A Weekend of Family Fun at the Portland Mini Maker Faire

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The Maker Faire is, of course, a celebration of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math). Improbable machines, hands-on activities, and lots of robots. I moved to Portland from the Kansas City area, where we had a large regional Maker Faire. You’d think that Portland’s smaller, Mini Maker Faire would be a bit of a letdown. Arc Attack was not showing up in Portland. Well, you’d be wrong. Portland’s Mini Maker Faire is my favorite Maker Fair. Why?

Portland Mini Maker Faire
Building a CNC-modeled pinewood car for a racing. Photo by Marziah Karch

Because there are still a lot of things to do, and not nearly as many people waiting to do them. Portland’s Mini Maker Faire still draws a crowd over at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI), but most hands-on activities only require a ten-minute wait. In Kansas City, sometimes you were lucky if you could get close enough to a display to touch it, and hands-on activities are so difficult to manage that most booths simply do not offer them.

Demonstrating proper Nerf arrow technique at the Tracker PDX booth.
Demonstrating proper Nerf-arrow technique at the Trackers Earth booth.

Portland also has a great maker culture and activities designed for all ages and all technology comfort levels. Trackers Earth offered archery lessons (with crowd-friendly Nerf-tipped arrows) and hands-on survival skills for kids. Re-Wild Portland showed rope-making and basket weaving. The Oregon Potters Association offered kids a chance to make clay sculptures as part of a future exhibit.

Participants wore a sticker showing that they (or their guardian) had agreed to the liability waiver for activities like riding on giant “kinetic sculptures” (aka – large homemade, multi-person bikes) and hacking around on giant ice blocks to learn about ice sculpture.

Kids chisel ice sculptures.
My kids chisel ice sculptures. Photo by Marziah Karch.

For those interested in technology and games, the PIG Squad (Portland Indie Gamer Squad) offered demonstrations of current and upcoming games designed by members, and Portland’s own Weird City Games offered demos of March of the Ants. TWIS (This Week in Science) set up a booth demonstrating how to podcast.

There were also weird and wonderful creations all around, including a Stranger Things inspired message wall at the Intel booth and a roaming steampunk R2D2 made out of what looked like an old wooden hot tub and other parts.

The only thing that would make the Portland Mini Maker Faire more amazing is if it weren’t running at the same time as Rose City Comicon. Read Will James’ review of that convention in GeekDad.