Maker Faire Bay Area 2012 – Center Stage

While Maker Faire has a seemingly endless supply of things to see (check out our Maker Faire photo album on Facebook), they also have a few stages throughout the event, with talks from some of the awesome people in the community. I spent a few hours at the Center Stage enjoying some of these talks, and learned quite a bit!

Every Child a Maker – AnnMarie Thomas, Dale Dougherty

AnnMarie Thomas, PhD and Dale Dougherty (who we’ve chatted with before) announced a new program from Make, the Maker Education Initiative. The goal of this new program is for every child to be a Maker, regardless of resources. Maker Faire is definitely a kid-focused event, but unfortunately many of these kids go back to homes and schools where they just don’t have access to the resources they need to continue making awesome things. The Maker Education Initiative’s goal is to solve this by giving kids access to places and programs that allow them to make things.

Maker Education Initiative

“Making can give children the tools, confidence and skills to make their dreams and ideas tangible, and to realize that they can change the world around them. The Maker Education Initiative will allow us to work together to give more children this opportunity.”  You can get more information on the Maker Education Initiative here.

The State of Arduino – Massimo Banzi

Massimo Banzi at Maker Faire

Next was Massimo Banzi, to a nearly packed house, talking about what’s coming up for Arduino. I was very honored to see that he mentioned RadioShack in his first few minutes – highlighting how exciting it is to be able to walk into one of 4,500+ stores in America and pick up an Arduino to get started making. After highlighting how far Arduino and its community have already come, Massimo announced three new products, the Leonardo, WiFi shield, and Due.

Massimo Banzi at Maker Faire

Leonardo – a $20 Arduino board with the Atmega32u4. With the same shape and connectors as the UNO, the Leonardo includes a simplified circuit. It also comes with a USB driver that can simulate a mouse, keyboard, and serial port, with more coming soon.

WiFi shield – The WiFi shield has been a long time coming, and adds WiFi capability to any Arduino. However, it can also function as a standalone product, if you know C. This definitely opens up some incredible possibilities, and I’m excited to see all the awesome new projects that use this shield.

Due – The Due is a major breakthrough for Arduino. This board has a 32bit Cortex-M3 ARM processor on it, and uses the SAM3U processor from ATMEL running at 96MHz. With 256Kb of Flash, 50Kb of Sram, 5 SPI buses, 2 I2C interfaces, 5 UARTS, and 16 Analog Inputs at 12Bit resolution this board is going to allow makers to really do some awesome stuff.

The Due will also help launch Arduino’s new Arduino Beta Team – a select group of active community members who will be given early access to new products to help test and improve. Definitely exciting!

Democratizing Access To The Tools of Innovation – Mark Hatch

Mark Hatch at Maker Faire

Mark Hatch, the CEO of TechShop, was up next, talking about what happens when you democratize access to the tools of innovation. TechShop is a shared workspace that gives Makers access to tools that would normally be out of reach. They currently have 5 locations, but are opening more soon. I really enjoyed Mark’s talk – his ‘tweetable moment’, as he called it, was this: What happens if you give the creative class access to the tools of the industrial revolution – for the cost of a bad coffee addiction, they change the world.

Mark Hatch at Maker Faire

One interesting aspect was in the Q&A section, when someone asked about NDAs. Mark rightfully pointed out that while TechShop members do have some privacy options, they’ve found that most people’s intellectual property gets upgraded when it’s shared with the community. It’s true – when you share with others, they usually have a different perspective than you, and can help make things better.

Apps for Makers: 3D Fabrication from Molecules to Motor Cars – Chris Anderson

Wired’s Chris Anderson was up next, and keeping with the same trend, talked about 3D Fabrication and how the tools that we have available today can make so many things possible. Chris believes that machines amplify humanity’s potential – things that we can think up but can’t do, machines can. The past decade, we’ve been focused on finding new social and innovation models online, on the Internet. The next decade will be about finding ways to apply those to real life. As part of his talk, Chris brought up his friends at Ponoko – they’re making it possible for you design and make anything you want – from cars to molecules!

Chris Anderson at Maker Faire

RadioShack is proud to be a sponsor of Maker Faire. If you’re interested in making things, but don’t know where to start, we recommend that you get a copy of ‘Getting Started with Arduino‘ and a Getting Started with Arduino kit. You can also ease into it with one of our other starter kits that have everything you need to get going. If you need some ideas, check out The Great Create to see some of the cool projects people are already building with RadioShack parts and pieces.


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  • april j

    nice coverage of Maker Faire. Thanks!

  • Robert Thille

    I was at Maker Faire this last Saturday and my friend and I made the flashing robot pins in the Radio Shack “learn to solder” tent. I know a bit about electronics, so I was surprised when the LEDs flashed, given that there appears to be just the two LEDs and the battery in the circuit. Are there hidden elements (chip-scale-IC, or LRC) that I’m missing? Perhaps the flashing is built into the LEDs? Inquiring minds…

    • Ricky Cadden


      The flasher circuit is built into the LED body. We carry the led used in this circuit. The SKU is 276-312, and should be available in most stores, or online. All you have to do is apply voltage to the LED not exceeding 5 volts to get the flashing.

  • Randy Schafer

    As a sponsor of the Maker Faire Bay Area I was blown away. It reminds me of the fun days of the West Coast Computer Faire! I’m glad to see Radio Shack’s participation. The best thing you guys have done since the TRS-80 ;-).

    the only smart touch scree for the arduino:

  • Dean

    Nice information and coverage. Was pleasantly surprised, since the Radio Shack email called you a “social media extraordinaire,” which should be “social media user extraordinaire.” You could teach the copywriters a thing or two. I certainly picked up a lot more about Arduino and upcoming innovations from you.

  • robert

    I just want to commend you on your effort to tie education with the products.

    I am a computer engineer and an ex computer science teacher. I see `people around me who have wonderful ideas but, have fear of bringing them to realization. I keep stressing to them that education is the key. Especially self education.

    A quick cople of suggestions:
    1. Create tutorials that are very clear in their delivery and allow for clear levels of classification from beginner to advanced and, with a progression that will lead them through these levels.

    2. Create local store events which encourage people to display their creations and encourage others to purchase, build and, participate.

    We are in a period we people want to innovate but, are overwellelmed by complexity.

    Seriously, I think that you can be the key to spur this on.

  • julia

    I am so glad to see this on this site. A how to person, Finally!! I go to the store’s and ask so many questions about robotics and no one seems to know. Thanks for putting this on the web.

  • bicoid

    I had an interesting conversation this weekend about the reason Sparkfun pulled back from MakerFaire San Mateo.

    As a refreshers, from Sparkfun’s website:
    “Getting quotes for our booth (20×40) the price increased significantly from $15,000 to $60,000. We talked with Make and brought this down to $51,000. We are grateful for the discounts that Make has given us over the years but this was not an amount we could swallow.”

    What this weekend’s conversation was about was Radio Shack was very active in increasing/leveling booth fees of to what they were paying as corporate sponsors, and that this sat very poorly with many exhibitors.

    So can you tell me if there was any discussion by Radio Shack with Maker or O’Reilly about changing the price structures of booths fees away from what had been being charged for previous years?