By Sean P. Mulhall – Editor-in-Chief
The Grand Rapids Public Museum has been converted into a Mini Maker Faire this weekend, drawing hundreds of crafters, tech enthusiasts and curious people to downtown Grand Rapids.
The Maker Faire started in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2006 and by last year, close to 100 Faires occurred around the world. The Grand Rapids “Mini” Maker Faire is a smaller version of the Maker Faire. The event involves crafters and engineers, showing off their inventions and ideas to the community.
“We’ve had (the Maker Faire) on our programming list for the last couple of years,” said Kate Moore, vice president of public relations and marketing for the museum. “This year was the year we decided to do it. We sat down in May and started planning with the Grand Rapids Makers, the Geek Group and Grand Rapids Community College, along with Genesis Inc. It was a natural partnership…to inspire creativity.”
While the event was intended to be “mini,” the participation level encourages event planners.
“It’s fantastic,” Moore said. “Both in the number of attendees and makers. The Maker Faire playbook states that a ‘mini’ Maker Faire is anywhere from 10 to 30 makers. We have over 70.”
The official numbers have not been tallied for the first day, but according to Moore, the goal was to exceed 5,000 people. The group hopes to make this an annual event.
“We want to grow it,” Moore said. “Next year we want more than 70 (makers).”
GRCC was also represented at the faire. The college had a maker table, run by computer support professor, Moss Ingram that was supplying information on programs that would appeal to the crowd at a Maker Faire.
“We’re here promoting the college as a whole,” Ingram said. “That being said, with this being a Maker Faire, these are the programs that support ‘making’. We’ve had a few recruits. Some existing students, as well as alumni, have stopped by to say hello. We’ve even had some high school teachers stop by and ask about ways to get students interested in this stuff as seniors and juniors.”
Alex Stuart, a former GRCC student, transferred to Grand Valley State University in 2012 and maintains the website for Tech Slinger, one of the maker faire vendors. Tech Slinger is a company that sells holders for devices, such as cellphones and iPads, modeled after a handgun shoulder holster. The General Manager of Tech Slinger has been so impressed with Alex’s skills, both with people and technology that she asked him to help with her Maker Faire booth.
There is plenty to see and do at the Grand Rapids Mini-Maker Faire and it continues from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets are $8 for adults, $7 for seniors and $3 children ages 3 to 17. Admission for museum members is free. For more information, visit makerfairegr.com.