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Maker Faires and DIY Toys: Tapping Into The Maker In You

Posted by Caroline Fong  September 25, 2013 11:00 AM

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This past weekend, I hopped on a bus and traveled to New York to attend the Maker Faire. Walking up from the train station as I neared the New York Hall of Science, I marveled at the big colorful banner that greeted visitors. On the faire grounds, the sights and sounds of tents, tables, food trucks, and games beckoned onlookers.

Making my way through the mini golf games and pop-up tents selling innovative designs, I ducked under the Maker Pavilion first. Everyone had to squeeze through the ever-growing crowds to peer at the displays. The number of 3D printers and printed trinkets astounded me; Google+ Local and maybe two other exhibitors were the only exceptions.

Throughout my day, I tried to cover as much ground as possible while still talking to folks. Looking through the other tents and areas, I found food artisans, jewelry crafters, lamp makers, circuit board printers, tool builders, and of course, big companies like Microsoft and Google.

My favorite exhibitor, however, was a 3D printing hobbyist, who had built his own 3D printers. His loud and friendly demeanor drew me and a few others to his table. Jeff, with passion pouring from his soul, tried to persuade me to build my own 3D printer after ascertaining that I had “asked all the right questions.”

“It’s only $580,” he proclaimed. “Don’t buy one; build one. Look up where you can get the least expensive parts.”

After shaking hands with Jeff, I wandered off to watch the race track. But more than once, the thought of possibly building my own 3D printer entered my mind.

For those who’d like a DIY adventure without foraying into the complicated world of 3D printer-building, here is a roundup of fun maker possibilities:

1. Makers Toolbox: Scribbler The Drawing Robot Kit (Starting at $25)

Makers Toolbox 1.jpg

This little spectacle was immensely popular at the Maker Faire. I saw kids run up to the tent and tell their moms they wanted it -- to which they would agreeably reach into their handbags for the wallet. After assembling all the electrical parts, you get a fun boxy robot that scribbles designs as it moves across paper. It’s meant for tweens who may be a bit too old for conventional toys, but it’s still a fun project for folks of any age.

2. Makers Toolbox: Cardboard Proptracter Kit (Starting at $35)

Makers Toolbox 2.jpg

From the same makers of the scribbler robot, this kit lets you build your very own aeronautical vehicle that actually flies with remote-controlled command. After playing with your flying toy, you can also display this cardboard creation anywhere in the house or dorm to add a bit of maker sensibility to your decor.

3. MaKey MaKey Invention Kit ($49.95)

MaKey MaKey 1.jpg

Remember how everyone scrambled to listen to Mozart for the Mozart effect? Well, how about an imagination-fueled kit created by two final-year PhD students from the famed MIT Media Lab? Type a poem, play the drums, or play a digital game -- using a collection of items as keys. You can transform any object that can conduct electricity into a touch interface (a “button” of sorts) or computer keyboard controller.

4. MakersKit Herb Terrarium ($24)

MakersKit Terrarium 1.png

For a more organic DIY venture, you can make your own low-maintenance terrarium. The kit comes with all the needed materials and directions. Once constructed, they’re perfect for setting on a desk, on a coffee table, or even by your bed.

Is there a maker project you're working on? Share in the comments.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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Caroline Fong
Caroline hails from a tiny tropical island originally, but calls Boston home. A curious bird, she spent a spring trekking all over Ireland, has been an Air Force Junior ROTC cadet, and worked at Disney World as a merchandising intern. With a love for all things interesting, she found herself at The Grommet, where she gets to eat, sleep, and breathe innovative undiscovered products. Say hello to her on Twitter.