Tag Archives: Westport Maker Faire

If You Make It, They Will Come

The 7th annual Westport Maker Faire is underway.

Over 12,000 people will wander all around downtown, from now through 4 p.m.

From Jesup Green to Toquet, Branson and Town Halls — plus the Baldwin parking lot and Seabury Center — they’ll watch (and participate) in hundreds of activities.

Robots, Vorpal the Hexapod, Myrmidon Dagorhir the medieval re-enactors, TecKnow smart homes, nerf guns, food trucks, gubernatorial candidates — they and much, much, much, much more are there for the gawking.

Get in touch with your inner geek. Go!

Action figure meets EMTs, as a mannequin on a gurney hangs out.

Making art at the Maker Faire. (Photo/Larry Untermeyer)

I went to the Maker Faire, and all I got was this photo with some medieval jousters. (Photo/Terry Brannigan)

Shadow puppets intrigue these youngsters. (Photo/Larry Untermeyer)

The band Verbatim — with Eamonn Brannigan, TJ Brannigan and Claire Halman — play at Bedford Square.

First Selectman Jim Marpe visits an exhibit. (Photo/Larry Untermeyer)

What’s a fair without a clown?

Unsung Hero #44

When the 7th annual Maker Faire takes over Westport this Saturday (April 21), there will be something for everyone.

A record 12,000+ attendees — tech lovers, crafters, educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers, science geeks, artists, authors, students and exhibitors — will share what they’ve made, see what others have created, teach, learn, be inspired, and inspire others.

And have tons of fun.

It’s a massive undertaking. Planning began the moment last year’s Maker Faire — which drew “only” 10,500 people — ended.

Hundreds of volunteers make it happen. But none of it would be possible without Mark Mathias.

Mark Mathias

Westport’s event– part of a worldwide movement (and of all 772 Maker Faires in 44 countries, among the top 5% in attendance) — was his brainchild.

In September 2011, his kids were fascinated by the New York Maker Faire.

Seven months later — thanks to Mathias’ work with the Westport Library, Sunrise Rotary and Downtown Merchants Association — we had our own “Mini Maker Faire.”

The “mini” is long gone. Now — with activities spread across the Library, Jesup Green, Taylor parking lot, Bedford Square, Town Hall and Veterans Green — it’s as maxi as it gets.

But the Maker Faire is not Mathias’ only local contribution. He’s in his 15th year on the Board of Education; is an active member of Saugatuck Congregational Church (with a particular interest in their mission trips), and when his daughter Nicole was at Staples High School, he was an avid supporter of the music department.

Mathias — whose professional background is in IT — is president of Remarkable Steam. The non-profit promotes innovation and creativity in the areas of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math).

This is Mark Mathias’ busiest time of year. Hopefully, he’ll take a few moments out of his hectic day to accept our thanks, as this week’s Unsung Hero.

Robots galore at last year’s Maker Faire.

(For more information on Westport’s Maker Faire, click here. To nominate an Unsung Hero, email dwoog@optonline.net)

Maker Faire Adds Governor Candidates

On Saturday, downtown Westport will teem with more than 12,000 Maker Faire-goers. Intrepid, curious, creative and resourceful, they’ll listen, ask questions and learn all about technology, arts and crafts, food, robotics, art, transportation and a whole lot more.

Curiosity is also a hallmark of the electoral process. Already, 31 people have filed to run for governor of Connecticut this fall. That’s a huge number — and it mirrors interest across the country in the upcoming midterm elections.

Eighteen of those candidates will be at the Maker Faire. From 12:30 to 2 p.m. at Town Hall, they’ll share their visions and dreams for the state. The Gubernatorial Forum is sponsored by Westport’s League of Women Voters, in conjunction with Maker Faire.

Hopefuls include Democrats, Republicans, independents and unaffiliateds. They come from all across Connecticut.

Two of the 31 candidates are from Westport. Marisa Manly (unaffiliated) will have the shortest trip of anyone. Republican Steve Obsitnik could also have walked there, but has a conflict and can’t make it.

The forum is free, and open to the public.

Every year, Westport’s Maker Faire gets bigger. This year it reaches all the way to the governor’s mansion.

Maker Faire: Facts And Figures

This Saturday’s Maker Faire promises to be the biggest yet.

It’s also one of the biggest in the world. Last year, Westport drew 10,500 attendees. That made the top 5% of all 772 Maker Faires on the planet.

This year’s attendance could break 12,000.

A few other facts:

  • The physical footprint has tripled. Events and attractions are scheduled for the Westport Library, Jesup Green, Taylor parking lot, Bedford Square, Town Hall and Veterans Green.
  • There are nearly 200 “makers” — double the previous number.
  • 6 stages — up from only 1 in the past — will showcase talented people and organizations in the arts, sciences, music and politics.

Large attractions include:

  • Truckers Alley: a collection of large vehicles with large ideas
  • Tiny Homes Hamlet: a collection of tiny homes
  • Tiny Farmers’ Market: a taste of upcoming farmers’ markets
  • Medieval Village and Tavern: entertainment and local brews
  • PlasmaBot: the world’s largest glass and plasma marionette
  • Aviation: a half-sized model of Gustave Whitehead’s plane, plus drones and a panel
  • Air Rocket Challenge: build cardboard rockets — and launch them
  • CTNext Entrepreneurial Innovation Awards: for emerging businesses
  • Game of Drones: an exhibition of drone skills in tight spaces
  • Nerdy Derby: build, decorate and race cars
  • Musicians: an orchestra, steel band, and Israeli music
  • Artists: working in textiles, paint, recycled materials, even bones.

There’s much, much, much more, too. For details, click here.

(Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Maker Faire Makes Top 5%

There are Maker Faires all over the world.

New York has one. Rome, Paris, Beijing. Hong Kong too.

Westport’s got a Maker Faire — and a damn good one.

But what we also share with those much bigger cities is that all of them are in the top 5 percent of attendance globally.

That’s right. Of the 772 Maker Faires in 44 countries, only 37 had more than 10,000 attendees.

Our “little” event on Jesup Green drew 10,500.

In addition to 10,500 attendees, last year’s Maker Faire drew plenty of robots.

That should give organizers a smile. And it may push you to apply to be part of this year’s Maker Faire. It’s Saturday, April 21.

The deadline is this Thursday (March 15). They’re looking for the usual: “artists, musicians, engineers, craftsmen, entrepreneurs, students, teachers, businesspeople, comedians, and creative people of all ages and backgrounds to inspire attendees with what we as humans can do.” Click here for more information.

And if you’re not creative, but have a company that wants to sponsor this very popular (top 5%!) event, contact Mark Mathias (mark@remarkablesteam.org, 203-226-1791).

FAA Pilots A Drone Course

One of the highlights of last April’s Maker Faire came when a Federal Aviation Administration official awarded Staples High School sophomore/aspiring drone operator Ryan Felner his Remote Pilot Airman certificate. (For the back story on how it happened — after Ryan thought his life was ruined — click here.)

This month, Westport is once again on the FAA’s radar.

From July 24-28, the agency will help sponsor the nation’s 1st-ever Unmanned Aircraft Systems Aviation Career Education Academy.

That’s ACE for short. And “Unmanned Aircraft Systems” is government-speak for “drones.”

Brandon Malin’s drone view of the Staples High School pops concert at Levitt Pavilion.

The course is designed for 16-20-year-olds. Students will learn how to safely fly a drone, through hands-on instruction and more.

Hopefully, they’ll then pass the FAA Remote Pilot Certification test (July 31 and August 1).

The course will be held at Staples High School. Tuition of $200 covers all materials. The certification test is an additional $150.

And no, you do not have to own your own drone. They’re provided.

For more information or to sign up, click here; call Mark Mathias at 203-226-1791 or email mark@remarkablesteam.org.

(In addition to the FAA, the course is co-sponsored by the Academy of Model Aeronautics, Remarkable STEAM, Westport Public Schools and the Westport Library.)

David Pogue’s drone.

Dragon Needs A Home

Thousands of Maker Faire-goers admired the dragon standing outside the library on Saturday.

(Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

But now it’s Monday. The event is over. This is not the New York Public Library. Unlike its 2 famous lions, our dragon can’t stay here forever.

If you want the dragon — for whatever reason; no questions asked — contact Alex Giannini, the Westport Library’s manager of experiential learning (agiannini@westportlibrary.org; 203-291-4847).

You can’t beat the price: free. The library may even help you transport it.

PS: The New York lions are named “Patience” and “Fortitude.”

Our dragon should be called “Cool.”

Maker Faire Makes Its Mark

You can’t keep a good geek down.

Chilly temperatures and a light rain did not deter thousands of folks from descending on the Westport Library, Jesup Green and Bedford Square, for today’s 6th annual Maker Faire.

Every type of STEM creation was represented: robots, 3-D designs, flight simulators, submersibles and more.

The arts were there too: violinists, jewelry makers, sculptors…

And of course local organizations: the Y, Wakeman Town Farm and Rotary Club were among those showing their commitment to creativity and community.

In 6 short years, the Maker Faire has become one of the biggest events of the Westport year. Now all we need is some young guy or girl who can control the weather.

Which I’m sure we’ll see next spring.

Hand-made robots were a huge hit.

Christopher Crowe’s creations drew a crowd.

What better spot to hang out in than the Westport Library’s permanent Maker Space?

State Senators Toni Boucher (front) and Tony Hwang (right) joined 1st Selectman Jim Marpe (left) and Westport Library trustee Iain Bruce at the Maker Faire.

A father gives a hands-on wind tunnel demonstration to his daughter.

Westporter Charlie Wolgast — a professional pilot — checks out a flight simulator in Bedford Square.

Beware!

How The FAA Learned To Love Ryan Felner

Ryan Felner has many interests.

Ryan Felner

The Staples High School sophomore is on the tennis team. He’s taking AP courses. He loves photography, and making and editing videos. For the past 2 years, he’s developed websites for family and friends.

A year and a half ago — when the price of drones dropped and the market soared — Ryan started researching options. His parents agreed to fund half a DJI drone. He agreed to work, and pay back his half.

He followed Federal Aviation Administration rules, registering his drone as a Small Unmanned Aircraft System. He agreed to fly below 400 feet; not fly within a 5-mile radius of any airport, and always keep his drone in sight.

Ryan started taking beautiful photos and creating gorgeous videos, including the beach and — during family sailing trips — the New England coast. (Click here to see his website.)

His photos of his own house — with Compo Beach and the Sound in the background — were fantastic. That gave him the idea to reach out to real estate brokers, offering to shoot for them (free at first).

Word got out. He spent most of last summer taking real estate photos.

Owenoke Park, from Ryan Felner’s drone.

The Norwalk Hour ran a big story — “Student’s Drone Photography Business Takes Off” — last October. He was thrilled…

…until later that night, when he saw the comments. The story had been picked up by drone enthusiast sites. People posted harsh messages, saying what Ryan did was illegal.

Apparently, the FAA had released new regulations a few weeks earlier. To “Fly for Work,” a drone operator had to possess a Remote Pilot Certificate, and be 16 years old.

There were a few supportive comments. Some people noted that — like many operators — Ryan probably did not know about the new rules.

But he was horrified. He woke his parents, who were upset they’d allowed the situation to happen.

The next day, things got worse.

Richard Aarons — a volunteer counselor with the FAA’s safety team — emailed him. He told Ryan to contact him ASAP — and warned him he could face huge fines.

Ryan panicked. He was scared about the money. He worried his reputation was ruined for life. He feared for college, and beyond.

His parents helped him respond. Ryan said he was devastated to be out of compliance with regulations. He promised to cease all commercial operations immediately, and said he’d wait until his 16th birthday to take his pilot’s exam and apply for a proper license.

Aarons’ response was fantastic. He told Ryan he completely understood what happened, and said he was now doing exactly the right thing.

Aarons forwarded the emails to Marilyn Pearson, an aviation safety inspector with the FAA Unmanned Aircraft System division. She’d been working hard to educate drone enthusiasts, while implementing the new regs. She too commended Ryan for the way he’d communicated with the authorities.

Ryan Felner with his drone, on Martha’s Vineyard.

As Ryan’s 16th birthday approached, he contacted Pearson and Aarons. Both offered to help, if there was something he didn’t understand as he studied for his FAA exam.

On Tuesday at Sikorsky Airport, Ryan passed his FAA Remote Pilot Knowledge test with a very high score of 87.

Two days later — yesterday — he turned 16.

And tomorrow at 12 noon, in the Westport Library’s McManus Room, Ryan will give a talk at the Maker Faire. His subject: “Adventures of a 16-Year-Old Drone Pilot.”

But wait! There’s more!

When Pearson heard about Ryan’s speech, she was so excited, she said she’d come down from Hartford for it.

So before his talk — at the 9:45 a.m. Maker Faire opening ceremony, in the Taylor parking lot — she will present him with his Remote Pilot Airman Certificate.

Ryan’s spirits are sure to be sky high.

Right up there with his drone. And the possibilities for his great, professional — and now completely legal — business.

Robots Invade Westport

For 5 years, a robot has served as the mascot for Westport’s Mini Maker Faire.

The event grew so big, it shed the “mini” moniker.

So this year the robot mascot invited his friends.

Boy, does he have plenty.

The other day, they gathered outside the Westport Library — which is part of where next week’s Maker Faire will be held (Saturday, April 22, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.).

It will also sprawl over to Jesup Green and the Taylor parking lot, and on to Church Lane and Bedford Square.

Look for them soon all over town.

Then see real robots — and lots more — next Saturday, at the Maker Faire.

(For more information, click here.)