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Civic Impact

Robot kangaroos, hand-held lightning generators, live Mad Libs -- play with it all at Mini Makers

Pittsburgh Mini Maker Faire -- for hand-makers and amateur tinkerers of all ages -- has selected its demonstrators for the Sept. 22 Faire, and they're an eclectic and startling bunch: A man who creates lightning between his hands via handheld Tesla generators. An organization that 'upcycles' iron, forging fresh, useful items out of old signs and industrial castoffs. A group that makes a robot just to squirt cheese.
This is only the second year for the fair, held at Buhl Community Park and the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh on the North Side. "Pittsburgh has been for a while a hub for innovative technology" says Angela Seals, lead coordinator for the Faire and program manager for the Children's Museum, which is presenting the event with Hack Pittsburgh. The city has seemingly always embodied the handmade, do-it yourself spirit, she adds. "We are the hands that hold you up to everyone and say, 'Look what's happening.' We pull [projects] out of the garages and basements all around the city … for all these folks who, without maker fairs, don't have a showcase."
Among the featured makers this year:
  • The Great American Horn Machine, billed as "the world’s loudest mobile musical instrument," made from truck, train and ships’ air horns, as well as steam whistles
  • Mechanimals' biomimetic robot animals, including a kangaroo, giraffe and bee
  • 10-year-old entrepreneur Aria Eppinger's Shine So Bright Learn, which helps you learn to make light-up clothing with her circuit-sewing kit for kids
  • iOTOS, which shows you how to communicate with and control your home's lamps, garage door opener and coffee maker via the Internet
  • Knit the Bridge, which lets you knit material to wrap the railings of the Seventh Street Warhol Bridge during 2013's Fiberart International here
Other makers offer opportunities to see or build an air-quality detecting kite, a calcubot and rideables from abandoned grocery carts.
Another highlight, says Seals, is the fashion show, called Constructing Identity, for which local GLBT teens have been working all summer to create clothes, sculptures and elaborate costumes. They will be joined on the catwalk by kids who learned about the scientific principles of planet formation at Garfield's Assemble this summer -- and then created wearable planets for the fashion show. At the end, anyone can parade his or her wearable inventions on the runway.
This is the only maker faire in the tri-state area, although there are 40 around the world. Last year, 1,000 people attended and found kindergarteners teaching the basics of circuitry next to adults souping up robot racing cars.
"I hope [attendees] feel really inspired by the creativity of our community, start making things themselves and connect with the maker community," says Seals. "We want to invite them to join in that movement."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Angela Seals, Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh
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