Category Archives: Tech

Democracy Cafe

Welcome to Democracy Cafe!

We host free art, music and civic events in Marin, to help people of all ages and backgrounds drive social change through creative expression. We offer a range of activities to build mutual understanding and engage us to take meaningful political action together.

We host free Democracy Cafes on the third Sunday of each month. Each event focuses on a different theme, such as Gun Violence or Climate Change. A typical event includes a variety of collaborative activities, such as sign-making, sing-alongs, speakers and group discussions. We are now done with our spring 2018 series, but plan to host more Democracy Cafes in fall 2018.

To learn about our latest events, read below — and sign up for our newsletter.

Earth Day Celebration

Hundreds of activists, artists and environmentalists came to celebrate Earth Day 2018, for a fun afternoon of art, music and talks about the environment at Tam High School in Mill Valley. This was our last Democracy Cafe event in spring 2018, produced in collaboration with Eco Warriors of MVCAN and Tam Makers, as well as all the gracious partners listed below.

We unveiled ourArt Float for Social Change, featuring a large globe spinning over a carousel of art, and pulled by a colorful dragon. Presenters of all ages stood on stage to share their ideas for a better world. Others painted original posters about the earth for the float carousel.

Speakers included Mark Squire from Good Earth, Crystal Chissel from Project Drawdown, Marin Supervisor Damon Connolly and young local activists: they talked about a wide range of solutions to curb climate change. Dozens of environmental partners like the Sierra Club, Resilient Neighborhoods and 350 Marin helped our guests take action to reverse global warming. Participants also learned to plant a veggie garden, ride an electric bike and get people ready to vote (we helped 5 teenagers pre-register to vote at this event) .


We ended the day with music performances by Twinkling Stars of Singers Marin, young singer Emma Spike, Reed Fromer, the Freedom Singers and Mill Valley Seniors for Peace.

This community gathering was produced by Democracy Cafe, Eco Warriors of MVCAN and Tam Makers, with the generous support of Tamalpais High School, Mill Valley Community Action Network, Good Earth, Driver’s Market, Sloat Garden Supply and all our gracious partners.

Learn more about our Earth Day celebration — and view Earth Day photos here.

Join us on Memorial Day

You and your friends are welcome to march with our Art Float for Social Change at the Mill Valley Memorial Day Parade on May 28, 2018, 10am-1pm, with our sponsors at Good Earth, the Mill Valley Community Action Network and Tam High School. Please RSVP here to save your spot.

Join your neighbors to make political art and music, and take action together to create a better world!

Democracy Cafe to End Gun Violence

Our last Democracy Cafe took place on Sunday, March 18, from 2 to 5pm, when our theme was: how can we end gun violence?

We helped people of all ages prepare signs for March for Our Lives, and are grateful to all the young people who came to express their views.

We sang along with the Freedom Singers on the sun deck of the beautiful O’Hanlon Center.

Marin Supervisor Kate Sears shared her views about gun reform and led a discussion on how we can take action to end gun violence.

We heard a moving performance by young singer/songwriter Emma Spike, student at Tam High School, including several original compositions about gun violence and hope.

Music director Reed Fromer led us into song with old classics about creating a better world.

This free public event took place on Sunday, March 18th from 2 to 5pm, at the O’Hanlon Center for the Arts in Mill Valley, 616 Throckmorton Avenue, Mill Valley, CA 94941.

We enjoyed meeting over 50 activists and artists of all ages for an inspiring afternoon of art, music and politics. We deeply appreciated their creativity, goodwill and intellectual curiosity, which encouraged other participants to find their voice and take action.

Here is our photo album for Democracy Cafe on Flickr, for your viewing pleasure. And here is the Independent Journal’s photo coverage of our event, shot by Sherry LaVars.

Special thanks to the volunteers so who graciously helped organize this event: Marilyn Price, Jenny Tomkins, Rebecca Brackman, David Barr and Robert Mowry. We’re also grateful to all the folks who couldn’t come, but who supported us to organize this unique civic engagement program. It’s a true pleasure working with you all!

We are inspired by all the young people who took political action to protest the recent school shooting in Florida, such as the Tam High Vigil pictured above (see more of our vigil photos). We want to support their cause and empower them to join their voices, hearts and minds for social change. Their dedication, passion and creativity are our best hope for building a better world. 

 

Democracy Cafe 2 – Youth In Action

Sixty activists and artists of all ages gathered at our second Democracy Cafe, for a fun afternoon of art, music and politics. This free community event celebrated Youth in Action and took place at the O’Hanlon Center for the Arts in Mill Valley, on February 18, 2018. 

We started by brainstorming ideas for a new art float, to be shown at public events in 2018. Participants suggested we build a large earth and a circle of caring hands, to symbolize social change. 

The float will be created in the Tam High Wood Shop by students and adult makers led by Fabrice Florin and Geo Monley. Anyone who wants to help is invited to join the welcome meeting on March 1.

 

We then sang along with the Freedom Singers, led by Marilyn Price, in a medley of songs for a better world, including the two tunes heard in the video above, shot by Phyllis Florin: mexican folk song “De colores” and “Building Bridges”, a call to action by Wayne Lechner.

Young activists from ‘Generation: Our Climate‘ and 350 Bay Area spoke about their climate action campaigns: testifying with local and county governments to promote green energy policies, limit emissions from oil refineries and protest the new coal terminal in Oakland.

Speakers from ‘Generation: Our Climate’ included activists Caroline Schurz, Mimi Lawrence and Brendon Milan-Howells, along with their adult mentor Daniel Heagerty. Speakers from 350 Bay Area were Jada Delaney and Rosesanie Phan, both seniors at Oakland Tech High School, along with their youth organizer Carolyn Norr (you can learn about their campaign here).

To hear their speeches and performances, watch this cool 360° video by Gary Yost, with a panoramic coverage that gives a full experience, as if you were in the room with us. To look around, swipe the video (or view it with your smartphone in a Google Cardboard-style headset.) 

Young singers/songwriters Matt Jaffe and Patrick Maley took turns playing personal and politically-minded songs. Poet klipschutz and musician Joel Hamilton performed an inspiring mix of poetry and jazz, with paintings by Eun Lee in the background. For highlights of their performances, watch our 360° video above.

We love that so many young people joined their voices, hearts and minds with ours. Their dedication and creativity are our best hope for building a better world. Many thanks to all the presenters and community members who participated in this celebration — and to the gracious organizers, activity leaders and multimedia creators who made this very special event possible.

Learn more about this inspiring event.

This is a 360° video of Democracy Cafe. To look around, swipe the video as it plays.
Created by Gary Yost.

Democracy Cafe 1 – Women’s March

Our first Democracy Cafe took place at the O’Hanlon Center for the Arts in Mill Valley on January 14, 2018. A creative group of 50 activists and artists of all ages gathered to make signs, art and music for the upcoming Women’s March.

In just a few hours, we created dozens of inspiring signs, blue flags and Liberty figures. We also practiced protest songs with the Freedom Singers in the beautiful sculpture garden. To see scenes from the event, view our photo album or watch the video below.

Our first pilot exceeded all our expectations. Participants gave high ratings for this event, told us they had fun, made new friends, enjoyed making art and singing together, and felt more motivated to take political action. They felt well prepared for our Women’s March the following week. Most participants wanted to join our next events, and several offered to help organize them.

The event was covered by local and national journalists, who wrote these fine articles:
• Marin activists gear up for women’s marches, midterm elections
by Adrian Rodriguez, Marin Independent Journal
• Organizing The Resistance, One Meeting At A Time
by George Osterkamp, Dan Rather’s News & Guts

This enthusiastic feedback and this favorable press coverage suggests that we are on the right track with Democracy Cafe. To learn more about our first pilot, visit our event page.

 

Join Us!

If you would like to join future events or volunteer on our team, sign up for our Democracy Cafe mailing list.

Democracy Cafe is produced by a team of Marin activists and artists led by Fabrice Florin,  with Danny Altman, Carol Korenbrot, Bruce Mowry, Marilyn Price, Laura Riley and many more. Our goal is to engage our communities to help change the world, by combining arts and politics through fun, hands-on and inspiring activities.

Thanks as well to all our wonderful participants, whose commitment to art and activism inspires us. And kudos to our gracious performers, crew and activity leaders: Jean Bolte, Jake Cohen, Mary Cosgrove, Dana Dworin, Matt Jaffe, Kurt Lipschuck, Wayne Lechner, Craig Love, Gareth Loy Patrick Maley and Gary Yost, to name but a few. We’re also grateful to Erma Murphy at the O’Hanlon for hosting our first events.

Many of us are part of the Mill Valley Community Action Network (MVCAN), our political action group in Marin. We’re delighted that so many MVCAN members are participating in this creative experiment.

Democracy Cafe shows great promise for energizing people through the transformative power of the arts, sparking our imaginations to solve problems and change the world together.

Join your neighbors to make political art — and keep democracy alive!

Photos by Fabrice Florin, Mary Cosgrove and Dana Dworin. Videos by Phyllis Florin, Craig Love and Gary Yost.

This page was updated on Feb. 21, to include more info about our first and second events.

Robot World

Create your own artistic robot! Learn how to make your robot move in a variety of ways, using a programmable Arduino board. Decorate your animated character, give it a story, and create a magical world for it to live in. All materials are included in this course: you can take your robot home when the class ends.

This Maker Art class for grades 4-5 took place at the Lycée Français in Sausalito. We met every Tuesday for 12 weeks, from 3:30 to 5pm, between September and December 2017.

Students developed new skills in playful ways: science, technology, engineering, art and math skills (STEAM), as well as creativity, problem-solving and communication skills.

Teachers were multimedia innovator Fabrice Florin and software designer Edward Janne.To learn more, view our photo albumcourse slides and student guide — and check our course page for updates.

For a quick overview, watch the short video below.

This short video of our Robot World class was created by Fabian at the Lycée Français. Merci!

Who is it for?

This program was for lower school children in grades 4 and 5 (ages 8-10). Four students participated in our afternoon class in Sausalito in fall 2017.

Where and when is it?

This class took place at Lycée Français in Sausalito, in the Innovation Lab (Room #340). The school entrance is 660 Coloma Street, Sausalito, CA 94945.

We met every Tuesday for 12 weeks, from September 12 to December 5, 2017, from 3:30pm to 5:00pm, at the Lycée Français in Sausalito.

Here was our course schedule:

  • Sep-12: Plan the robot world
  • Sep-19: Learn about robots
  • Sep-26: Build your robot 1
  • Oct-3: Build your robot 2
  • Oct-10: Program your robot 1
  • Oct-17: Program your robot 2
  • Oct-24: Break: No Class
  • Oct-31:Program your robot 2
  • Nov-7: Break: No Class
  • Nov-14: Finish your robot
  • Nov-21: Create the robot world
  • Nov-28: Rehearse your show
  • Dec-5: Shoot videos
  • Dec-12: Show & Tell

 

Can we see pictures from the classes?

Here are photos from our last “show and tell” class, when students performed a little play with their robots, based on their own original story: Devil Bot stole a secret recipe from Chef Bot, who runs the bakery where all the food is prepared in Food Ville. Police Bot and Swat Bot then chased the devil and locked him up, restoring peace in their little world, with “pizza for all.” 

Here are some photos from our first classes.

You can see more pictures in our photo album.

What are students learning?

Students are creating their own robot and interactive art, in a playful way that makes learning more fun. Working collaboratively, they make their bots move, bringing characters to life and interacting with others in their new ‘robot world.’

This unique combination of art and technology helps them develop a range of new skills:

  • critical thinking and problem solving
  • Arduino, robotics and programming
  • science, technology, engineering, art and math skills (STEAM)
  • creative expression, communication & collaboration skills

Learn more in our course slides and student guide.

 

Do you also teach this class for adults?

Yes! We taught a Create a Robot class for adults and teens at Tam Makers in Mill Valley.

In just two evenings in September 2017, we showed students how to build their own artistic robot with Arduino, make it move around, shake its head and wave. And they got to take their animated creature home with you, to impress friends and family. 🙂  We may teach more adult classes in the future. Check out our classes page at Tam Makers.

 

What materials are included?

Each student received a robot kit, which they learned to assemble, control and program.

For this class, we created our own robot kit, using an Arduino Feather M0 for the robot, an Pro Micro for the remote, a custom chassis, plus three additional servos and more parts. Our robot kit was similar to commercial kits, but with a lot more features at a lower cost. This robot kit was decorated by the students to create an interesting animated character. Learn more about our robot kit in our student guide.

This robot kit supports these features:
Roaming – the bot can move around under user control
Moving – the bot can move some body parts (turn its head, wave its arms, using servos)
Inputs – the bot has a variety of buttons (on/off button, buttons for different gestures, etc.)
Remote – the bot can be controlled remotely (using a remote control or desktop app)
Lights – the bot can have lights in its body (LEDs that blink, glow, or fade on and off)
Sounds – the bot can play audio (using piezo buzzer to play simple beeps and tunes)
Programming – the bot is easy to code (with visual programming tool like Snap4Arduino)
Flexibility – the bot can be expanded (with extra parts to be ordered separately)
Pricing – the bot is affordable (we’re aiming for a maximum of $75 per robot)

They programmed their robots with Snap4Arduino and made them move in different ways with servo motors. We used the school’s Macs to program the robots, using the Arduino software and Snap4Arduino, a visual programming tool. Arduino code was shared with parents when class ended, so they can help students to continue to program their robot at home.

What do the robots look like?

Students created some cool characters for their Robot World: Chef Bot, Devil Bot, Police Bot and Swat Bot

Each student received their own robot kit, which they learned to assemble, control and program. They built a chassis, wired up the Arduino electronics, made their own remote control, added a head and arms (laser cut based on their designs). Last but not least, they painted and decorated them to give them unique personalities. You can track their progress in our photo album.

The video above shows what our robots looked like in early stages of development. Our fun robots can roam around, shake their heads and flap their wings, at the touch of a button. 

Below are a few photos of our first prototypes, made with laser-cut wood figures and servo motors (to see them in action, watch our video). We call them ‘Bambots’. This name is short for ‘Bamboodu Robot’: it is inspired by the fictional Bamboodu tribe we created for art projects like the Bamboodu Float and the Pataphysical Slot Machine.

Bambots like to shake their heads and flap their wings back and forth. The photos below show other prototypes of a Bambot Angel and an Bambot Dude, in different stages of construction.

For more pictures of this course, see our photo album.

 

What does the robot world look like?

We invited students to design a magical world for their robots, then build it and decorate it.

They imagined a future wonderland called FoodVille: a peaceful world filled with food, to insure a life of ‘everlasting fun.’ They created a colorful landscape centered around a volcano spilling out candy lava, with robot homes and a bright red soda fountain.

We asked students to decorate their robots so they looked like characters in that fantasy world. For a closer look, see our photo album for this course.

Who are the teachers?

Multimedia innovator Fabrice Florin and software designer Edward Janne taught this course.

Fabrice Florin

Fabrice is an art maker and social entrepreneur who creates unique experiences to inform and engage communities through digital and physical media. He has led the development of many pioneering products in education, news and entertainment, working with innovators such as Apple, Macromedia and Wikipedia. He is now a teacher and artist at Tam Makers in Mill Valley, where he teaches maker art to adults and kids. Learn more at fabriceflorin.com .

 

Edward Janne

Edward is a software developer and teacher at Tam Makers. He has an extensive background in interactive design and engineering. Prior to joining us, he was a technical animator at Bonfire Labs, a creative content agency. He also studied at the Academy of Art University and the University of San Francisco. Edward has taught several Maker Art classes with us, and will lead more classes for adults and teens at Tam Makers this fall.

 

How can I learn more?

To learn more, view our photo albumcourse slides and student guide — and check our course page for updates.

Also read this overview of our Maker Art classes, and visit our site for Tam Makers, our community makerspace in Mill Valley.

For more info, email Fabrice at fabriceflorin-at-gmail-dot-com.

Time Machine at the Lycée

Travel through time and meet characters from the past, present and future!

Our Maker Art class at the Lycée Français created a Time Machine with animated scenes and characters from the age of dinosaurs to the 50th century. This interactive art exhibit integrates physical and digital media, combining art, technology and storytelling.

Our 4th and 5th graders created their own scenes from the past, present or future, and brought them to life with motion, lights and sounds. Then also worked in teams to build interactive features to showcase their scenes: keypad, spinner and doors.

See also: video, slides, photos and design spec.

What does it look like?

Watch the video above to see the Time Machine in action. Some photos are also included below. See more in our slides.

Students

This program was designed for lower school children in grades 4 and 5 (ages 8-10). Nine students participated in this class: Tilo Allexandre, Esther Bomse, Theodore Carman, Louise Eddy, Nathanial Jenkins, Lena Jessen, Eugene Maeght, Yann Menard and Marshall Patron.

Here’s a survey report on what students thought of this class: they found it very good, liked learning about Arduino, and most would recommend this class to a friend.

What did students create?

Students created their own interactive ‘wonderboxes’ for these time periods:

  • Age of Dinosaurs
  • French Revolution
  • World War 2
  • World War 3
  • New York 2092
  • Alien Invasion
  • 25th Century
  • 50th Century

They brought their characters to life inside their cardboard ‘wonderboxes’ by making lights blink, sounds play and things move.

Working collaboratively, they also created these Arduino-powered features:

  • Dashboard with keypad
  • Spinner
  • Doors with lights

 

What did students learn?

Students learned to design a miniature world, build it with a variety of tools, animate it with electronics, and tell its story in presentations at the Lycée in Sausalito — and at Marinovators at the College of Marin on April 22 (see photos). We also showed them how to program the popular Arduino board to create a cool interactive art experience.

This unique combination of art and technology helped them develop a range of new skills:

  • critical and logical thinking;
  • science, technology, engineering and math skills;
  • electronics, circuits, lights, motors and soldering;
  • Arduino and computer programming;
  • creative expression and storytelling skills;
  • communication, collaboration and social skills.

See also: video, slides, photos and design spec.

 

Location

This class took place at Lycée Français in Sausalito, in the Innovation Lab (Room #340). The school entrance is 660 Coloma Street, Sausalito, CA 94945 (see Google Map).

 

Schedule

We met every Thursdays for 12 weeks, from January 5 to March 30, from 3:30pm to 5:00pm, at the Lycée Français in Sausalito.

Here is our course schedule:

  1. Plan our time machine (Jan. 5, 2017)
  2. Design the time machine (Jan. 12)
  3. Create your time scene (Jan. 19)
  4. Create a character (Jan. 26)
  5. Light up your scene (Feb. 2)
  6. Build your time machine (Feb. 9)
  7. Create a feature (Feb. 16)
  8. Paint your feature (March 2)
  9. Program your feature (March 9)
  10. Finish the time machine (March 16)
  11. Write your story (March 23)
  12. Show & Tell (March 30)

(There was no class on Feb. 23.)

 

Who were the teachers?

Multimedia innovators Fabrice Florin and Edward Janne taught this course, with the help of our Tam Makers community.

Fabrice Florin – Teacher

Fabrice is an art maker and social entrepreneur who creates unique experiences to inform and engage communities through digital and physical media. He has led the development of many pioneering products in education, news and entertainment, working with innovators such as Apple, Macromedia and Wikipedia. He is now a teacher and founder at Tam Makers in Mill Valley, where he teaches maker art to adults and teens.

Learn more at fabriceflorin.com .

Edward Janne – Associate Teacher

Edward is a software engineer, teacher and active member at Tam Makers. He has an extensive background in interactive design and engineering, and a personal interest in maker education. He is teaching other classes for adults and teens at Tam Makers this spring.

Learn more about Maker Art classes here: fabriceflorin.com/teaching-maker-art/

Fabrice and Edward are both part of Tam Makers, a new makerspace in Mill Valley, CA. To learn more, visit our site at tammakers.org .

 

Maker Art: Build a City of the Future

What will life be like in the 22nd century? Help dream up a better world and build a City of the Future. Art by Boombastik3 via Deviant Art.

Create a city of the future in this cool after-school activity.
Future Art by Boombastik3, CC-BY-NC-SA.

Update: This spring, we created a city of the future with lower and middle school children, ages 7-14.

We invited them to imagine what the world will be like in 100 years, combining art, technology and storytelling to express themselves and develop new skills.

We taught this after-school ‘maker art’ class in two different schools:

Children were deeply engaged by this hands-on, project-based, student-driven, collaborative activity. We think this ‘maker art’ program is a great way to learn by doing, and we would like to offer it to more children and educational partners.

Here’s our original overview for this fun and educational after-school activity.

What is it?

Create a city of the future with arts and electronics!

In this maker art course, you will build a cool model of what our world could be like in 100 years. You will first make a futuristic home with a cardboard ‘wonderbox’ and an animated character. You will then bring it to life by making your character move, lights blink and sounds play.

Next, you will assemble your boxes into a small city of the future, and landscape it together. At the end of the course, we will make a short video of your creations — and you get to keep your box when the course ends.

Who is it for?

This after-school course is for middle-school students, ages 10 to 14 (6th to 9th grades). No experience necessary!

What will students learn?

Our classes combine art and technology to help you develop a range of skills: science, technology, engineering, art and math skills (STEAM); creative expression and communication skills.

You will create your own interactive art, in a playful way that makes learning more fun. You will also collaborate with other students to build something greater than you could do on your own.

When is it?

During our spring course, we meet every Wednesday from 3:30 to 5:30pm at Tam High School’s wood shop in Mill Valley. This 2-hour class runs for 8 weeks, from March 30 to May 25, 2016.

What will it look like?

Here is a first example of what our city of the future could look like.

The City of the Future will include a row of 'wonderbox' homes in the foreground, and a city landscape in the background. It will be about 6 feet wide, 3 feet deep and up to 4 feet high, and be placed on a rolling 'maker art cart.'

This 3D model shows a first visualization for our city of the future, to be designed with our students.
Created by Fabrice Florin with Sketchup, CC-BY-SA.

Our city of the future will include a row of ‘wonderbox’ homes in the foreground, and a city landscape in the background. The model will be about 6 feet wide, 3 feet deep and up to 4 feet high, and be showcased on a ‘maker art cart’. See our course slides for more images.

Who is teaching this?

Fabrice Florin is teaching this course with Geo Monley, Cynthia Gilbert and other art makers.

As a multimedia innovator, Fabrice has led the development of many pioneering products in education, news and entertainment, working with Apple, Macromedia, Wikipedia and other digital media groups. He is a lead designer at Pataphysical Studios and is teaching several maker art courses in the Bay Area.

The Tam High course for middle school children is hosted by Chris McCune and Betty Sue Johnson at Tam District Community Education. Advisors include Jean Bolte, Tara Brown, Donald Day, Dale Dougherty, Phyllis Florin, Natalina Frederick, Cynthia Gilbert, Howard Rheingold and our art maker community. We’re grateful to them all for making this course possible!

Will you teach more courses?

Yes! We will also teach a week-long ‘maker camp’ the week of July 11, every weekday from 9am to 1pm: in this camp, we will learn to program Arduino boards to build our city of the future.

Sign up here for this summer camp.
Tuition: $325 per student. Materials and Arduino board included.

How can I learn more?

You can learn more about this project in this course overview — and read about our other ‘maker art‘ courses in 2016.

For our spring courses, you can track our progress in each school here:

If you have any questions, you’re welcome to email me — and we invite you to spread the word in your community.

We look forward to coaching more children to become art makers!

Fabrice

Maker Faire 2015: bringing together art, tech and education

Maker Faire 2015 gathered many hobbyists, artists and innovators from the growing “maker movement”.

The Maker Media tent showed visitors how to create their own projects. Photos by Fabrice Florin, CC-BY-SA-3.0.]

Maker Faire 2015 gathered many hobbyists, artists and innovators on May 16-17 at the San Mateo Fairgrounds in California. Empowered by new technologies such as 3D printing, Arduino and Raspberry Pi micro-computers, these creative enthusiasts have triggered a cultural revolution that is transforming the way we work, play, learn — and express ourselves. This growing “maker movement” just celebrated its 10th anniversary and keeps getting more interesting every year.

Maker Faire 2015 Photo by Fabrice Florin, freely licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0.

I visited the Faire with Jean Bolte, a.k.a. Dr. Figurine, one of our art collaborators at Pataphysical Studios. Along with a dozen of other doctors, we are building the Pataphysical Slot Machine — a community-created poetic oracle, that’s powered by Arduino. We were there to check out the scene, on behalf of our other art friends who couldn’t come this year.

Maker Faire 2015 Photo by Fabrice Florin, freely licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0.

As soon as we walked in, we were greeted with fire art from Burning Man, which always gets me inspired. Makers and burners have a lot in common, and it’s nice to see these two cultures overlap in this annual gathering. In our own work, we also try to blend art and technology, to grow an ‘art maker movement’ that draws on these diverse cultures.

Maker Faire 2015 Photo by Fabrice Florin, freely licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0.

The most appealing art experiences for us were in the dark Fiesta Hall, where a wide range of light sculptures and interactive exhibits caught our eye, wherever we turned (see photos). We loved the illuminated tree of changes …

Maker Faire 2015 Photo by Fabrice Florin, freely licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0.

… the flying dragon and the synchronized pods …

Maker Faire 2015 Photo by Fabrice Florin, freely licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0.

… the giant giraffe …

Maker Faire 2015 Photo by Fabrice Florin, freely licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0.

… the glowing cubes …

Maker Faire 2015 Photo by Fabrice Florin, freely licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0.

… and the touch-sensitive mandalas.

Maker Faire 2015 Photo by Fabrice Florin, freely licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0.

I loved seeing so many children getting their hands dirty and making things together in workshops throughout the show. I think this maker movement has a huge educational potential, because it encourages young people to learn with their hands, through trial and error, to solve problems in ways that can’t be taught with books and lectures. The maker mindset invites this kind of “experimental play”, and as Maker Media founder Dale Dougherty points out: “out of that process emerge new ideas, which may lead to real-world applications or new business ventures. Making is a source of innovation.”

Maker Faire 2015 Photo by Fabrice Florin, freely licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0.

Robots were everywhere, in all shapes and sizes. They seemed both easier to build and more sophisticated than previous years. It’s worth noting that many of the hundreds of robots I saw were made from 3D printed parts.

Maker Faire 2015 Photo by Fabrice Florin, freely licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0.

Which brings us to 3D printers. That technology has matured well — and is becoming mainstream. This year, there were more 3D printers at the Faire than ever before — and some of them were a lot more affordable for regular folks like us. Dremel now sells a reliable ‘idea printer’ for under $1,000, which is getting within our reach (see photos). With a 3D printer, I think I could make the parts we need for our Pataphysical Slot Machine a lot faster, with a better fit and higher quality.

Maker Faire 2015 Photo by Fabrice Florin, freely licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0.

We had a great chat with Maker Media Lab director Marty Marfin and his crew (see group photo): we are discussing a possible installation of the Slot Machine in their new location at the Palace of Fine Arts. They greeted us warmly and gave us great tips for what software and hardware to use for 3D printing. Rhinoceros is their recommended software for creating the 3D models, and we got a nice demo of how it works.

Marty is a former sculptor and model builder and is interested in working together to create robots that look and behave more like sophisticated puppets — taking this tech-centric medium up a notch on the artistic scale. This is very much in line with what we are proposing to do with Théâtre Méchanique, so stay tuned …

Maker Faire 2015 Photo by Fabrice Florin, freely licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0.

We also joined a talk with Arduino founder Massimo Banzi, who gave us a good update on how this open micro-processor platform keeps growing, enabling millions around the world to create new and interesting things. I bought my first Arduino at the 2010 Maker Faire, then had a chance to chat with Massimo in 2013 — and I can honestly say that Arduino has changed my life, giving me the ability to express myself through interactive art in ways I never thought possible.

Maker Faire 2015 Photo by Fabrice Florin, freely licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0.

It’s a real pleasure to see so many hobbyists, artists and innovators join this ‘maker culture’, which is changing the way we learn and express ourselves . Over time, I’d like to help grow an ‘art maker movement’ to merge the sensibilities of artists and technologists, making our collective creations more meaningful to more people — and maybe even touching their souls.

Maker Faire 2015 Photo by Fabrice Florin, freely licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0.

For more photos of this and previous events, check out my Maker Faire album.

And if you have any stories or links to share about Maker Faire or your own experience as a maker, feel free to share them here. That’s how we learn from each other. 🙂

Onward …