Courtesy of Maker Faire
The MegaBots fighting robot the Mk.II was shown to the 2015 Maker Faire Bay Area crowd. A new version called Mk.III will be unveiled to the public for the first time this weekend at the San Mateo County Event Center.
From a 12-ton giant fighting robot making its first public debut before it takes on a Japanese opponent, to protein bars made from leftovers in the craft brewery process, the curious creators cultivating the maker movement are descending into the Bay Area this weekend.
Homegrown right here in San Mateo, the 12th annual Maker Faire Bay Area is enlivening the San Mateo County Event Center this weekend. Whether it’s the newest in health care technology, beekeeping instructors or even spaces designed to engage kids’ creativity, the ever-expanding world-renowned event is tying it all together.
Oh, and of course, there’s robots!
Flying robots, underwater robots, fighting robots, racing robots, Star Wars-themed robots and others will showing off their mechanical marvels.
“Maker Faire attendees, no matter who you are or what age you are, all seem to love robots and we literally have hundreds of them,” said Maker Faire spokeswoman Bridgette Vanderlaan.
One of the premier showcases this weekend will be from MegaBots — the bold Hayward-based company gearing up for battle. Literally, the California robotics team challenged a Japanese competitor to a robot fighting duel that’s slated to go down this August.
In 2015, MegaBots showcased its Mk.II. Now, having spent a few years tuning their 16-foot-tall, 430-horsepower fighting machine, the Mk.III will be presented to the public for the very first time, Vanderlaan said.
“I think the audience here is absolutely going to love it because it’s like a giant transformer basically,” she said. MegaBots has “been working night and day, around the clock to have it ready for Maker Faire. People are going to love it and it will be the first time the public gets to see it.”
This year will also be the largest Maker Faire held at its flagship birthplace with hundreds of exhibitors, creators and activities for attendees of all ages. Started in 2006, its popularity has expanded across the globe with 191 fairs attracting nearly 1.5 million attendees last year.
This weekend, Maker Faire Bay Area has seen an increase in food and health exhibitors. It’s a broad range from beekeeping and urban agriculture, to a mouth-controlled device enabling people to operate a touch screen and a brain-wave-mapping smart earphone.
The Home Grown Village section will return so people can learn about various sustainable practices and even a few tricks in the kitchen like pickle making and kombucha brewing. Another highlight this year is the Italian nonprofit the Future Food Institute, which focuses on the cultural, economic, community and environmental importance on a global scale.
“Being in the Bay Area where people care about their food sources and urban farming and things like that, it’s been really popular,” Vanderlaan said, adding the Future Food Institute focuses on things like agriculture in constrained areas or feeding Third World countries. “And obviously Silicon Valley is super interested in that because it’s impacting the world.”
This year, they’ve also experienced an uptick in those looking to showcase products or concepts related to the health care sector, she said.
“We’re seeing more because of the tech combination and people who actually care about health and the environment. Makers are always driving that lead, and experimenting and looking at solutions before a lot of companies do,” she said. “And with all the issues brought up with what’s happening now, makers are trying to find solutions for things like affordability and what works better.”
On Friday, a curated health care tour is being hosted where a variety of makers and innovators can discuss how technology is driving the industry.
During the same “sneak peak” Friday, nearly 4,500 students and chaperones will have the opportunity to mingle with the makers on a less crowded day. Many of the kids and schools wouldn’t otherwise be able to attend, and a number of scholarships were awarded to enable kids from kindergarten to high school to come and explore, she said.
“Maker Faire is really about bringing that passion and making things that aren’t always offered in school,” Vanderlaan said. “There’s hands-on activities and just being able to experience making things, all the different things at Maker Faire, whether it’s science, or building rockets, or crafts, there’s a broad spectrum.”
The fair is geared toward people of all ages and demographics. There’s a giant clothes swap, the life-size mousetrap, a pedal-powered music stage, pyrotechnic displays and more.
But squeezing all this into the San Mateo County Event Center has forced Marker Faire to not offer any parking this year. Attendees are strongly encouraged to consider taking mass transit, using one of the fair’s shuttles after parking at designated off-site lots, or hailing a ride share.
Now in its 12th year, Maker Faire was born and bred right here in San Mateo before going on to become a global phenomenon. So whether you’re a tech savvy computer coder, someone who likes to cook or a parent looking to inspire your kids, there’s plenty to discover, Vanderlaan said.
“Just come experience it for yourself,” she said. “Even if you don’t think you’re a maker or creative, everyone has it in them. Come learn something new.”
Maker Faire runs May 19-21. Visit makerfaire.com for ticket and event information.
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