Category Archives: Makers

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!

Brain Food: New Talks on the History and Future of Making

Most of what you’ll find at the East Bay Mini Maker Faire will inspire you to do something with your hands, but we also have fantastic talks about the history, future, and culture of making, talks that will feed your brain and spark your intellectual curiosity.

Nicholas de Monchaux is an architect, urbanist, writer, and Assistant Professor of Architecture & Urban Design at UC Berkeley.  Nicholas is coming to EBMMF to talk about an unlikely but fascinating subject: the Apollo AL7 Pressure Garment, what Armstrong and Aldrin wore when they walked on the surface of the moon in 1969.  As he puts it:

The Spacesuit they were wearing was made not by a military-industrial conglomerate, but by Playtex makers of women’s underwear. Not only was the suit hand-sewn by seamstresses whose usual work was sewing bras and girdles, but the head of suit development for Playtex, Lenny Sheperd, had only previously worked as a television repairman. An artifact of maker culture long-before-the-fact, the Apollo spacesuit holds crucial lessons for how we approach technology, and our own human nature.

Nicholas will be speaking at 1pm; check the final program for location.

After a mind-opening exploration of this artifact of maker culture, be sure to wrap up your visit to EBMMF with a look into the future.  Tim O’Reilly, whose company O’Reilly Media produces the Maker Faire and MAKE magazine, and whom Inc and others have called the Oracle of Silicon Valley, is going to share his thoughts on what this all means in our closing speaking slot at 4pm.  We asked him what he wanted to say in his talk, and here is how he replied:

Right now it’s easy to see the maker movement simply as a DIY movement. But of course the PC and Internet revolutions also began as DIY phenomena. Inside each of was set of enormous cultural and technological changes with implications far greater than were anticipated at the time. This talk will explore where the maker movement is taking us. We’ll cover everything from what the maker movement tells us about the future of manufacturing, health care, education and the economy.

Join us on October 16 for these and many more fascinating, informational, and inspirational talks.

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!

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!