Tulsa Mini Maker Faire!

Tulsa Mini Maker Faire happened 28 September 2013, and it was awesome!

Here’s my lead-in:

We are ‘GO’ for the Tulsa Mini Maker Faire!

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(Update: This Saturday, 28 September is the big day. I’ve been nervously watching the weather forecasts and trying to optimize my load-out for the possibility of clouds and/or rain. Since my original plans were for solar, electrical and chemical manipulations of matter, rain is decidedly counter to my plans, so I’m hoping it won’t be happening.  If it’s overcast, maybe I won’t be able to cook hot dogs with the Fresnel spiral solar concentrator, but the electro-etching and stove-top brass making demo can still happen. A full downpour will put a damper on pretty much everything. Keep your fingers crossed!)  

My theme is “Make It: Cheap and Dirty” – or – How to do stuff you shouldn’t be able to do… for next to nothing!”  I’m placing a heavy emphasis on re-use, re-purposing and the “it isn’t junk unless you don’t use it” principle.

I’m going with more an “open play” format than a fixed spiel. Sure, I’ll have some handouts of the how-tos that ran in Steampunk Magazine, some basic “Ohm’s Law” level electronics theory, some link-lists of fun/educational stuff and I’ll have some of my cheap/dirty projects on hand to show how little refinement is required to get usable results. Mostly I’ll be demonstrating simple methods of making-tweaking-hacking things and generally trying to get people used to the idea that tinkering is rewarding! 

My updated agenda:

  • Fire up the ‘Eurosealer’ and clothes iron to illustrate plastic fusing techniques to improvise a rain-shelter from plastic grocery bags and drop-cloths (and possibly floatation devices, as required)
  • Turn dull, everyday bronze pennies into golden BRASS pennies for the kids (and others), just to break the ice
  • Talk about the cheap tools I just can’t live without, the beauty of pawn shops, garage sales and why “cheap” can be “best”
  • Give a quick rundown of some of my favorite household chemicals and the amazing things you can do with them (with demos), applied dumpster-diving, constructive cannibalism, why you should never throw away a “wall-wart”, general Q&A and other cheap-simple-dirty topics, tips and tricks
  • Etch some printed circuit boards with cheap, simple and surprisingly “green” chemicals, demonstrate electro-cleaning and galvanic etching
  • Provide a hands-on soldering tutorial and demo ‘surface mount’ soldering without special tools (you got a hot air gun, toaster oven or electric skillet?)
  • Share a couple of really cheap/simple solar concentrator designs(Update: no sun, no point- information only)
  • Assure you that you can take on that ‘Wild Blue Project’ you’ve been putting off, extoll on the value of creative failure and the benefits of a ‘Stop Planning and Just Do It, Already!‘ attitude

More than this I cannot say at this time.  If you’ve got any ‘idears’ to add (I’ve got eight hours, 8!) let me know early so I can be prepared!

I’m certain that this will be a whole lot of fun and I hope you’ll all come by to say howdy, and be sure to visit Dana Swift@Swift Science (he explained digital electronics to me the only time it ever stuck, back when I still fit my Star Trek uniform), the Tulsa Garden Railroad Club (my very oldest friends!) and all the other fine presenters at this, the very first Tulsa Mini Maker Faire!

…and my day after report:

My ‘Day After’ Tulsa Mini Maker Faire Observations

The 1st ever Tulsa Mini Maker Faire is over. This is my personal de-brief.

The planning and leadership for the event was EPIC. The crew at FabLab Tulsa that set this thing up did a bang-up job! Nathan, April and those whose names I don’t know had the planning, outreach, earthly logistics and communications with the presenting makers nailed. I’m very impressed! Beers or better all around for the organizers!

All the volunteers who stood out in the rain while making this thing happen on a tactical level were a stout-hearted lot, and I cannot heap enough praise on them! Yes, buckos, ‘the line held’, and your dedication was not unappreciated! Again, I don’t have a list but I’d like to buy you all a beer, and I’m sure the same goes for all the makers attending!

The presenting  makers were awesome as well. The vibe was very good, with everyone I met there being swell folks, eager to show-and-tell their projects in the face of anomalous weather. I just wish I’d had more time to stroll around and meet/appreciate you all instead of struggling with my own can of recalcitrant worms. There were lots of new faces, a few old faces and so many things to appreciate wish I’d had a half-hour at every table!

Even the attending public showed conspicuous bravery under rain for showing up in the numbers I saw. I haven’t seen that kind of interest in any other outdoor event during a monsoon in this area, and your interest, courtesy and support made the event a success! Good show, Tulsans!

There were people planning  their own Maker Faires up to take notes (I spoke to at least 3 scouting parties)! One of the more amusing comments I heard was about these things becoming “a Ren Faire for geeks”. Ren Faires need turkey legs, so what will be the ‘geek’ turkey-leg, I wonders? Will it have ramen, spirulina, tofu or fudge? Only the Future knows! I support this effort, however it turns out!

As far as my own little 10×10 piece of it went:

The morning of the event there was Rain, Rain and more Rain. This rain was torrential during the planned set-up window, and my old military trench coat has apparently lost it’s water repellency, judging by the amount of water absorbed and transmitted through it (it’s still not dried out).

My eldest daughter, who came to assist (as my awesome “booth babe”) did bravely weather the weather despite getting soaked and freezing. It was a ‘bonding experience’, euphemistically speaking (AKA ‘a voyage of the damned’, like a family vacation).  After setting up the canopy, we headed back home to get dry clothes and bag up some towels and such before returning to complete load-in. (A Very Big THANK YOU! goes out to my good friend Darrin who lent me a folding canopy shelter the night before… else we’d have needed snorkels).

Absolutely nothing, no-thing,  I planned on presenting worked out. The intended demonstration of chemical and electrical etching of copper rings cut from old plumbing, their zincate plating and transformation to brass, was 100% NO-GO. Techniques that worked fine indoors didn’t translate to an outdoor, windy ‘Waterworld’ environment. My clothes-iron hot-plate (a morning-of improvisation) couldn’t bring my hydroxide/zinc solution to a boil:just no way.

After three hours of fiddling with it we moved on to just going for etching the copper with hydrogen peroxide/HCL mix, but by that time both me and my booth-babe were so wet/cold/tired that it was clear that we were spent. We folded at about 2:30 PM, went home, got dried off, and grabbed some shawarma and cabbage rolls (yummy!) at Shawkat’s to treat hunger and fatigue and warm our insides.

Is there is a lesson to future outdoor Maker Faire participants from all this? Yes! To wit:

  1. Just getting started is the first, most crucial step.
  2. Showing up is the hard part! Be there, take part and help Make it happen!
  3. Leave Nothing To Chance! Concentrate on a weather-neutral presentation. Test your presentations/projects outdoors in the wind and the rain.  You cannot plan for good weather (especially in Oklahoma: that causes rain)!
  4. Rule #1 of Science: “Failure is always an option”. Deal with it with grace, just like my patron saint, Victor!

Yeah, sign me up for next year already!

One Response to “Tulsa Mini Maker Faire!”

  1. Anne Pollard James Says:

    Wow! YOU are awesome. And you are right….the makers and volunteers were AMAZING. Thank you for showing up and thank you for staying. Next year, my friend….next year. We will see you again.

    Best,
    Anne Pollard James
    Fab Lab Tulsa Friend

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