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Innovators, tinkerers, and students assemble at Northside Mini Maker Faire

The main banner by the entrance to the Chicago Mini-Maker Faire
The main banner by the entrance to the Chicago Mini-Maker Faire
Coleman Gailloreto

Attendees who stopped by Carl Schurz High School's Northside Mini-Maker Faire this last Saturday, May 3rd, were initially underwhelmed. The large outdoor grounds of this Northside high school swallowed up the few booths outside, making this annual faire look a little small.

The 2014 Chicago Mini-Maker Faire: there were motorized cupcakes.
Coleman Gailloreto

Then those attendees took a closer look, and noticed that there were people standing in line to go drive mobile cupcakes around. A local company called Trossen Robotics was showing off a hexagonal robot, custom-built with carbon fiber, that kids and adults could walk on a leash like a dog. An aerial robot company called Mad Labs had set up a flight simulator arcade underneath their tend, where people could test dry simulated versions of their products with a joystick and throttle.

And that was just outside the school.

The Chicago Northside Mini-Maker Faire was first devised in 2012 by several local 'DIY' maker enthusiasts, along with the principal of Carl Schurz High School; their goal was to create a festival where maker enthusiasts from the Cook County area could showcase their wares and projects, and where the youth of Chicago could learn about the science behind 'DIY' technology.

All the big 'DIY' organizations in Chicago had a table at this Maker Faire with activities visitors could participate in. The Innovation Lab, located at the Harold Washington Library, demonstrated their Vinyl Cutter machine and 2D drawing software in the library, teaching kids how to make sticker shapes of their own design. Right next to them, volunteers from Pumping Station One ran a workshop where people assembled various components–a resistor, a photocell, a battery case, a speaker, and an micro-controller programmed with Arduino–into a 'Noise-o-Tron', an optically controlled Theremin device.

Upstairs in the lunchroom , the Chicago-based 'DIY' mail order magazine 'Inventables' demonstrated their CNC milling machines, carving out letters into blocks of woods. Right across from them, the Chicago branch of TOOOL (The Open Organization of Lockpickers) taught kids and adults how to open 'training' locks with relatively few pins.

Musecon, an annual convention for creative and artistic pop culture fans, hosted a workshop within a ring of tables where laypeople could use soldering equipment to make free blinking LED clip-on badges. These 'Atomic Blinkie' badges, made from a kit of LED bulbs, an battery case, and a circuit board cut out to resemble an atom symbol, were assembled in minutes by complete novices, who consulted the laminated instruction sheets left on the tables.

All the other workshops and presentations, which ranged from camera obscura art pieces to USB Solar Panel assembly kits, displayed unique forms of Creative Expression and made excellent advertisements for the organizations that hosted them. No doubt that's why more and more creative DIY institutions sign up for the Northside Mini-Maker Faire each year.