May 7-8, 2016
Austin Maker Faire
"Maker Faire is the Greatest Show (and Tell) on Earth – a family-friendly festival of invention, creativity and resourcefulness, and a celebration of the Maker movement. Part science fair, part county fair, and part something entirely new, Maker Faire is an all-ages gathering of tech enthusiasts, crafters, educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers, science clubs, authors, artists, students, and commercial exhibitors. All of these “makers” come to Maker Faire to show what they have made and to share what they have learned."
Austin Maker Faire was May 7th and 8th in Austin, at the Palmer Events Center from 10am to 6pm. This year we had an impressive display and a good crowd. Maker Faire estimated 15k-22k people, though I suspect we were on the low end of those numbers, so I will say 18k. We ran a 20' x 50' booth with a number of activities and displays:
- TBRR City Display
- TBRR Mosaic signs
- TBRR Lego Free Play Area
- TBRR Pull-back Race Car Track
- TBRR Interactive Minecraft Display
- Creative Brick Builders Technic Area
- Creative Brick Builders Duplo Area
- TexLUG monochrome Free Play (with only green 2x4 bricks)
Load-in on Friday:
Setup was 4pm - 8pm. As they say, many hands make light work, so 7 people showing up for load-in was a real help, and we were mostly setup in 3 hours, but I think we left at 7:45pm or so after setting up some free play brick, and planting Steve trees around the layout, and doing other touch-up items. Gareth's 3x3 river and train bridge MOC took a nose dive off of a table, so we made a last minute swapout, but beyond the one tragedy, everyone and everything that we expected to arrived and was setup. Our city looked really good, but it would not have been possible without Steve donating his track and landscapes and without Gareth donating tables and his trailer to transport items.
Ben Rollman showed up with the last two missing MOCs before opening, and we setup the Minecraft Lego layout as well. We lost two "Steve" Minecraft minifigures before the official opening of Maker Faire (We had 6-8 kids gather as soon as the Minecraft landscape was unveiled), so this did not bode well for the weekend.
We had lots of hands during the day, and things went vey well. Our layout was well received, Ed managed to keep swapping train and Ferris wheel batteries as needed, and things went as expected. There were some large crowds, and we were in a very good central location. Many parents were struggling to remove their kids from our display. At the end of the day on Saturday we had to break down the children's MOCs made from the monochrome brick, and the free play brick. It is interesting how you get very tall creations from the box of 2x4 bricks. I left a little before closing on Saturday, but the display was in good hands.
Ed and others were there early, I arrived around lunch time on Sunday. The Minecraft landscape was still mostly intact, so things were going well. A TFOL named Noah arrived with a MOC train, but he could not get it to function well, so he left after a little bit. I wish I could have convinced him to stay and leave it as a display piece. The crowds were at least as big on Sunday afternoon as on Saturday afternoon, surprisingly, and did not really start to die down until after 5pm.
Tear-down on Sunday:
Maker Faire ended at 6pm, and I was in my car checking my watch at 7:15pm... Record time. We had 9 people helping with teardown, and things went very fast. So fast that most of my personal time was spent putting away the Minecraft activity box, putting away the monochrome brick, putting away the race track, and putting away the free play brick. We broke down the Minecraft display completely into its component parts. Ethan's son was most helpful in procuring us some dolly carts to whisk away our boxes. So far as we could tell, everything got where it needed to go.
I made some 48 x 96 stud mosaic Lego signs that mounted to speaker stands. I think the effect was really nice, and I look forward to using them again in the future.
Pull-back Race Car Track:
Lego sent us 80-100 pull-back race car bodies, so I collected enough tires to create 30 functional race car blanks. We created a racetrack near the free play brick, and allowed kids to try their hand at building race cars. People liked it, and it was not very much effort to set up. So I think this is a winner that we will do again.
Monochrome Brick Free Play:
Everyone loved making huge towers, I was surprised that we often ran low on brick so older MOCs had to be "recycled" about 1-2 times per day. We even had one builder who made a tower, and then filled the tower with loose brick just to use all the brick he could find.
Lego Minecraft Activity Box:
Minecraft Number of visitors: 18k to the event, at least 1,000 directly watched or played with the Minecraft activity.
Minecraft Number of RLUG members participating: 12 (We had more helping to build it who did not show at the display.)
Minecraft General comments/perception from the audience/visitors:
Far and away, I think people loved this the best, but we had to put a lot of work into making this happen. At the TexLUG meeting before Maker Faire, we built a 96 x 144 stud Minecraft landscape using a Duplo foundation, the minecraft brick, and the copious quantity of green brick. I even created a number of Minecraft trees. The landscape did its job, and provided an imagination foundation for the kids to play with.
Josh and myself played "Micro Managers" about every 3-4 hours to the Minecraft display. We removed cruft and distributed the minifigures and ore across the landscape. Most kids were being constructive, but it was interesting in that the first things people did was collect all of the ore, and start building a house. They would also grab "Steve" or "Alex" and keep them nearby. They did not play with the minifigures, they just kept them near as some sort of talisman as they did the job of "Steve" in playing and building. While the event was successful, we lost a number of minifigures over the course of the weekend. Lego provided us with 1 Steve, 1 Alex, 3 skeletons, 4 creepers, and 3 zombies. I personally added another 20 creepers, 1 Alex, and 5 more Steves. Over the course of the weekend we lost 8 creepers, 5 Steves, 1 Skeleton, 1 Zombie, and 1 Alex. While allowing kids to play with the display was great fun, and we think it is most in line with what Lego would like to see happen with their activity box . . . they need to provide a lot more minifigures to make a public display workable, as the Minecraft figures have a high tendency to walk away.
Lego should really take the loss of minifigures into account and send something on the order of 40 Steve minifigs, which would allow us to safely run 4-5 large events in the year with the box of brick. Sending 1 Steve for a box of brick that large could make for a display, but not with interactive activities.