world maker faire logistics

I’ve been to 3 flagship Maker Faires, a flagship Faire is a huge Maker Faire generally with around 800 – 1000 “Makers” (that is exhibits). Currently there are two such Faires, one in New York, called the World Maker Faire and the original Maker Faire, Bay Area Maker Faire in San Mateo. I have had behind the scenes access and tours to both of these Faires, that has been a great privilege. But at this point I declare and disclaim that sadly I can barely scratch the surface of the intricacies of the logistics of a flagship faire and am definitely not in possession of nearly all the facts or any real hands-on experiences of doing them. What follows here is me trying my best to put across something of the flavour of what happens (at least on the day or so before) to put on a flagship Faire.

Humour in “the boneyard” an off limits area run by the heavy structure team. A scary but very cool place to hangout.

There are lots and lots of really large numbers of people and things to manage at a Flagship sized Faire. Last year the World Maker Faire hosted over 800 “Makers” which means 800 groups of exhibitors ranging from 1 person with a table needing one power socket, to parties of 12 or more on a large corporate stand with their own large tent or show vehicle. Then there are the sponsors who are looked after by a dedicated team. Also the “travellers” who are volunteers to help crew the event on the day but need managing too, anyone who’s ever managed volunteers knows this can be a difficult and sometimes thankless task. Additionally there is a permanent crew of about 250 including the editorial staff with their demands for WiFi and camera equipment, the maker shed team with their need for point of sale and of course the press manage.

Crew register Makers at a Maker Station, these tables are a point of contact between the Faire and Makers during set up.
Once set up is completed and the public are admitted, Maker Stations become information points by switching out the signage.

On top of that there are the food vendors who need to be set up and managed. Not to mention the big ticket paid for attractions, acts and speakers for the talks. Everyone needs to be fed and watered, have large amount of products or literature delivered be registered and processed onto the site and kept safe. There are a large number of temporary structures to construct from very small table and chair set-ups to massive football field sized pavilions, hundreds or portable toilets and about a mile of chain link fences. Extra generators for power are brought in and an additional cell phone mast is erected. There are police personnel, medics, museum staff and security men too. Oh… and I nearly forgot last year the World Maker Faire attracted 85K visitors.

Visitors queue on Sunday morning awaiting the opening of World Maker Faire.

Many volunteers are tasked with collecting data and signatures in order to issue a liability waiver wrist band. The Maker Faire in the USA issues these wristbands in order for visitors to take part in any activity on the site during the Faire, this includes soldering. This is not something that can be done in the UK, it is not possible to sign away your liability and waivers aren’t worth the paper they are written on in a UK court. In the UK you will must have sufficient public liability insurance as well as sensible systems of work and a risk assessment in place. To some extent it should be made clear that activities should be run with a parent or guardian ensuring the safety of anyone under 18.

All requests are run via a “chit” system.

It’s clear from speaking to a few of the organisers and managers that a lot of time has gone into refining and improving their processes. One that I heard the most about was reducing needless radio chatter. The Faire runs and monitors 16 channels, with the channels divided into different key teams or tasks. All radio chatter is written in a log. One of the key tools developed by Maker Faire to reduce chatter is the INFO HIT LIST. This pocket sized guide for the crew has facts and information in it aimed at reducing the number of needless radio enquiries.

85k people need a place to go sometimes.

Each zone of the Faire has it’s own manager, the zones are really bigger than a “normal” Maker Faire size so the managers have a very responsible and hands on job. They curate the content of their zones even playing swapsies with other zone manager to better manage the presentation of their zone to the public.

Make’s Caleb Kraft captured the essence of the zoning and curation story in this recent Makezine post.

zone 2 world maker faire, new york 

The start of Zone 2 right next to the main gate is an area I think of as the Craft Market, this area was managed/curated by BUST magazine and titled The Craftacular. The market offers a different feel and pace and  is very popular and with all kinds of hand made items mostly made locally by practicioners and artists. The things for sale range from laser cut and metal work jewellery, illustrations, embroidery and all kinds of artisinal craft items. It has become a tradition on the last day of the faire for the crew to buy a few pretty items and show them off at the crew after party. The grassy leafy area of the Craftacular, lacking in elctronic beeping and generally annoying noises is a tranquil heaven with a really different feel and pace to it.      

I spent a fair amount of time looking around the Craftacular with my friends from Solarbotics as well as an interesting 30 minutes with Sabrina, the Mini Maker Faire supremo who has been my main contact at Maker Media for sometime. One of the stall holders I met was Paulette who is the head crocheter/embroiderer at the Dahlia Soleil Collection who has recently graduated from a business degree and is about to start her MBA. She’s passionate about making and business. She makes amazing computer aided embroidery patches of animals. We talked about the Faire, she lives locally in Quees and hopes to teach business to makers in the future. She’d not been to the Maker Faire before and hadn’t realised it would have so much non-craft stuff at it and said next year she’ll apply as a maker and bring her tools and demonstrate her work!   

Beyond the craft village is an area devoted to hands on crafting as well as old-school Radio Hams and the local 2600 group merging into other community groups like hacker and maker spaces. It in this area where I saw the Staten Island Makerspace S.T.E.A.M Wagon (see previous posts) and people from shared workspaces of various flavours from all over New York State. This zone also included the 3D printing village which I must admit I didn’t look around at all.   

zones 1 world maker faire, new york

The World Maker Faire is quite big with about 800 booths, tables and things to see. I can easily spend 30 or 40 minutes talking with makers at each booth. I tend to wizz around as the faire is opening before the crowds build up. I’d love to do a review of every maker or even 5% of them, but sadly I just don’t have the time to see it all in detail and make the notes needed. 

Zone 1 is the area I neglected the most really  as I prefered to be outside. Zone 1 is inside at NYSci (New York Hall of Science) and includes projects using light, textiles projects and some large scale 3D printing. I was wondering around looking for my TOG Dublin Makerspace freind Robert Fitzsimons and bumped into Ross from the Crafty Robot who I know through Kitronik in Nottingham, UK showing off his fizbot and launching on Kickstarter. 

Ross has made Massimo Banzia and Eben Upton sumo-fighter fizbits. Both are at the faire but we were unable to get them to recreate the bout. I took pity on Ross and covered his table for an hour so he could try and see a little of the show. In addition to Maker Faire exhibits the indoor area has a lot of projects and exhibits for the museum that I assume are here year round for visitors. 


staten island makerspace steam wagon

Staten Island Makerspace has its very own outreach workshop in the form of the excellent STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) Wagon. Equiped with some refreshingly analogue tools, as well as some decidedly digital ones the STEAM wagon has been equiped through around $25,000 in sponsorship as well as with donations including a LOLZBOT 3D printer in addition the wagon includes a bandsaw, pillar drill, vinyl cutter and typewriter. 


The truck they are using cost $3500 and is one of those cool wide postal service/food truck shaped vans you don’t see anywhere in the UK, the advantage being the height, width and that cool door between the drivers cab and the back. The truck is kitted out with workbenches to both sides with OSB cupboards for storage. 


Scott Van Campen (the perfect name for a van driver) is the executive director at Staten Island MakerSpace, he told me that an indegogo campaign has just been launched “Our hope is to be able to bring the STEAM Wagon to as many schools as possible to demonstrate and provide, creative, educational, and hands-on learning experiences.” They plan to create “makerthon” training experiences for school kids. 




making the greatest show and tell on earth

I’m at the New York Hall of Science (NYSci pronounced Neye Sigh) Flushing Meadow, Queens in New York for the 6th Annual World Maker Faire. Friday is the main setup day for exhibiting makers ahead of the weekend event. Staff and Maker Faire crew have been here for over a week setting up the huge site. Getting the scale of the event across in photographs is fairly difficult as the site is so large. For me this really is the greatest show and tell on earth and my Maker Faire of choice to visit. 


Maker Faire Producers from all over the globe exchnage experiences over lunch.
To put the scale in context the crew have their own canteen and rest area which is packed with bicycles for them to get about site. They have  a fleet of telehandler fork trucks, dozens of golf buggies wizzing about. The Faire uses 250 radios across 16 fully monitored channels for the crew. There are  800+ booths (Bay Area has 1200+ and so is the larger Faire) for makers ranging from huge pavilion sized corporate sponsors to individual young makers. The budget for the Faire is over $2millon.

The Faire covers (indeed literally take over) the NYSci site itself and pushes out into the Flushing Meadow park area (the home of the 1964 Worlds Fair). Staff at NYSci have been instrumental in the success of the Faire and it’s a great partnership for Maker Media and the Faire has reportedly changed the fortunes of the museum this being their flagship event. For the first time this year the Maker Faire has setup a stage next to the Unisphere for Eeppy Bird to perform Coke Zero & Mentos free of charge for the public, especially the residence of Queens who the Faire effects the most.  The ambition is to push the Faire further and further into the park as it continues to grow. 

5th annual brighton mini maker faire

A somewhat late blog post here, so my apologies but I’ve some stuff to get up on the blog and this post got misplaced! More to come soon.

The 1st weekend in September marked the 5th Brighton Mini Maker Faire to be held at the Brighton Dome. The team at Brighton Mini Maker Faire are highly experienced now and run a very good faire. As usual set up for Makers starts on Friday evening, a good opportunity to have a look at the tables of fellow exhibitors and make friends. Later beer and pizzas was laid on to aid socialising further.


For Just Add Sharks (who I’m proud to say were “professional maker sponsor”) MSRaynsford made a new attraction in the form of a catapult shooting range complete with knights and castles! You can read about it on his blog here. The range proved very popular and a big draw for kids who tried their hardest to destroy it with lasercut mdf missiles.


There was some talk of the event not running in 2016 (don’t take my work for it if you are reading this as a “what’s on guide) which I think would be very sad, though it must be said without proper funding and the support of so call “maker” companies in the UK it’s understandable that the event might not happen. Organisers work very hard and for little reward let alone the cost in time, events must be sustainable and can be very very expensive to put on so sometimes these things just don’t always happen and it should always be remembered that most exhibiting makers do so for the love of it and at their own expense.


You can see a gallery of my pictures from the event here.

rustic apple boxes – making laser cut things

For too long I’ve thought and talked about doing some posts of things I’ve made. After all my blog IS supposed to be a makers blog. What right at all do I have to talk about Maker Faires and Maker Spaces if I don’t make stuff? My business partner at Just Add Sharks, Martin Raynsford has long had his blog MSRaynsford where a few years ago he challenged himself on his blog to make 365 laser cut things in 365 days. More amazingly he ACTUALLY did it. Now, a few years on he regularly posts projects and challenges himself still to make things.IMG_8063

My first offering of an undisclosed and as yet undecided number of made things is this simple apple box. I wanted to recreate something like the apple boxes I’ve been seeing dotted about the place in antiques shops and as interior design and maybe I was also a little inspired by the Fruit & Veg Wholesale Market where we have our warehouse for Just Add Sharks. Sadly real apple boxes have been totally obsoleted by cardboard boxes which no doubt can be pulped rather than having to be returned to the orchard. IMG_8068
The boxes are made from 6mm Poplar Plywood from and cut on my Greyfin A2 Laser Cutter. The corners reinforcements are 10.5mm by 10.5mm pine rod and I’ve used my electric stapler on three of them and simple panel pins on the other one. I’ll probably try a smaller 3mm one using wood glue and perhaps try out some ageing techniques to see if I can add a little more patina. I’m quite pleased with the look of them generally.IMG_8076