It's been two weeks since the World Maker Faire in New York City, but I did want to write up our pilgrimage sometime. A lot of our work happens on the weekend, so the article's been delayed while we catch up.
Jason and I were pretty excited to hear about the new Maker Faire debut in New York. Many of the well-known makers and hackers are located on the east coast, so a New York Maker Faire seems like a smart move. The World's Fair grounds are a perfect venue...San Mateo is pretty nice, but the architecture is nonexistent and there isn't a real rocket looming in the background. Okay, there was a rocket there last year, but it mainly goes to Burning Man, not outer space.
We hunted for tickets and landed an awesome deal. Initially Virgin America wanted $860 but a couple days later it was down to $475. Chase somehow read our minds and sent a coupon for a 20% discount on Virgin America if we used the company card. So we got two round trip, nonstop tickets for about $400.
The next order of business was to find something cool to bring to the Faire. We were not going to run a booth, so it had to be something small. Wearable electronics! I installed LEDs on our lab coats.
On my lab coat, I wanted some recognizable electronics symbol, and chose a resistor. A diode would have been better, but I didn't think of it until the project was over. Anyway, I started by calculating the number of LEDs needed. The OctoBrite DEFILIPPI can handle up to 30V on the outputs, so I could put several LEDs in series on each channel. I had some 6-cell AA battery packs, and decided on a 9V supply; three red LEDs in series will work well on 9V and allows some headroom for battery drain. Since the OctoBrite has 24 channels, I would need to design the symbol using 72 LEDs. Thankfully, I had a few thousand nice bright red LEDs on hand from an earlier trip to the Electronics Flea Market.
I arranged the LEDs on a piece of plastic canvas...the circuit needed to be somewhat flexible. The LEDs are held in place by bending the leads, then twisting and soldering together in groups of three. Next, I sewed the OctoBrite DEFILIPPI in place, and used wire-wrap to connect all the LED pins to the OctoBrite pins. After sewing some Velcro to the plastic canvas and the lab coat, it was ready to go! Just needed to plug it into a ShiftBrite Shield, stack it on an Arduino, and write a little code.
Jason's lab coat showed off the OctoBrite CYANEA. Due to semiconductor shortages and other problems, we've had trouble keeping these in stock. Finally we have most of the production problems ironed out. The idea for the CYANEA demo was a more portable, shirt-pocket type of display.
I mounted the OctoBrite on a small piece of plastic canvas, and built up a small controller board using an ATTiny84. After building the battery pack and covering the power cord with white braid for no reason, I just needed to write the code. There are several animation modes, the Cylon-type scan and the police lights were popular.
Now that we had the tickets and the blinky lights, it was time to go! We hopped on the plane and set up a mobile workstation. Wifi access on Virgin America was usable but a bit slow on the way out (it was a lot better on the way back). We were delayed a couple hours due to a ground stop at JFK (something about Obama using the airport), had to go land in Pennsylvania for more fuel. Finally arrived in New York City! It was after 10pm, but it was like 7pm for us so we hopped on the subway and got dinner in Manhattan...saw Times Square, went to a rooftop, etc.
The next two days we roamed Maker Faire, checking out all the great exhibits. Since it was the World's Fair grounds, there were actually a lot of cool science exhibits already installed. It was sort of like having a Maker Faire in a science museum. Actually, that's exactly what it was.
Disaster on the first day, though! The sidewalks in Queens are pretty rough. Walking to the Maker Faire from the hotel, I turned my ankle on something...as time went on, it kept getting worse. On the second day of the Faire we actually got a wheelchair so I could get around without having to hobble everywhere. Apparently wheelchairs are fun, Jason borrowed it to attempt some wheelies, and Tim from Sparkfun borrowed it with the same idea but much better results.
Overall, it was a lot of fun, and we got to talk to awesome people from Sparkfun, Spikenzie Labs, Secret Labs, FunGizmos, Maker Shed, EMSL, and even several past macetech customers. Definitely would make the trip again, if the World Maker Faire becomes a yearly event. Right now it's still smaller than the Bay Area Maker Faire, but as word spreads it could become even larger.
Submitted by Garrett on Sun, 10/10/2010 - 22:13.