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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Maker Faire Takes Creativity to New Heights

By James Lomuscio

From a model plane made out of yard signs and household foam insulation soaring high over Jesup Green to a 3-D printer inside the Westport Public Library making a wind turbine to a revolutionary mirror that lets individuals see themselves as they truly are for the first time, the second Annual Mini Maker Faire celebrated innovation today, drawing creators and the curious en masse to the downtown. Image
Westport Library Director Maxine Bleiweis (l) helps a youngster at one of the displays today at the Mini Maker Faire. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Helen Klisser During for

Mark Mathias, a school board member who founded the event last year and now serves as its co-chair, said he expected attendance to be double that of last year.

“So far, we’re expecting 3,000 to 4,000 people,” he said he about the event with displays ranging from robotics demonstrations to comic book art and to violin making to showcasing old computers and amateur radio Morse Code.

Mathias credited a close working relationship with the library for making the event a success. He said that after last year’s inaugural Mini Maker Maire, Library Director Maxine Bleiweis set aside a section for “Maker Space,” an area creative minds can work on hands-on projects throughout the year.

“This whole thing isn’t just one day,” Bleiweis said as she headed into the library where 22 exhibitors were shocasing their work. “We’re committed to participatory learning and bringing together people of all ages and stages of life to be creative and bring things to market.”

One such person was Ben Shey, a Staples High School Junior, who has been working with his friend Noah Johnson on a scuba propulsion vehicle.

“A scuba diver would lie on it, and it would propel him,” Ben said of his handiwork, a fiberglass reinforced carbon fiber and aluminum craft propelled by two electric propellors. “It’s sort of like an underwater Jet Ski.

“It’s neutrally buoyant, which means it wil stay whereever you put it underwater,” he added.

Not far away was Christopher Tomko, a Redding homeschooled high school sophomore who built a jet engine based on plans he got off the Internet.

“I’ve always been fascinated by jets and thier technology,” he said, showing a video of the engine fireiing up rather than attempt to start it under the huge whte tent.

In addition to new technology, the event also celebrated the past with members of the Mid-Atlantic Retro Computing Hobbyists (MARCH) recreating one of the rarest computers, a 1976 Apple 1, only 50 of which exist today.

“We’re the same as an antique car club, but instead of gearheads, we’re chip heads,” said Evan Koblentz, president and founder.

Jim Walker, a member of the Greater Norwalk American Radio Club,  was eager to show off old amateur radios that used only Morse Code, not voice. Water said he loves the old technology, “because I can understand it,” as well as the fact it paved the way to all the new technology, such as the robotics displays, being presented.

Sometimes creativity can be found in the simplest of things, and for John Walter of Poughkeepsie, N.Y. it was a discovery made when he was at a party and sitting near two mirrors are right angles to each other.

He recalled noticing that the reflection in the center of the two was not a flat reversed image, but a true one. He perfected what he saw, and the result was the True Mirror Company, mirrors that allow one to see his or her reflection exactly as others do.

“This is a distortion,” he said of his reflection in a regular mirror. “Every person has a distorted image of themselves.”

Mathias said he was grateful not only for the library helping to sponsor the event, but for providing the maker space yearround. He said that when a library director makes room for such innovation, “that means it’s important.”


Posted 04/27/13 at 07:49 PM


Comment Policy

On behalf of the 60+ members of the Westport Mini Maker Faire Organizing Committee, thanks to our sponsors (, the makers ( and the Town of Westport.

There are three organizations I wish to specifically thank.

First, Westport Sunrise Rotary Club who has early and generously supported both of the Westport Mini Maker Faires, including this year’s Rotary Pavilion at the Faire.

Second, GVI (Green Village Initiative) has also early and generously supported both Maker Faires.  Dan Levinson immediately understood the value of Maker Faires.

Third, the Westport Library for their commitment to the Maker Faire, leadership not only in Westport, but for libraries and communities around the world, and for their dedicated and very effective staff.  In particular, Bill Derry, the Maker Faire co-chair has been a consistently strong and valuable asset plus great to work with.

Finally, thanks to the thousands of people who attended yesterday, had such a good time, made the Maker Faire such a magnificent event and showcased the creativity and innovation that we have in Connecticut and the surrounding area.

Mark Mathias
Founder and Co-Chair
Westport Mini Maker Faire

Posted by Mark Mathias on April 28, 2013 at 10:50 AM | #

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