Author Archives: sannmer

CrateStacking is BAAAACKKK!

tripticWe know you’ve been holding your breath!  It’s true – the milkcrates, the giant crane, climber Liam McNamara and his high-stack friends will be returning to bring you the rare joy of cratestacking!

We debuted this awesome sport last year, and then what happened:  Make: magazine did this interview with Liam and the sport (thanks for the re-post, Make:!)

Photo: John Orbon/Park Day School

Photo: John Orbon/Park Day School

Liam McNamara is one of the foremost proponents and organizers of cratestacking, the crazy DIY sport that is exactly what it sounds like. He has organized events in warehouses and at the East Bay Maker Faire, rigging up ropes and climbing equipment so that competitors, who balance on towers of milk crates dozens of feet high before the whole thing crashes down like a giant game of Jenga. Make: caught up with McNamara to ask about how to participate and the clarity that comes atop a tower.


Make: This looks fun, and a little scary. What’s it like when you’re up there?
McNamara: It’s a really fun feeling, ‘cause it’s a simple activity, but you kind of reach this heightened state of focus where you can’t hear your friends yelling at you, and you can’t think about the ground, and you’re just not thinking about anything else. You’re so focused on the subtle movement of the tower, and trying to keep it from swaying, and trying to stay relaxed, despite the fact you know this whole tower could topple at any moment.

It’s really an exhilarating sensation when you’re up there. I’ve had some of the bravest rock climbers that I know, that have climbed giant walls in Yosemite, build a tower and tell me that’s the scariest thing they’ve climbed in years, just ‘cause it’s so unnerving. It’s not really a matter of if you’re going to fall, it’s a matter of when. Everybody falls, and it always comes so unexpectedly, just a little shift in the wind, or the tower bows in a funny way, and then all of the sudden it just explodes, crates are going everywhere, and you find yourself suddenly dangling from the end of a rope 20 feet in the air. It’s really thrilling.

Is there any set of rules, either formal or informal, about how you do it?
There aren’t really that many ways to do it. The one rule that we made — that I thought made it a lot more fun — was that in order for your stack to count, you need to stand on the top of it. It’s kind of a house rule, when we were stacking over at my warehouse. It kind of created this situation where you have to commit to your stack. Rarely have I seen anyone stand on a stack, and then be able to move down to a position where you can stack another crate, so at some point you just kind of decide, this is enough, I’m going to go for a stand.

It’s really a victorious moment to kind of let go with your hands and step up on top of your tower, and stand up. We get a lot of great pictures from stands. We had one guy do a handstand which was really amazing. Having that moment of victory, where you’re on top of your tower — and usually the tower topples shortly after that — it’s always an exciting moment. It’s hard to do, it adds a little bit extra challenge.

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You mentioned that people have been doing this in Europe. Do you notice it spreading anywhere else? Are people following your lead?
I created cratestacking.com in hopes to find other people that were doing this, ‘cause it seems like a fun thing and I really wanted to find a community of people that were doing it. I really hoped that people would start competing on a global level for tallest stack, and they could send in a video or some pictures of them standing on a really tall stack. When my friends and I first did it, I think our top stack was 14 crates and we thought that was amazing. And then the next time we did it, several people stacked crate stacks in the 20s, and we were like, Wow, this is even taller than we thought we could do it. And now the tallest stacks are approaching 30. We had one stack of 29.

I’d really love to work up a bit of a following, so we could have people practice, and do a couple of practice stacks and get better at it. I think it is something that could have a lot more potential with a bit of practice and training. It’s really inspiring to see what people do on their first try, but we’ll never know what the limits are without a little bit of training and practice.

What goes into doing it?
It takes a ton of work. I come from a rock climbing background, so we use the same sort of standard safety equipment that you’d use as if you were climbing rocks. We set up a top rope, basically. I’ve done it in warehouses, off of rafters, and we’ve done it off of cranes, which work really well ‘cause you can put them anywhere.

The falling crates are the most dangerous thing, as long as you have a good belayer. But being the belayer is kind of a scary place to be, ‘cause you need to stand kind of under the tower. And there’s one other guy under there who’s the crate wrangler, who’s handing up milk crates to the climber. Both of those people can get hit with falling crates as the tower topples, so we’ve made that a hard-hat area, and keep all spectators clear. If you’re stacking 20 or 30 foot towers, then you need to keep all the spectators clear within a 20 or 30 foot radius.

Are there any techniques or strategy?
As you’re building a tower, the tricky part is you’ve got to kind of tuck your toes in to the handles of the milk crate. It’s especially hard for bigger people. Kids have small feet and they can usually fit their shoes in there. We’ve been wearing climbing shoes, which help, ‘cause they have very small toes and you can actually fit them in the small handles. Also, all crates are not created equal: Some have bigger handles than others; some are more rigid than others. We’ve been real connoisseurs of milk crates now, and I’ve been starting to collect the heavier duty ones, the ones that are more rigid and have bigger handles, to allow big feet into them.

Other than that, the way you can brace yourself on the top of the tower varies. Taller people will stand two crates down from the top, shorter people will stand in the top crate. Then you have to brace yourself by reaching around with one of your arms and holding the top of the tower together, then freeing your other hand to grab the next crate that you’re going to stack. That’s really the trickiest part, ‘cause you’re kind of holding on with one hand, and the whole tower is rocking back and forth. You can really see it from the top, as you sight the line straight down the tower. It’s kind of unnerving how much the tower will flex. If you watch which way it’s going, you can kind of correct for it, and just balance it and hold it together. Grab your next crate, clear the top, carefully place it, and then I usually push down on the whole tower to make sure it’s all seated and together while I very carefully move my feet up to the next crate. And repeat.


Come try CrateStacking yourself at the East Bay Mini Maker Faire on Sunday, October 19th!

Calling all Educators! Meet-Up at the Faire

Educator Meetup.FINALblk Are you interested in incorporating making into your classroom or educational program? Want to meet like-minded teachers exploring making and design? Whether you’re a maker curious teacher or a tinkering classroom champion, you are invited to the East Bay Mini Maker Faire Educator Meet-Up on Sunday, October 19th.

EBMMF Educator Meet-Up participants will have the opportunity to connect with colleagues, tinker with curriculum, and learn from other makers. The meet-up will also provide an opportunity to become part of a larger, ongoing network of like-minded educators.

The EBMMF Educator Meet-Up will consist of three sessions designed to compliment the offerings of the Faire itself. The 9:45a and 4:00p sessions will be 45 minutes each, and the noon-1p session will include lunch. All sessions are built around supporting making in your setting and building our maker educator community. Participants are encouraged to attend all three sessions, but welcome to attend just one or two. Between sessions, you’ll have hours to get inspired by the plethora of EBMMF makers, since Faire admission is included in your meet-up registration.

Register here for the EBMMF Education Meet-Up. Enter the promotional code “EDHACK” at the bottom, then select the discounted Adult Advance Purchase ticket. It’s just $5! (Please: only actual Educators planning on attending the event for this ticket. Complete this transaction and go back to the ticket link to purchase additional tickets for family and friends.)

Thanks to the group of local, visionary teachers who have organized this 3-session Educator Meet-Up to enhance the EBMMF experience for educators, as well as meet-up supporters Park Day School and Agency by Design.

There’s a booming awareness of the importance of making in education, and the East Bay Area is a hotbed of activity. Don’t miss this chance to connect, tinker, learn, and make. Register today!

P.S. Want to share with other teachers?  Download the flyer and our event poster for sharing.

Meet the 2014 Makers!

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Our Maker page is up!

2013 Video Highlights by Make: Magazine’s Mike Senese

Thanks to Make: magazine‘s Executive Editor Mike Senese for this sweet video take on our 2013 East Bay Mini Maker Faire.

Great to watch *just* as we are almost ready to announce our 2014 Maker lineup. (Stay tuned!)

Call for Makers Extended through September 15

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2014 Call for Makers Kickoff + Town Hall @The Crucible

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West Oakland’s fabulous industrial arts nexus, The Crucible, is generously hosting our meet up and Call for Makers kickoff for the 5th Annual East Bay Mini Maker Faire this coming Tues, 7/29. Come out and schmooze and brainstorm and network and raise a glass, chow, etc—all in prep/anticipation of Sunday, October 19th!

Tour of The Crucible starts at 6:30; Town Hall at 7:15.

RSVP and more info: https://www.facebook.com/events/699106323496631/

If for some reason you can’t make it but want to get a jump on things, go ahead and fill our Call for Makers application out now!

That was one HECK of a show.

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We are overwhelmed with appreciation for the spectacular day on Sunday.  This year, our fourth, we showcased just under 200 makers and hosted 7,000 people on the combined venue of Park Day School and Studio One Art Center.  The weather was spectacular, the depth and variety of content superlative, the community feeling strong.  And we had the first-ever, full-scale crate stacking show very likely in the history of the planet!

Thanks go first to our makers, those creative, generous people.  There is no Maker Faire without you.  You are problem-solvers and you are by and large easy.  You collaborate.  You are curious and happy.  Thank you for sharing your talent and your process and your prowess.

Then there’s our partnersStudio One Art Center, a fantastic arts facility owned and operated by the City of Oakland—and MAKE magazine, the entity behind Maker Faire.  And our sponsors (just look to the right rail), those companies and institutions that understand the value of maker culture and how important it is to foster and encourage.

Finally there’s the community of Park Day School How many of you reading this realize that the East Bay Mini Maker Faire is produced and organized entirely by the parents and staff of this progressive Oakland K-8 school?  It’s a staggering accomplishment, even for a group of professionals, let alone volunteers.  Thank you parents and staff!

Some nice news / posts came out about the fair:

We’ve been collecting images and loading them into a Flickr feed Please please share your images and videos—there were so many unique experiences at the fair that we’re just plain curious to see what you saw! Let us know via comments here, on Facebook or Twitter or G+, or email us at info@ebmakerfaire.com.

So *phew* we’re done for this year.  But before you forget all of this, we’ve got a survey for makers and a survey for attendees that we would so appreciate if you would take a moment to complete.  Your brilliant ideas, constructive critiques, and words of adoration are all very much desired and appreciated, and will help us be bigger, better, stronger, and more fun in 2014.  See you then.

Photos by Stephen Jacobson, Ben Smith, John Orbon, Sabrina Merlo, Karen Marcelo and Jeffrey Braverman/MAKE.  See the full Flickr gallery and attribution info here.

Program! Get yer program!

2013 East Bay Mini Maker Faire Program CoverDownload the mighty East Bay Mini Maker Faire 2013 program and try—just try—to plan your day! It’s tough, we’re hoping you get a little distracted and diverted and that you explore every nook and cranny of this incredible joint venue of Park Day School and Studio One Art Center.

Be sure to go upstairs in Studio One for Tapigami & the Dark Room & Fixit Clinic; the side of Studio One to Robot’s Grotto & the front lawn for crate stacking; to the back corner of Nerd’s Nest for makerspaces and smart aquaponics; inside the Magnolia lobby to see the unbelievable work of Non-Terrestrial Arms;  Food Truck alley for all kind of amazing food, beer and Sugar Alley for sweets; the end Doer’s Desert for Nerdy Derby and the amazing upright looms from Children’s Museum of East Bay.  Keep going, keep exploring—we’ve planned for something amazing in just about every corner!

The Public Debut of a New Sport: Crate Stacking!

sabrinacrate3Crate stacking is a game.  The objective is to stack as many upside-down plastic milk crates as possible and stand on the top. Stackers rest their feet in the handle holes of the milk crates, and the challenge is to place the next crate and transfer footings without losing balance and blowing the stack.

The set up is like indoor rock climbing or top rope climbing in that players are in a harness and are belayed for safety. Crates are tossed to the stacker when the stack is low, and then ferried by a rope on a pulley when the stack is high. When the stack inevitably blows, the stacker is held aloft as the milk crates scatter asunder. It’s fun. Really fun.

Want to try it? Crate Stacking will be going down on the front lawn of Studio One all day at East Bay Mini Maker Faire.  Under 18 will need parents present to try.  The highest stackers will be invited to a stack-off at 4 PM.

Here’s Crate Stacking game maker Liam McNamara, landing a record 26 stack:

Interview: CamDAX, Electrical Boy Wonder

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Thanks to Goli Mohammodi and Makezine.com for the permission to repost their interview with 16-year-old Cameron Mira (CamDAX), maker, artist, club organizer. Cameron is coming to East Bay Mini Maker Faire for the second time, bringing his Tesla coil as well as a his new pinball machine. Find him upstairs in the dark room in the Studio One building.

1. Tell us about the audio-modulated full-bridge Tesla coil you’re bringing to Maker Faire.
When I was around five, during lightning storms, me and my mom would sit in the kitchen and watch the lightning strikes in the distance — it was really neat. Where I lived at the time was very flat so you could see it easily. A few years ago I saw ArcAttack at Maker Faire and it showed me how much I really like lightning. This last year I built a spark gap Tesla coil, and I’ve been experimenting almost twice a week with [the effects on] different things. First I tried the usual stuff: fluorescent lights, wood, or a screwdriver. Then I tried more elaborate things like Hershey’s Kisses, scanner laser tubes, wire sculptures, and then fused glass pieces.

When the Young Makers program came around, I joined and decided to make an audio-modulated full-bridge solid state Tesla coil. We haven’t finished it yet, but we plan on having it done in time for Maker Faire. It’s going to have a cool light-up control panel with an RGB LCD screen, a big red button, metal pushbuttons with LED rings, and some other light-up components. The buttons have to light up so you can see them in the dark. We hope to play songs no one else has tried, like the Quantum Leap theme song, Scooby Doo theme song, and maybe a Beatles song. Our demonstrations will include music playing through the coil and lightning sculptures made out of metal and glass.

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