fbpx A Showcase for DIY Creativity: Obtainium Works, steam engines, Burning Man projects and more at Maker Faire Bay Area | The Steampunk Explorer

A Showcase for DIY Creativity

Obtainium Works, steam engines, Burning Man projects and more at Maker Faire Bay Area

Monday, May 13, 2019
Rearing Horse

Barry Crawford’s Rearing Horse at Burning Man 2018. Photo by Kendrick Moholt Photography.

The world’s largest Maker Faire returns May 17-19 to the San Francisco Bay Area, offering a showcase for DIY invention and creativity in categories that include kinetic art, cosplay, robotics, 3D printing, vehicles, woodworking, needlecraft, and more. Held at the sprawling San Mateo Events Center, it typically draws more than 100,000 visitors over the weekend. It’s one of two flagship Maker Faires, the other being World Maker Faire New York in September.

Steampunk has long been a presence at the event, and though it’s faded a bit in recent years, steampunk enthusiasts can expect plenty to see and do:

• Once again, Obtainium Works will showcase some of its art cars and host a small number of steampunk vendors. The vehicles will include the Rhino Beetle and a new flying saucer art car. (Update: We previously reported that they would bring the Steampunk Rocket Sled, but they decided against it due to the weather forecast, which calls for rain on Saturday and Sunday).

Kinetic Steam Works

• Kinetic Steam Works will be back with its steam-powered kinetic art. Past Maker Faires have featured demonstrations of working steam engines, metal gear casting, and even a steam-powered pencil sharpener.

Steamy Tech will be in the main Expo Hall with its laser-cut kinetic art. Co-owners Lora and Greg Price — easy to spot in their giant hats with spinning gears — are frequent participants at Bay Area steampunk events. At Maker Faire, they’ll be showing the Box of Making, a series of DIY kinetic craft kits available by subscription.

Steamy Tech

• Barry Crawford will be back with Rearing Horse, a 14.5-foot-tall kinetic sculpture first seen at the 2018 Burning Man. A fence surrounding the horse contains hand cranks used to control its movements. Crawford’s Mechateuthis, a giant mechanical squid, has been a highlight of past Maker Faires, but he tells us he won’t be bringing it this year. “I can only bring one sculpture at a time,” he says.

Also from Burning Man: Myriapoda Robota, a 30-foot mechanical centipede made by David Date and David Han, largely from industrial aluminum scrap and LEDs.

Prosthesis, one of the biggest crowd-pleasers from 2018, will also be back. Nearly 14 feet tall and weighing nearly four tons, this human-controlled, electrically powered “exo-bionic” contraption was designed as the flagship for a new mech-racing sport.


Photo: Mark Fong

In addition to being a showcase for DIY projects, Maker Faire provides an opportunity to see enabling technologies such as 3D printers, laser cutters, and CNC milling machines. The schedule also includes lots of workshops and other educational presentations.

Cosplay and Prop-Making

During a press conference last year, Maker Media CEO Dale Dougherty and program director Sabrina Merlo announced an effort to feature more cosplay-related programming, including the first Maker Faire Prop Contest. Once again, makers are invited to show off their masks, wands, headgear, and other accessories for the second annual contest.

The items must be hand-held and consist of at least 75 percent original work. The top 20 entrants will get to demonstrate their props on stage at 3 p.m. on Sunday. Prizes include an Original Prusa 3D printer and a Janome heavy-duty sewing machine. The entry deadline is May 15. See the website for details.

Getting There

The main event takes place Saturday, May 18, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday, May 19, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. One-day adult tickets cost $40 in advance or $50 at the door. Prices for kids (ages 4-17) are $25 in advance or $30 at the door. Weekend passes are also available. We advise that you purchase tickets in advance, given the long lines to get in.

[email protected], on May 17 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., is a special preview day that lets you see the makers without dealing with the huge crowds. Adult passes cost $75, or you can pay $140 for an All Access weekend pass.

The venue is located at 1346 Saratoga Drive in San Mateo. Due to the crowds, you’ll want to get there via public transportation or use one of the offsite parking lots. See the website for details.

Related coverage:

Steampunk “Cools” at Maker Faire (May 28, 2018)

Burners at Maker Faire (May 23, 2018)

Steam-Powered Makers (Feb 27, 2018)

Steampunks Head for Maker Faire (Feb 23, 2018)

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