SLO's Mini Maker Faire spurs big ideas in creativity

Donning a pair of silly sunglasses, Jonah Sullivan, 5, Atascadero, watches a 3-D printer "sculpt" an object at the Mini Maker Faire on Saturday.
Donning a pair of silly sunglasses, Jonah Sullivan, 5, Atascadero, watches a 3-D printer "sculpt" an object at the Mini Maker Faire on Saturday.

A preschool-aged girl in an all-pink outfit strapped a remote controller around her neck and began driving a small robot in frantic circles on the ground.

College students stared hungrily at potato wedges cooking in a pan, heated by a large, reflective, concave dish called a solar concentrator.

An elderly man gripped a pick punched from a recycled gift card, plucking at a ukulele made with a neck-tie strap and tin can body.

It was the second annual SLO Mini Maker Faire, and downtown San Luis Obispo buzzed with creativity on Saturday.

“It was all new to me,” said Cal Poly student Sophia Vu, who attended for the first time this year. “I thought it was a really fun event. There was a lot of interactive stuff going on.”

Vu said she heard about the faire through Engineers Without Borders at Cal Poly and her favorite booth was created by Los Osos Middle School, which held teamwork-building games. One such game was a foot race in which participants had to walk on wooden blocks tied to their shoes.

Over 40 schools, businesses and creative organizations held booths at the fair, each proponing its own version of craftsmanship and invention. They lined the Mission Plaza, offering interactive do-it-yourself demonstrations and educational workshops to people of all ages.

At the event’s center, participants added hand-folded paper pyramids containing their personal stories to a hanging structure, representing a community of creation.

The fair began in 2013 when Kathy Chen, chairwoman of the Cal Poly Materials Engineering department, pitched the idea to Ruta Saliklis, San Luis Obispo Museum of Art exhibitions director.

Chen had attended the original San Mateo Maker Faire, founded in 2005 by the people behind MAKE and CRAFT magazines. The event attracted “makers” from all over the country to demonstrate and exhibit examples of creation, invention, recycling, art, engineering and technology.

Chen had caught the maker fever and brought it home with her. She presented the idea of a SLO Mini Maker Faire to Saliklis that September, and they held the event in May 2013.

“We said, ‘Let’s go for it and have something small for the first year,’” Saliklis said. “But it turned out to be such a nice maker faire, and such a big success, that we decided to do this again.”

Thus, the second annual SLO Mini Maker Faire took place. Makers included inventors, business-owners and students of all ages. The creative, educational atmosphere featured soldering lessons, a 3D laser scanner, do-it-yourself solo cup speaker demonstrations, hand-made knives and a wide array of robots.

Saliklis said the sentiment behind the Maker Faire was to show that anyone can make anything.

“The belief is that everyone’s a maker,” she said. “Anyone. Everyone has the ability to be creative, to tinker. Whatever it is, we all make different things. It’s celebrating that spirit of ingenuity and being a brainstormer.”