Making Friends in New Places – Our trips to MakerFaire Detroit and the Toronto Maker Festival

It has been a busy couple of weeks for the MakerBus team. In a two-week period we’ve participated in the Detroit Maker Faire and the Toronto Maker Festival. Now that we’re back in our home of London, Ontario, we wanted to write a quick post about our experiences and the loads of new maker friends we’ve made along the way.

First we’d like to give a huge shout out to the London Economic Development Corporation for sponsoring our trips to Detroit and Toronto. The LEDC gave us information to share with Detroit and Toronto makers about all the exciting jobs opportunities in London’s growing tech sector. Did you know there are more than 150 tech jobs open in London right now? Check out the LEDC business directory to learn more.

Maker Faire Detroit is the third largest event of its kind in North America with more than 30,000 people attend the event in 2014. The organizers of Maker Faire Detroit reached out to the MakerBus team and invited us to come down to the two-day event. While we hoped to bring the actual MakerBus with us to Detroit, we were unable to find an insurance provider to provide us with international coverage.

Since we couldn’t bring the actual MakerBus with us, we decided to do the next best thing and build a MakerBus at the fair. Using our trusty Make-dos and a whole lot of cardboard, we attempted to build a life-sized school bus from cardboard in a single day. We set up shop at the Detroit Maker Faire and invited interested cardboard engineers to help us #buildabus.

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In the end, our bus was closer to children-sized than life-sized, but we succeeded in our goal of a one-day bus build. Sadly Saturday night rain lead to a pretty soggy bus on Sunday. Given that we still had a lot of dry cardboard, we scrapped the water-logged bus and built cardboard costumes instead. As a Sunday afternoon treat we also showed Maker Faire attendees how to blow giant bubbles using our not-so-secret recipe.

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When not at our table the MakerBus team had a chance to explore the rest of the Detroit Maker Faire. One of the most impressive organizations we connected with were Art & Scraps – a Detroit-area non-profit group who recycles unwanted industrial materials into art and craft supplies for disadvantaged communities. In addition to being super cool, caring people, Art & Scraps using a converted passenger bus to deliver free craft supplies to communities who need them the most.

After spending a few short days in London, the MakerBus team packed up once again and headed to the Toronto Reference Library to take part in the Toronto Maker Festival. While it may not have been as big as the Detroit Maker Faire, the Toronto Maker Festival had a amazing sense of community. Toronto-area makerspaces, educators, companies, and makers came together to celebrate creativity in their community.

The MakerBus team gave the opening speech of the Festival, entitled “Why buy a bus? Mobilizing the Maker Movement.” We had a great audience and were able to answer questions about the pros and cons of launching a mobile makerspace.

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As it turns out, many Toronto area makerspaces and educators are thinking about mobilizing their outreach and, as a result, we were able to talk to a lot of different groups about the practical realities of mobile outreach.

One of the most interesting rooms at the Toronto Maker Festival was a darkened space that was used for maker projects involve light. One project used a Microsoft Kinect and projection mapping software to allow people to paint their faces with light projections. There was also a giant laser-cut lite-brite just outside of this room that was a big hit with children.

Looking back on the two trips it was great to see how much making in happening in our region. From giant 3D printers, to wearable technology, to peddle-powered clay wheels, we saw maker projects of all shapes and sizes. Stay tuned to our blog as we’ll have more reflections on Maker Faire Detroit and the Toronto Maker Festival throughout the week.

And once again we’d like to thank the London Economic Development Corporation for supporting us to visit Detroit and Toronto and spread the world about all the amazing makers that live in the Forest City. We’d also like to thank all of our volunteers and supporters during these visits – huge thanks to Kristina, Bryan, Carrie, Alan, Dave, and Henry.

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If you liked this article, why not follow the MakerBus on twitter (@DHMakerBus) or like us on Facebook (/dhmakerbus)? We post some of the most creative maker projects found on the web every day. If you #getonthebus, we promise a fun ride!

-The MakerBus team

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