Whether they want to try their hand at book binding or rocket launching, visitors to this year’s Maker Faire can rest assured they won’t be passive observers at the three-day event aiming to spark their imaginations at the San Mateo County Event Center.

Heading into his 14th year bringing the event to life, Dale Dougherty, event founder and CEO of Maker Media, noted that seeing visitors of all ages discover something new at the dozens of exhibits never gets old.

Dougherty said he’s seen many a parent’s face light up after watching their kids give soldering a try, and is hoping to amplify that joy of learning in this year’s offerings, which range from lacemaking to biohacking, set to give visitors a chance to extract DNA and make polymers for bioprinting.

Though Dougherty has seen interest in the event remain high throughout its 14-year run, he acknowledged that corporate sponsorships have been harder to secure in recent years and event coordinators have had to watch their costs more closely. Though the event has benefited from long-standing support from companies like Google, Dougherty noted the event doesn’t receive charitable or government support and relies on ticket sales and its ability to secure corporate sponsorships, which he said have been lagging.

“We’ve had to … really watch our costs this year more than ever,” he said. “I am worried that I don’t know what the future holds for the event.”

The event this year, however, is expected to engage visitors in a wide array of hands-on activities and give them a dose of event favorites like a mech racer called Prosthesis, which looks like a large mechanical spider piloted by humans.

“Part of our goal is to get people involved and engaged, to sit down and do something and meet other people,” he said.

Though he said event coordinators haven’t necessarily put out a call for sustainability-themed projects, Dougherty said they’ve received an increasing number of submissions from those focused on sustainability issues, among which he included an effort to refurbish a 32-foot submarine and teach others about deep sea life.

Sabrino Merlo, managing director of the Maker Faire, noted a booth dedicated to homesteading techniques and do-it-yourself food is an example of the deeper level of engagement event coordinators are hoping visitors experience this year.

Merlo said her team has sought to rein in the event’s focus this year so visitors get to engage with specific exhibits and projects and share the experience of learning together.

“We’ve done a little bit tighter of a selection across the projects,” she said. “We still have eight stages, it’s still more than you can take in.”

Acknowledging the high cost of producing events in the Bay Area, Dougherty said he still felt it was fitting to hold the event in Silicon Valley, known by many to be an innovation center. He said event coordinators may have to re-envision what the Maker Faire looks like in the future, and are very proud the organization have been able to offer it for 14 years.

Dougherty and Merlo said dozens of workers and volunteers help put on the event involving some 175,000 square feet of installations and exhibits. Merlo said she is looking forward to seeing sculpted installations such as a 14.5-foot rearing horse whose movements can be controlled by cranks and a large, spread-winged bald eagle covered in coins. She added a stage dedicated to YouTube stars committed to a wide array of creative projects is also set to captivate audiences and bring the community closer together.

Dougherty pegged DIY Robocars, operated in part on autonomous car software, as an exhibit set to draw of crowd of all ages. But for Dougherty, the reason why he started the event 14 years ago is perhaps the exhibit he’s looking forward to most — seeing creative people share their interests.

“Engaging with other people in this positive way, you can’t do that online, you can’t do that on social media,” he said. “I think they’re modeling the kind of future we want to have.”

Maker Faire will be held May 17 to May 19 at the San Mateo County Event Center, 1346 Saratoga Drive. Visit makerfaire.com/bay-area-2019/schedule for a full schedule of activities. Visit makerfaire.com/bay-area/call-for-makers to learn more about volunteer opportunities at the Maker Faire.

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