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Boise Mini Maker Faire Draws out Local Creators

Lectures and Workshops Showcase "How To" Make

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A year ago, a group of local tinkerers laid out plans to bring the popular Mini Maker Faire movement to Boise. The group's dreams came to fruition May 25-26--albeit on a much smaller scale than planners originally envisioned. The inaugural Boise Mini Maker Faire featured displays from more than 100 local makers--including robots, 3-D printers and a 196-square-foot home.

The first day of programming was centered on TED-style talks at the Boise Public Library, while day two offered more hands-on workshops and demos in a science fair format at the Discovery Center of Idaho.

Before noon May 26, visitors flitted about the Discovery Center's regular array of hands-on exhibits, stopping to visit booths set up by local makers.

Children were quickly drawn to a table staffed by Nick Grove of the Meridian Library District and Erica Compton, Idaho Commission for Libraries project coordinator. The pair are part of an initiative to create "maker spaces" in Idaho's public libraries.

"A maker space is really a place where community members can come together and have access to resources, as well as collaboration," said Compton.

Spaces have been created at five libraries across Idaho--including the Meridian Library District, Ada Community Libraries and in northern Idaho--each providing teens tools to build simple robots and other creations. According to Compton, 3-D printers are also headed to the project's pilot libraries.

Open Lab Idaho offers similar opportunities at its "community hackerspace and makerspace," located next to the Reuseum in Garden City. On Sunday, Open Lab members doled out freshly printed plastic octopi to attendees, revealing how 3-D printers can be used to create a variety of objects.

Dan Ray's duck-like robot walked with a pair of 3-D printed plastic feet. Ray, a software developer for Healthwise, Inc., showed off a table full of robots, whose eye-like sensors and distance finders created life-like movements. In fact, many of the Mini Maker Faire exhibits focused on tech creations--robots, quadcopters and circuit boards.

Randy Geile of Handy Chairs--which is helping to foster user-created, DIY wheelchairs--showed remarkable thrift. His chairs incorporate simple plywood, used bicycle components and plastic water bottles to create remarkably robust handmade wheelchairs. Meanwhile, Debbie Hayzlett used colorful wool fibers with soap and water to create three-dimensional fabric vessels. Hayzlett and Geile added a more traditional, craft focus in contrast to the Faire's other high-tech creations.

While children made up much of the audience at the second day of Boise's inaugural Mini Maker Faire, just as many adults asked presenters questions ranging from, "How does that work?" to "Can I try that?" That level of all-ages interest suggests Boise's Mini Maker Faire has legs.