(C. Proxmire, Aug. 6, 2013)
From last year’s brain-wave-activated flame-thrower to this year’s Laminar Fountain, the inventors and experimenters of i3 Detroit have left their mark on Maker Faire over the past couple of years.
Maker Faire is “like a show-and-tell science fair that encourages DIY (do-it-yourself) innovation and creativity,” said Matt Oehrlein, one of the founders of the i3 Detroit maker-space.
Located in the east-side industrial area of Ferndale, i3 Detroit is a club where members share tools and resources and often collaborate on projects. Not only is there access to expensive tools like laser-cutters, 3d printers, saws, welders, lathes etc, the expertise and support is a valuable resource to share. There are members of many ages and interests, all with a common love for learning and creation. Because creative types sometimes keep odd hours, the facility is a buzz with creativity 24/7.
And Maker Faire is their chance to show off, and meet others. “The Henry Ford Museum organizes the Detroit Maker Faire and local makerspaces like i3Detroit, Omnicorp Detroit, All Hands Active tend to have a strong presence with a plethora of cool projects. Farther away makerspaces like Pittsburgh’s ‘Hack PGH’, and Lousiville’s ‘LVL1 Hackerspace’ often travel all the way to Detroit to take part in this festival,” Oehrlein said.
This year he and the i3 Detroit team made a finger-operated Laminar Fountain, which sends precisely controlled streams of water into the air, forming arches so perfectly smooth they could be mistaken for glass. In this case the arches travel between three rain barrels. The water only flows when someone is touching the ‘user interface,’ a wooden box with three little brass cups inset. “You fill those three little brass cups up with water, and then put your fingers in them. The box senses your fingers and tells the corresponding fountains in the big rain barrels to turn on or off,” he said.
At the fair, children and adults alike are delighted at what the box can do and their ability to control the fountain.
A team of about nine i3 members met twice a week in 2-4 hour sessions to create the project from start to finish. “It was pretty structured. We had a task list, set intermediate goals (have X done by Y date). One of the build meetings was a little bit more for project status and updates, and one of the build meetings was more turning wrenches and cutting.” Having a plan and working together enabled them to have an impressive project for the faire. It also gave them a good reason to celebrate together afterward.
Oehrlein hopes to find a home for the project, ideally a science center, where it can be an interactive display.
i3 Detroit members also competed in the powerwheels racing event, where teams have $500 to spend to soup up a Power Wheels toy and compete with other teams. With innovation and hacking, cars are able to go up to 30 miles per hour. And of course they get some visual make-overs as well.
Other projects that won ribbons include i3’s “Whirly Turbulator” which was built for the Red Bull Creation Challenge. “It’s a big metal frame with drills that spin whirly tubes to sing at different pitches,” Oehrlein explained.
More than 400 makers showcased work at the Detroit Maker Faire, which took place July 27-28 at Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn. The festival features robots, flame throwers, animatronics, solar-powered mechanical sculptures and even fashionable finds. Many projects are interactive, and it’s all family-friendly.
“Maker Faire is important because it showcases creativity, individuality, and innovation in a practical, and attention-grabbing way that inspires kids to be creators instead of just consumers,” Oehrlein said.
To learn more about i3 Detroit, visit their website at http://www.i3detroit.com/. Also check out our previous profile about i3, including video, at http://oaklandcounty115.com/2012/08/27/what-is-i3-detroit-video/.
For more on Maker Faire go to http://www.makerfairedetroit.com/about/.