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Steam-Powered Makers

Creative Anachronism and More at the 2017 Maker Faire

Thursday, June 8, 2017

This article originally appeared on sbealeonline.com.

The do-it-yourself spirit runs strong in steampunk culture, so it's no surprise that many projects at Maker Faire had that wonderful techno-Victorian look. One section was devoted to steampunk, but you could find steampunk-inspired contraptions throughout the fairgrounds. Other projects were not steampunk in the strictest sense, but shared a similar sort of creative anachronism.

Steam-powered pencil sharpener

My favorite project at the 2017 Bay Area event was a steam-powered pencil sharpener from the Oakland-based Kinetic Steam Works. When I remarked to one of the makers that it looked like a steampunk contraption, he corrected me. "We're not steampunks," he said. "We're steam dorks." His point: steampunks may look the part, but his group recreates actual steam-age technology, albeit with 21st century power tools.

Personally, I can admire any work that demonstrates cleverness and creativity, whether it's powered by a steam engine, battery or nothing at all.

Other projects mixed old and new, such as Ramon Yvarra's "Amelia Mouse Piano." Ybarra wrote about the project on Medium, explaining how he converted an old player piano into a MIDI instrument that he could control with a Macintosh.

"Pulse," from Flaming Lotus Girls, is a model of a human heart that emits fire in rhythm to heartbeats. You grab a biosensor mechanism and it starts beating in sync with your heart.

Here's a look at some of the steamy highlights from the 2017 event, plus other projects that caught my eye.

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