Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood may be best known for its art and hip culture, but Saturday it was all about robots, drones, 3D printers and family fun.
There were all kinds of high-tech and low-tech handmade projects on display at the daylong 2nd annual Miami Mini Maker Faire in Wynwood on Saturday. Not even a 45-minute power outage could dampen the spirit of the event, which attracted about 3,700 — more than double last year’s attendance and nearly half of them kids. About 110 exhibitors participated in the giant block party.
“The Miami Mini Maker Faire is a celebration of our local creatives,” said Ric Herrero, who co-founded the nonprofit MIAMade to foster a local “maker movement.” Fittingly, the Miami Mini Maker Faire itself is a homemade endeavor, run by volunteers with MIAMade, The LAB Miami and a number of partnering organizations and maker groups. “The fact that we had so many more makers and so many more attendees, it shows the maker movement is alive and growing in South Florida,” said Herrero.
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For a second year in a row, The LAB Miami, a coworking center full of entrepreneurs and techies, was the nucleus of the fair, which this year also included the LightBox next door and the Wynwood Warehouse Project across the street. The LAB became one big maker space on Saturday, with interactive exhibits from the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science, Florida International University, StarBot, Miami-Dade Public Libraries, DesignLab and many other organizations, local maker spaces, school groups and small companies. Robots literally took over the LightBox and, for the first time, the fair included a street party with crafters, food trucks and live music.
Inside the LAB, in the Miami science museum’s exhibit with Arts for Learning, a group of middle school students were making shoes. With their designs in hand, they were building prototypes with cardboard. Some of the students, including Dexter Pomilban and Mayisha Perez of Mater Academy of International Studies, were also taking their designs out into the crowds at the fair, doing market research.
The next step will be building 3D models with software and then turning that into 3D-printed shoes, which were all designs that melded artistry with strong engineering. It’s all part of the Shoe In(novation) Design Dash, which involves 24 teams of middle school students from public and private Miami-Dade schools. The winners will take part in The Art of Fashion Show at the Adrienne Arsht Center during Art Basel.
The young shoe makers may be one of the more unusual participants, but there were all kinds of projects on display. The FIU School of Computing and Information Science’s Discovery Lab was showing off a table full of drones it built, including ones designed for border security surveillance.
“A lot of great companies were started in the garage,” said Victor Vincent, who was exhibiting a “Makey Makey” piano you play through carrots. “The maker movement is about exploring that innovation, that creativity. And Miami is a great town to find creative people.”
Daniela Rodriguez, 15, of Archbishop McCarthy High School in Broward, was exhibiting her “brain-powered computer” that can be controlled by movements such as a blink of the eye rather than touch. She said she started the project, which combines her passions for robotics, anatomy and engineering, when she was 12 because she wanted to help people with disabilities, like her mother, to be more independent, including with their technology needs.
The more than a dozen 3D-printing exhibits were very popular with the crowds young and old, including one that would print, well, you. Kids as young as 5 could take part in a coding classes, and older youngsters could learn about civic hacking, using government data to create ways to improve cities, and even space-based technologies through Countdown Institute.
Artists and crafters were out in force, too. Jorge Roldan was showing his robot-like art figures made from recycled materials – parts of clarinets, pool balls, horse shoes, mail boxes, sewing machines and chair legs all went into creating the designs. His son Christopher, 15, collaborates on the projects. “It comes from the heart, and children see things we as adults don’t,” said Roldan.
The street party, new this year, added another dimension to the fair, with people pedaling away on the blender bikes, shopping at the booths, or trying their hand at soldering. Another crowd favorite: a drone that hovered overhead all day shooting video and pictures.
“You could feel the energy, the excitement,” said Tamara Wendt, managing director of The LAB Miami. “One man told me he wishes he could be a kid again.”
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