Second annual Mini Maker Faire is bigger, better, and more fun

by Todd Jones (tejones1971@gmail.com) 85 views 

The Innovation Hub's Joel Gordon gives instructions during the Power Tool Race.

The North Little Rock Mini Maker Faire held its second annual event on May 7, 2016 at the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub. The event attracted vendors and attendees from throughout the state.

The second year saw an expansion and improvements from the first year. The 2016 version had more sections, called worlds, allowing for more projects to be showcased.

One of the new worlds was “The Gaming World” located on the second floor of the Co-Work Space. Arkansas Geek Central and the Little Rock Game Designers Roundup brought various projects that allowed attendees to enjoy playing games.

Tournament World was also new and it was where the Power Tool Drag Racing Tournament, the Pine Derby Car, and the Robot Street Fight were located. The incline beside the Hub served as a de facto set of bleachers for the Power Tool Drag Racing Tournament where the crowd gathered to watch the races.

The second year brought 87 vendors compared to 50 in the first year. More space resulted in more vendors and more attendees. The result of the expansion was a much bigger event for people to enjoy.

“It’s a lot bigger than it was last year, a lot bigger,” Nerd Grrl Crafts owner Michele Langston said. “We were in a third of the space we are in this year, so it’s growing a lot. There’s a lot more variety of things. It’s a lot of fun.”

IMPACT OF THE MAKER FAIRE

While the Maker Faire is a showcase of various projects, it also impacts the community in different ways. One of the ways that the Maker Faire makes an impact is by community engagement. The event is staffed by the Innovation Hub staff and dozens of volunteers who make the event possible.

Volunteers took turns throughout the day manning different areas of the event. Kawaii Scott helped in the volunteer check-in area and said she enjoyed being a part of the Maker Faire. Scott explained one of the reasons she decided to volunteer.

“I am really interested in becoming more involved with the Hub and doing other events, coming here to explore and innovate the ideas I always have going in my head,” she said. “This is a very supportive place for that.”

Scott explained what she thought of her first experience.

Double Trouble won the Power Tool Racing Tournament.
Double Trouble won the Power Tool Racing Tournament.

“What has really impressed me here is the variety of people you have here,” she said. “You have the drones and the blacksmithing just feet from each other. It’s just amazing to see all the different kinds of people, all the different kinds of makers, all the different kinds of crafters come together for innovation.”

Makers and artisans also receive encouragement and validation for their craft.

“It sounded like an awesome event to be a part of,” according to Keytia Long of All Occasions Unique Wrap. “I love being around others who are making things. I have been doing the balloon wrap for years, but this is the first large-scale event that I have done, and I have enjoyed every moment of it. I have enjoyed seeing the crafts and things that others are making as well.”

Simply being a part of the Maker Faire has been a plus for some vendors. Amy Kuykendall from Back Stitch Crazy explained how attending last year helped her business get started.

“Last year was more about putting my toe in the water, while this year I had a lot more creativity after I had a chance to see what people were really into.”

“It gives you a chance to not dive in head first, but dip your toe in the water, meet other people and see what’s popular,” she added.

For Kuykendall, learning the trends, marketing, and improving her craft all started with the Maker Faire last year.

The Maker Faire allowed for a chance for some new Hub members to engage with the local community. Kim Lane, the Director of Digital and Entrepreneurial Programming Hub’s Co-work space explained that some of the team members of the HubX-LifeSciences Accelerator spent their day volunteering at the Maker Faire. It was a chance, as she pointed out, to be involved with their new community in Central Arkansas.

MORE HIGHLIGHTS

One of the most popular events was the Power Tool Drag Race. Racers designed and built their drag race cars using power tools.

Cars with names like The Beast, Double Trouble, Frankenstein, and Footloose battled it out in a tournament format to see which was the fastest, most powerful power tool drag race car. In the end, Double Trouble, one of the smallest cars, outraced every car it faced to win the coveted crown.

The trains from Jacksonville returned this year. Carl Krebs and the Tuscarora Lumber Company were able to occupy the entire STEAM Lab room almost doubling in size from 2015. He told me that they planned to bring a bigger display in 2017. Tuscarora Lumber Company is the host of the Annual Jacksonville Train Show.

A young attendee checks out the train display.
A young attendee checks out the train display.

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