First Santa Cruz Mini Maker Faire April 2016

This gallery contains 38 photos.

We are looking back now at the first edition of the Santa Cruz Mini Maker Faire. And we couldn’t be prouder, happier and more grateful. We will keep adding more images from that fun day in April. Thank you to everyone … Continue reading

Two more great local festivals coming up!

Have you heard about SCATfest and the Bonny Doon Art and Wine Festival?


The second annual Santa Cruz Arts and Technology Festival will take place on Saturday, May 14th at the Center for Spiritual Living, 1818 Felt St in Live Oak. The event features a stage full of live music ranging from flamenco to sitars; a series of workshops and panels, including an Arts, Tech & Education panel that features three awesome Makers who attended the Santa Cruz Mini Maker Faire (Sean Pace of the UCSC Open Labs and Artcrawler, Steve Davee of MakerEd, and Ed Martinez III of Forage Arts); a great array of exhibitors and vendors; and a multi-media performance jam in the evening! SCATfest is the brainchild of Dr. Phoenix Now; we love the enthusiasm and passion he has for the arts, for technology and for celebrating all the amazing thinking and making happening right here in Santa Cruz! Plus he does amazing laser-cut art himself, several pieces of which we gave away as door prizes at this year’s Mini Maker Faire. So don’t delay, get yourself advance tickets to SCATfest!

Raffle postcard NEW designAlso on our radar is the excellent Bonny Doon Art and Wine Festival in early June, which is hosting a raffle that includes the work of three world-renown makers who live right here in Santa Cruz. Surfboard shaper Michel Junod, designer & Ibis Cycle partner Roxy Lo and luthier Rick Turner are partnering with the Bonny Doon Community School Foundation on the WORLD CLASS Made in SANTA CRUZ Raffle.  Thanks to the support of Junod, Lo and Turner the $5 Raffle tickets will benefit FOUR great local causes: science and the arts at Bonny Doon Elementary School, Arts Council Santa Cruz County: SPECTRALand Trust Santa Cruz County and Food What?!Buy tickets at through May 31st or onsite on June 4 and enter to win one of the great prizes:

  • $950 Michel Junod Wing Swallow Surfboard
  • $1350 Compass Rose Ukulele by Rick Turner
  • $3500 a Ibis Carbon Fiber Hardtail Bicycle

The drawing will be held at the festival at 3 PM. Winners who are not at the festival will be notified via email. Early Bird festival tickets are $39 until April 30th. $49 May 1-June 3 and $69 at the door.

Thank you for a real good time!

We are so thrilled and thankful to everyone who came out to the inaugural Santa Cruz Mini Maker Faire on Saturday! Over 1500 people enjoyed the event, which received front page coverage on the Santa Cruz Sentinel on Sunday.

We’ll be posting photos from the Faire over the next few weeks as they come in.

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Maker Feature: Computing By Steam

Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine Still Fascinates

IMG_4901_smallSanta Cruz county local Tim Robinson has gained longstanding fame for his Meccano-built working models of the Babbage Engines.

There are innovators out there and then there are those who relentlessly seek to pick the innovators minds even a long time after they are dead. Imagine that you are a geek roughly 180  years from now and happen upon an Apple computer that you want to recreate using your childhood favorite toy building set. Now take that image backwards and meet Tim Robinson, a now retired computer and electronics engineer, who took up a close interest into Charles Babbage’s Difference Engines that were designed in the first half of the 19th century but never built until the early 1990s. Add to that Robinson’s cult for the Meccano building set – a set of metal plates, bolts and screws, axes and wheels that was very popular in Europe in the first and mid part of the 1900s – Robinson is British. The end result – working models made out of Meccano parts of the Babbage’s Difference Engine No.1 and Difference Engine No. 2 – will throw you back not only into your own childhood – if you are in your 40s and later and from Europe – but further down the history line where the brilliant minds of the day were just discovering how to use technology to automate computations.  

What are Charles Babbage’s Difference Engines No. 1 and No. 2?IMG_7126_small

In a nutshell, difference engines are machines that operate complicated calculations such as logarithms and trigonometric functions through the method of finite differences to produce accurate mathematical tables. Accurate is the key descriptor here, as one of the problems that Babbage tried to solve with his technology was to eliminate the human error he had noticed in the mathematical tables of the time that were used in navigation and astronomy. Thus, he designed a mechanism that would automate computation with an essential feature, an automatic typesetter, that would eliminate the errors caused by manual typesetting. Babbage designed these engines in the mid 1800s but no one built them until 1991. Today, there are only two Babbage Difference Engines in the world: one is exhibited in London at the Science Museum, and one was on display, with Robinson heading the project, at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View from 2008 until this past January when it went to it’s owner, Nathan Myhrvold.

IMG_7091Robinson’s working models of the Babbage’s Difference Engines are made completely out of Meccano parts and they can compute but they lack the typesetting feature. 25,000 pieces were used for the Difference Engine No. 2 which is a complete model, and rather less for the working piece of the Engine No.1. Working with Meccano parts posed both a liberation – he didn’t have to make the parts which saved significant time – and a restriction – he had to find the perfect fit between pieces to get the desired results. Robinson grew up in Great Britain where, as a boy, he started to tinker with the Meccano sets. He remembers that he was eagerly waiting for the next set to come each Christmas or birthday to tinker even more. To build the difference engines he used parts that he had from childhood, asked family from Britain to send them to him, brought them over whenever he went back to his homeland, or simply found them on eBay. As a British engineer who moved to the Bay Area in 1989, Robinson started to show interest in Babbage’s work shortly after coming to the U.S. His interest and curiosity led him to start building a small piece of Engine No. 1 so that he understood the mechanisms, One piece led to another, then another, and eventually to the whole machine. It took Robinson six months of full-time work and another couple years of part-time work to complete Engine No. 2 which has been on display at maker faires and in museums. His working Meccano models of Difference Engine No.1 and No. 2 were on display at the first Maker Faire in San Mateo in 2006. Earlier that year the model of Difference Engine No.1 had been featured in the first issue of the Make magazine put together by the creators of the first Maker Faire. After a pause of a few years from the San Mateo Maker Faire, Robinsons’ creations come back onto the makers’ stage with the Santa Cruz Mini Maker Faire – Robinson lives in Boulder Creek.

IMG_4906_smallWith all the digital advanced technology around us, the question that begs to be asked is: Is this a useful piece of technology? “Certainly not,” says Robinson. “but it’s a fascinating thing to watch these mechanisms in motion and working.”

Come to the Santa Cruz Mini Maker Faire see the working Meccano Babbage Engine No.1 and No.2 plus a piece of Babbage’s Analytical Engine. If you want to witness computer history unfolding in front of your eyes, these pieces are not to be missed. Look for Robinson’s booth through the inside exhibition spaces.

Watch Tim here at the Santa Mateo Maker Faire:

All photos courtesy of Tim Robinson

Maker Feature: Cave Mapper with Sasha Jaffarove

IMGP9449Sasha Jaffarove believes that making saved her life.  Test anxiety has limited her academic achievements, but in making she found a place without tests, grades or judgment. The non-competitive atmosphere of making has allowed Sasha to achieve in a way that school does not.

And Sasha has achieved — she was part of a group (one of the youngest in history) that sent a science experiment to the International Space Station. This year Sasha entered the Santa Cruz County Science and Engineering Fair and won first place in the senior division, three special awards, and a medal from the Office of Naval Research.  She is a runner up in the Intel ISEF, perhaps the world’s most prestigious science fair. Sasha will be attending the California State Science Fair.

IMGP9442Sasha has been a Young Maker at the Maker Faire for the last three years, which recognized her potential and has encouraged her to participate on panels at Intel (Student Innovators) and Pearson Higher Learning (Closing the Gender Gap in STEAM). This week Sasha was featured on a panel at Pixar with Dale Dougherty, the founder of the Maker Faire and Make magazine.

Maker Faire has also recognized her talent in other ways; Sasha was chosen to attend a Maker Ed event where she decided to build a robot and she invented a new application for the robot. The result?  Maker Faire profiled her in a video

IMGP9440Maker Faire has been an integral part of Sasha’s success.  When Sasha was eight years old her teacher encouraged her to attend the Maker Faire, where she talked to many of the makers there who inspired her to take things apart and create. This led to an epiphany later, while Sasha was exploring a cave in Arizona with her family; when she asked to see behind a cave and was told no, she realized that she could build something that would allow her to see behind the cave.  Still only in fifth grade, Sasha began her project using a protractor and LIDAR, a laser measuring device. While attending the Maker Faire she discovered Arduino and Raspberry Pi. In seventh grade Sasha watched tutorials on Youtube which taught her how to hack into LIDAR and connect it to Arduino, Raspberry Pi and servo controllers. In ninth grade she added Stepper servos and created a system that sends data directly to a computer where points are graphed onto an axis. Before Cave Mapper, people had to guess the size of a cave; they are too dark to determine size using conventional means. Sasha’s Cave Mapper allows for the accurate plotting of caves.

Sasha is completely self -taught; she has received no help from adults. She has a strong vision for the future of Cave Mapper; she would next like to put it on a quadcopter to allow for aerial mapping. She hopes to give Cave Mappers away to caves for the benefit of science. She sees uses for Cave Mapper in space and for Deep Ocean exploration and she also envisions commercial uses for her product. Most importantly, Sasha wants everyone to learn and to get people excited to make. Please stop by and ask Sasha all about Cave Mapper.

All photos courtesy of Sasha Jaffarove.

Maker Feature: Binary Bells

Embark_icon Binary Bells is a cross-curricular activity where students apply their knowledge of binary code in a higher-order thinking exercise using music. Multi-tonal bells are used to assess children’s knowledge of binary code in a game-like fashion. During this lesson everyone in the room will be able to map out binary numbers from 1 to 26 and then “play” those numbers with bells to create different words.

JAroraHeadshotCisco_sqEmbark Labs founder, Jessie Arora, is on a mission to empower kids to become creative problem solvers through learning computer science and coding. Her last 10+ years focused on the intersection of education and technology combining experiences from Google, Citizen Schools & the Stanford Graduate School of Ed (POLS ’08) has turned into an organization that empowers teachers with the utilization of foundational concepts of computer science and the skills of coding to engage students in fun learning experiences.  Skills educators are able to share with their students focuses on Computational Thinking, Design Theory, Problem Solving, and Collaborative Leadership.

athena_teaching1Lead Tech Educator, Athena Raney, who will facilitate the binary bells lesson at the Santa Cruz Mini Makers Faire, is equipped to incorporate cross-curricular STEM program consisting of project based learning activities and challenges designed to promote deep understanding through inquiry and discovery.

The goal is to demystify computer science, making it accessible to more teachers and students. It is important to collaborate with schools and educators to provide a simple framework to integrate a variety of learning tools and programs.

All photos courtesy of Embark Labs

Maker Feature: Payson McNett

IMG_7655Payson McNett Inspires Cabrillo College Students to Take Their Dreams to the Next Level

His own personal next level was a giant man-height skateboard that he created with the use of a 3D printer.

Payson McNett’s working area in the VAPA art complex at Cabrillo Community College looks like a combination of tech shop, artist’s corner and graphic designer desk. And that is because he is all these, and much more; he is also the man with the giant skateboard that he will bring to the Santa Cruz Maker Faire for people to touch, feel and ride. 

But mainly, he is the man in the Fab Lab – the fabrication lab, that is – in the Arts Department at Cabrillo College. Come fall, the Santa Cruz local and Cabrillo College educated artist is going to use 3D printers & scanners, vinyl cutters, laser cutters, cnc routers, software,  and computers to teach one of the first digital fabrication for the arts classes at a community college in California. McNett has great plans, as this is only the first class of a series of four, each a pre-requisite for the next.

Growing up in Santa Cruz, Payson started his classical art education at Cabrillo College, moved onto San Jose State University for his undergraduate degree and immersed himself into digital fabrication research while pursuing his MFA in Fine Arts at Indiana University. Back in Santa Cruz, at Cabrillo College, his home turf, as a member of the faculty this time, McNett is here to inspire a new generation of artists and to show them a technological bridge that closes the gap between art and technology.


IMG_7640“A Fab Lab is a space where you add the digital component to the traditional art studio and make it a makers’ space,” said McNett about the space at Cabrillo that hosts workspaces for both classical and contemporary art forms. His area of jurisdiction, in the back of the studio, hosts four core pieces that Cabrillo students get to understand, work with and apply in their art work. “We want to open a door for students. Oftentimes, they have great ideas but they can’t execute them. By teaching them to apply technology to arts, we teach them to see how they can use this technology to make more complex forms and bring their ideas to fruition,” said McNett.

He is talking for example about a CNC router – a computer numeric control router – a digital instrument that looks like a combination between a sawing table and a printer, that can cut with the finest precision a large range of materials from plastic to aluminum, can cut patterns and create templates.

He is talking about a 3D printer that can print gypsum or sculptures or forms that can be used as a base for other projects, such as wax casting, or as work of art by themselves. In fact he has used the bigger 3D gypsum printer in the Cabrillo Fab Lab to create a 3D printing mold for this giant skateboard’s wheels and trucks. “By using a 3D printer, you get accuracy and scale at the same time” said McNett.

IMG_7638He is also talking about an FDM printer –  a fused deposition modelling printer that in conjunction with a computer software can create and print 3D objects such as skull, a ball, a frame – you name it. He is also teaching about a vinyl cutter that can cut anything from shapes to letters to intricate designs. McNett tells a story of empowerment and entrepreneurship when talking about a student at Indiana University who at a young age used this technology to create an e-commerce site to sell pins that she would sell at comic conventions and make some pocket change. Proof that this new technology and art go hand in hand is a huge piece – 20 feet tall – commissioned by Hoosier Energy in Indiana to represent the hard work of their employees. McNett used the 3D technology to create prototypes to secure the job. McNett said that the technology not only opens up new avenues for artists, but also enables people who don’t consider themselves makers to make exciting things.

IMG_7651The poster child for the program and his four arts classes to be offered soon at Cabrillo is definitely the giant skateboard that stands taller than McNett. Embracing the skateboarding  culture of Santa Cruz, he was referred to as the skateboarding professor by many of his former students at Indiana University. Before coming back to Santa Cruz he wanted to create something that would return him to the age of innocence when he got his first skateboard, something that  would make him feel like a kid again. The leap to a giant skateboard wasn’t that big from there.

Explore the technology that Payson McNett is teaching to his students at the Santa Cruz Mini Maker Faire, where McNett is bringing the vinyl cutter to make sticker and keychains or name tags using a desktop 3D printer and of course his giant skateboard.

All photos courtesy of Alexandra Proca

Performer Feature: Preacher Boy

12930760_599563730194459_14863361_nPreacher Boy’s music is a hyphenated thing — country-blues, alt-blues, folk-blues, and acoustic-blues. It all comes out of the country blues tradition, although much of the music he makes sounds more like an eclectic interpretation of Americana and roots music.

His love for music began with his grandfather’s influence, a bluegrass musician who played folk and blues on the record player. His parents were also hip; they listened to the Beatles and Stones, and his father was into Motown and early girl groups. When Preacher Boy discovered Eric Clapton, they pointed him to The Yardbirds, and off he went on a journey that took him back to Howlin Wolf, Mississippi John Hurt, and the music of the delta. “I was a 16 year old white kid living in Seattle, son of a Marxist english professor. How I got into the blues is pretty amazing.”

PreacherBoy_TheNationalBlues_Cover_Altco_copy_1024x1024Preacher Boy’s newest album “The National Blues” was released just a few months ago on Altco Recordings out of Austin. He took some time away from music to return to graduate school and get a degree in creative writing, but the lure of making music remained strong. Composed of 11 brand new songs, the album draws its title from his favorite guitar and the one he played on the album. In the studio, it was just him and a drummer, who agreed to no overdubs and no editing. They did 3 takes of every song live and picked the one they liked most. This live-and-raw approach forms a strong bookend with his first album, Preacher Boy and the Natural Blues, which was very layered and composed.

When he plays live in solo settings, Preacher Boy pulls songs from throughout his catalog, and sprinkles in old blues tunes. “I like playing solo because I don’t have to teach anyone the arrangement — I can drop into a tune I haven’t played in 10 years. Playing solo, I think of the music through jazz brain; country blues is very in-the-moment, so I wind up flipping verses or making one up because I’m talking to someone in the front row, or using whatever I have like stomping on the floor.”

Preacher Boy likes to commit to being fully present during a performance. “It’s the haiku constraint — all you have is the acoustic guitar, so what you gonna do?” He also takes the work of performing as a very personal obligation. “I feel the ambassadorial responsibility to present the music the way it was originally made, not through rote note-by-note performance, but by making it real and live and raw, just the way it was originally created.”

Once you hear him at the Mini Maker Faire, you’ll be hooked. Don’t miss his performance on the main stage! Fortunately, you can check out more Preacher Boy at his pair of local residencies, Tuesdays at Mission St BBQ and Thursdays at Aptos St BBQ.

All photos and music courtesy of Preacher Boy

Maker Feature: ThoughtFull Toys

imgres (1)When David Silverglate, Brian Gulassa and Trevor Hite started ThoughtFull Toys in early 2013 in Santa Cruz’s Old Sash Mill, they designed an interactive toy car that was truly a “BFD”, as in Beautiful, Functional and Durable. Not to mention sleek, fun and drivable! The Modarri car line offers a patented steering system, real suspension, tight turning radius, and a finger sized bucket seat that means you can drive it like no other car. You can literally feel the road.

The cars come in three types — dirt, street and track — and all the cars are easy to take apart and reassemble with a hex tool that allows owners to swap a dozen different parts and create their own designs. With one Delux car there can be 10 unique combinations, with three Delux cars there are over 35,000 combinations and with six cars over 10 million combinations! Add in the new DIY car for infinite combinations. The Modarri car line was the winner of the prestigious Best of Toy Fair award in 2014 and 2016 (only ten won out of over 10,000 toys!).

Modarri_Street_300David comes from a long line of makers, tracing his maker roots back three generations to his great-grandfather who was a metal worker in Russia. David’s grandfather was a dental technician, and his father a dentist; some of David’s first maker moments were making dental implants for his dad, and designing one of the earliest hang gliders called “Hang Loose”.

David grew up in Southern California and got his degree in physics from UCSC. In 2001 David and his wife Suzanne started Rhino Toys in Santa Cruz and sold the company to a large toy manufacturer in 2010. One of their biggest toy successes was the Oball, the soft yet durable hollow ball made out of brightly colored rubber rings.

Modarri_Car_Durable-300x241Next up for ThoughtFull Toys is another line of vehicles, this time called “Enduro” which will come out later in 2016. This new brand of ready to drive vehicles will feature the same real steering suspension and tight turning radius as Modarri, but they will be manufactured with durable materials that are either recycled or sustainable. Think modern design meets old school craftsmanship.

At the SC Mini Maker Faire, the complete Modarri Garage Show will be present including numerous car types and body packs for disassembling, re-building and track racing. Come make your own car and feel the road with Modarri!

All photos courtesy of ThoughtFull Toys

Maker Feature: Art Crawler

Artcrawler01ArtCrawler is a recycled United States military vehicle and so, so much more. It is a mobile community center for new media art practices, science experimentation and education; it is a mobile art and science research facility that houses the tools of both trades as a composite field study instrument for multidisciplinary project implementation; and, it is a platform for audio-video recording, 3D printing, CNC cutting, sculpture fabrication, field research/support, material processing and welding, along with being a mobile power station. It’s a fab lab on huge, enormous, giant wheels. And, apparently, it gets horrible gas mileage.

Artcrawler03ArtCrawler was started as a sort of thesis project for UCSC Digital Arts + New Media graduate student Sean Pace. After leaving undergraduate school with what he felt like were no real tools to help him continue being an artist, he wanted to leave graduate school with something useful, functional. Sean believes that limited access to technological design tools, hardware and software, and development facilities, is a major issue facing lower and middle income students. The ArtCrawler Project aims to engage students by not only bringing these tools to different communities, but by also providing workshops and classes that show how these tools can be used. Sean has self funded much of the project with support from UCIRA, Todd Dubois of Sanga Energy, and the Florence French Fund. This mobile Maker space on military wheels is succeeding in its design to take technology to limited access places and to teach those communities how they themselves can access some of these open source resources for free.

Artcrawler02At the SC Mini Maker Faire, ArtCrawler will be showcasing its CNC cutter by cutting a chair using open source software, and it will offer the chance for some people to design and print objects on its 3D printer. Nathan Ober, part of the ArtCrawler team, will be bringing a hand made maple and mahogany harp— the OryHarp— that plays itself and is synchronized to the orbit of the planets. Zach Course will be making an ice sphere that rotates as it freezes, pushing out the air and freezing solid with nearly the clarity of a diamond. (Ok, not a diamond, but still….) Don’t miss this incredible team of innovators showing off their amazing projects.

All photos courtesy of Sean Pace