way back in 1995.  First it was building funny bikes (the Lawn Mower bike, crazy choppers, tall bikes, and the fire-breathing Chupacabra). Along the way it morphed into a full-blown bike rodeo, complete with a house band (“Los Banos”) and stage show, and the fabulous ride midway. The show always includes musical interludes and comedic skits and stunts involving the whacked-out bikes and the Cyclecide staff rodeo clowns, stunt riders, and beauty queens.




Chances to experience this quality of interactive fun just come every so often in life. Circle your calendar now for October 24 and get your g-force giggles out with the Heavy Pedal Cyclecide Bike Rodeo at the 2010 East Bay Mini Maker Faire!

The Start of Something Mini

It’s all relative, I suppose.  We came back from a wonderful Maker Faire in San Mateo last weekend, and of course the event is huge.  When we decided to put on a Mini Maker Faire at our kids’ school next year, it seemed so manageable.  But really you could produce an event 1/100th the size of the Maker Faire and it would still be a lot of work.  It could also be a lot of fun.  We’re hoping for equal proportions.

Who are we and why are we doing this?  We are parents of children who attend Park Day School in Oakland, CA.  Park is an amazing school, with a wise and skilled staff and faculty, a truly gorgeous campus, and a warm and energetic community.  I hope I speak for many of the parents when I say that we chose this school for our kids because it encourages their curiosity and helps them learn for themselves.  Park gives them the space to explore what’s interesting to them.

As parents, I guess that’s what we’re doing with this Mini Maker Faire.  We have both an interest and a requirement to volunteer for the school every year, and many of us choose to help with fundraising efforts.  Park has for 24 years produced one of highlight events of the year for garden enthusiasts, the Secret Gardens of the East Bay Tour, so there is a history of creative, community-focused fundraising events.

We proposed a Mini Maker Faire as a fundraiser so we could combine two of our greatest passions: Maker culture and our kids’ educations.  So much of the culture around us tells us – and our children – that our first job is to be consumers.  The more we can expose our kids to a culture of do-it-yourself, a culture of building, hacking, remixing, crafting, experimenting, and designing, the culture we see in Make and Craft magazines, the more they’ll see the opportunities to shape the world around them.  We all consume, but we want to teach our kids to not only consume less, but also to create.  Let’s encourage a generation of mini makers.

Our goals with the Mini Maker Faire are summed up by the requisite list of three C words: culture, community, and curriculum.  There’s a fourth, cash, but it’s a longer term goal; we hope this evolves into a fundraising stream for the school, but our wise leaders in the administration at Park understand that the event must serve a community before it can raise funds, so we’re focused on the first three for now.  The means our main work this summer is to reach out to the larger community and inspire the teachers at Park to make the Mini Maker Faire a big part of their curriculum next fall.  The culture part will hopefully come along for the ride.

In the spirit of maker culture, we are making this up as we go along.  We’re a handful of parents with a supportive school administration, loosely organized, with an adventurous spirit and more enthusiasm than resources.  If you’re willing to help –whether its organizing, exhibiting, or just spreading the word, leave a comment here and we’ll contact you.