Benicia Mini Maker Faire

On Sunday, we set up a pop-up tinkering workshop at Benicia Mini Maker Faire. We brought an arduino powered bubble blowing machine, a new version of our toy dissection tool kit and a bunch of toy parts mounted on circuit blocks. After our event at the TI Flea last month, we decided to buy a small tent to help give us some protection from the elements. Nicole created an eye-catching and playful Wonderful Idea Company sign with sewn-on iterations of our color-changing LED logo.

On the main table, we arranged an expanded set of circuit boards with many recently dissected toy parts. One really funny mechanism (that will double as a great chain reaction element) was a exploring robot that can roll in a straight line or an arc depending on the polarity of the batteries. 

We set up a second smaller space to experiment with PCBs, speakers, and switches from inside the toys. We brought out a variety of resistors, potentiometers and LEDs that we could connect to the circuit boards to try to change or tweak the sounds.

This event also gave us the opportunity to invite a few guest artists/educators to collaborate with us. Marie, Ryoko, and Sarah all spent some time volunteering at our booth during the day and they each made some great contributions to the activities and environment.

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One of the things that we didn't quite have time to finish while preparing for the faire was creating postcards with our website info that we could hand out at the booth. But, luckily, Nicole thought ahead to pack our tortilla press equipment and Marie was game to quickly draw a super fun illustration that we turned into a print and gave out to interested makers.

Ryoko added a handmade touch to our circuit bending blocks by folding cardboard cones to attach to the speakers and amplify the volume. As well, Sarah has been leading some classes at Grey Area on some related topics and offered some great ideas and advice about what we could try next. 

It was a small event, but it was a great opportunity to share some of our recent prototypes and meet like-minded makers. Many people were really interested in the bubble blowing machine and it was nice to think about the connection between investigating old toys and creating new projects with similar tools and materials.

As well, we are continuing to learn about how to develop immersive and engaging pop-up tinkering environments. It was fun to test out extensions for circuit boards and the event gave us another chance to improve our toy dissection tool kit and field guide. There is a great maker community in the Benicia area and we look forward to more chances to play together!

Ryan Jenkins