Get Amped Up for Maker Faire Bay Area

RadioShack is gearing up for our trip to Maker Faire Bay Area this weekend, and we couldn’t be more excited. If you’ve never been to Maker Faire before, it’s essentially a huge showcase of all the cool, creative technology projects from the maker/DIY community. There are 3D printers, Arduino-powered robots, Tesla coils and even a fleet of giant cupcake cars around every corner of the San Mateo Event Center.

Makers come from all around to show off their work, learn from others and celebrate geekdom with panel discussions, musical performances and more. We had an amazing time last year, when we saw everything from remote-controlled R2-D2s to electroluminescent animated sharks. We can’t wait to see what the makers have cooked up for us this year.

RadioShack is sponsoring the popular “Learn to Solder” tent set up on the north end of the center so you can melt some metal, but I will also be making the rounds so we can share all of our great experiences here on The Shack Blog. Here are a few of our can’t-miss Maker Faire moments we’re most looking forward to:


Raspberry Pi: How a $35 Computer Will Give Students an Appetite for STEM

Center Stage

Saturday 1:00 PM – 1:25 PM


A lively panel discussion with Raspberry Pi founder Eben Upton, modder Ben Heck, and Matt Richardson from MAKE magazine about the amazing Raspberry Pi computer and its effect on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. In the old days, hackers learned to program on Amigas, BBC Micros, ZX Spectrums and Commodore 64s. The rise of the Internet, home video game consoles and PC gaming seems to have changed the way kids interact with computers. In some ways, computers became so expensive that programming experimentation on them has been forbidden by parents fearing their son or daughter might tinker the family PC to death. Enter the Raspberry Pi, a credit card-sized computer that plugs into your TV. For the low price of $35, it can do a lot of the things your desktop PC does, like spreadsheets, word processing and games. As small as it is, it can even play HD video. Will the Raspberry Pi be the tool of choice for the next generation of computer programmers? We can’t wait to find out.


The State of Arduino With Massimo Banzi

Center Stage

Saturday 3:00 PM – 3:25 PM

We sat down with Massimo Banzi a few months ago to talk about Arduino, so we’re excited to hear what’s next for the amazing microcontroller that continues to revolutionize the Maker movement. Our prediction: more shields, more robots and more practical applications in nearly every professional field.



Tesla Stage

All day Saturday and Sunday

So, Tesla coils — you know, those devices that produce epic electrical arcs (aka rad lightning bolts)? Well, when they discharge into the air, they produce certain frequencies — musical notes, if you will. The wizards of ArcAttack! use two custom-engineered, hand-built Tesla coils that throw out 12-foot arcs, each one acting as an instrument with a sound reminiscent of the early days of the synthesizer. It’s a concert and light show all in one electrifying (literally) performance.


The Makers

Though the panels, talks and performances are great, the real stars of Maker Faire are the makers themselves. A quick browse through Maker Faire’s “Meet the Makers” page has given us quite a few projects to whet our appetite.


Dalek Mutant Vehicle 

Fans of the BBC’s Doctor Who will recognize this sinister sight. It’s a Dalek, a member of the race of robotically enhanced creatures bent on destroying all life that is deemed genetically inferior, i.e., everyone and everything. This life-size replica consists of a wooden frame over a go-cart that creator Cory Soto can ride inside. Rumor has it that Cory has included a voice modulator to deliver the characteristic robotic cry of “EXTERMINATE” to the crowds that pass by. Oh, and there may be a flamethrower attached, too. We’ll be sure to keep our distance.


Angry Battleships

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For the fourth year in a row, the Western Warship Combat Club will be staging an epic 1:144 scale sea battle within the grounds of the San Mateo Event Center. The club constructs incredibly realistic models of WWI and WWII battleships, equips them with CO2-powered BB or ball bearing cannons and lets them blast each other to smithereens inside a specially constructed pond. As if that weren’t exciting enough, this year audience members get to take the helm in the battle for supremacy of the shin-high sea.


8 Bit Lit — Retro Video Game-Based Home Décor

8 Bit Lit makes retro video game memories into home décor items, like this Mario Brothers Question Block Light. We’re hoping to grab a few power-up items for our cubicles before we head home.


Sadly, there just isn’t enough space to gush about every single talented maker who will have their projects on display. Take a look at the Maker Faire website and tell us whose stuff you’d be most excited to see and we’ll do our best to seek it out, take some pictures or video and share with you all of the cool stuff we see this weekend. And if you’re going to be in attendance, keep a look out for me and the folks at the RadioShack tent!


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