Northern Virginia Maker Faire


The 4th annual Northern Virginia Maker Faire was upgraded this year from a “mini” faire to a full faire. This was the first time I attended this particular Maker Faire. It definitely had a large number of exhibitors, as well as a speaker track and special programs for educators. It took place mostly inside the local high school and adjacent junior high, with some outdoor exhibits as well. It was rather spread out, having to follow arrows down hallways to find some of the exhibit areas, but that likely can’t be helped, as it’s the nature of the school layout and how the larger areas (e.g., gyms and cafeteria) are laid out.

The overwhelming preponderance of exhibits were aimed at kids, and the attendees also slanted to families. I’d have liked a bit more exhibits oriented towards adult makers. There definitely were a number of such exhibits, I’d have just liked more. The weather may have played a role here with outdoor exhibits. It was cold and it rained in the morning. Some of the outdoor events like the trebuchet didn’t get set up until later in the afternoon, and if Local Motors, one of the advertised exhibitors, was present, I missed them.

Sample of Exhibits

Here’s some of the exhibits I spent some time at:

Who doesn’t like trebuchets? This backyard-sized model will definitely shoot tennis balls well past the neighbor’s yard.

The Dorkpod (yes, that’s its name) is a vertical electric vehicle, built using an electric wheelchair as the propulsion system. You can download free plans or buy various kits (minus the propulsion system) at the inventor’s website:

The EEG Neuron links a brain wave reader to an LED-equipped model neuron

I found the EEG Neuron project to be quite interesting, and the one photo I got doesn’t do it justice. A head mounted device picks up your brain signals and passes it through a micro-computer to light up various multi-color LEDs that are along a model neuron.

Backyard Blacksmith

There were several blacksmithing exhibits. This one was based on a home-built forge that uses charcoal as fuel and a shop vac to fan the forge. The most expensive item, by far, is the anvil.

Always want to have duct tape handy!

The Fairfax Count  Community Emergency Response Team had an exhibit where they were demonstrating how to use duct tape to make an improvised compression bandage and providing duct tape and either a length of cord (shown here) or a piece of cardboard to wrap a small section of tape around so you’d always have some handy. They have a free CERT training class coming up later this spring.


If you have kids, I’d recommend definitely checking out next year’s event. If you’re an adult and haven’t been to a Maker Faire before, I’d say it’s still worth a couple hours of your time to check out. Having been to last year’s National Maker Faire and now this one, I’m not sure it’s worth my time to attend next year, but I’ll check out the planned exhibitors before deciding.


National Maker Faire 2016

I attended the National Maker Faire held over Father’s Day weekend at the University of the District of Columbia, and thought I’d share some observations and pictures. They’ve added the National Maker Faire to the list of flagship faires around the US, along with the original Bay Area and World Maker Faires. I’ve been to the World Maker Faire once, and from that and what I’ve heard of the Bay Area Faire, the National Faire is much smaller than either. You could certainly see it all in less than half a day. It’s also a bit random in its layout, as it makes use of several areas of campus buildings and grounds. Unlike the other two major faires, I would not travel from out of town to see this one. But for anyone on the greater DC area, I found it well worth my time.

It’s not new, but I hadn’t seen the Intel Arduino 101 board before. I’d have loved if it had WiFi but the built in real-time clock, bluetooth, accelerometer, and gyro make it quite interesting. Apparently the Curie system on a chip module it’s build around also has a 128-node neural network for machine-learning, but there is, at least as of now, no software released to access it.

Ability3D had a table promoting their planned 3d metal printer, with a kickstarter campaign planned for January 2017. They were showing a development prototype model (the final consumer product to be smaller). It prints with powdered metal. I believe they said they were targeting the several thousand dollar range for price, so not inexpensive for a home printer, but an order of magnitude cheaper than current metal powder printers.
Nova Labs, one of the local area makerspaces, was also there with some interesting demos and projects.

There was also a lock picking village put on by TOOOL, which was quite full when I went by. It was also nice to see a short waiting line for the “Learn to Solder” hands on booth. How often do you see people lining up to learn to solder? Unfortunately for some reason the drones only were being flown on Saturday, and there were no drone demos when I went on Sunday.

Below are a number of photos from the event:

Learn to Solder hands on exhibit

Learn to Solder hands on exhibit

Ability3D's booth. Developing a home metal powder 3D printer

Ability3D’s booth. Developing a home metal powder 3D printer

Cardboard pinball kits, with options to add arduino, electronics, servo, etc. There's going to be an upcoming kickstarter campaign.

Cardboard pinball kits, with options to add arduino, electronics, servo, etc. There’s going to be an upcoming kickstarter campaign.