Science and the arts are finally friends.
All things creative and innovative will be showcased at the first-ever San Luis Obispo Mini Maker Faire on Saturday in Mission Plaza.
The fair is a local, “mini” version of an international phenomenon sparked by the trending do-it-yourself movement started in 2005 in San Mateo, Calif.
Hosted locally by the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art (SLOMA), the Mini Maker Faire “is a mix of art, arts and crafts, craftsmen, tinkering and techies,” assistant director Rebecca Leduc said.
“It’s a chance for these makers and the DIY movement to show off, and each booth will have some sort of interactive demo or activity, so they really get people involved in understanding what they do and what they make,” Leduc said.
While there will be a few commercial makers at the fair, “it’s less about selling,” Leduc said, “and more about the idea of show-and-tell, explaining how things are made and getting people actively involved in the process.”
The Mini Maker Faires are toted “as the greatest show-and-tell on Earth,” Leduc said.
SLOMA took it a step further by incorporating sustainability into the SLO Mini Maker Faire’s “show-and-tell” theme.
“It’s meant to be a zero-waste fair, so we’re really trying to focus on sustainability and limiting waste,” Leduc said.
Along with displaying the day’s recycling and trash in transparent bags to show the public what is being consumed at the fair, a team of Cal Poly students and professors designed the fair’s centerpiece — a colorful, interactive, pneumatic or plastic inflated structure, constructed on a scaffolding in a way that pieces of plastic can be taken off the structure and given to visitors as bags.
“So if people have little toys or projects that they’re walking away from the fair with, they’ll be able to use these bags as a little tote bag souvenir,” Leduc said. “That will be a way we’re not just throwing away the structure at the end.”
The petal structure was designed and built by an interdisciplinary team of architecture and liberal arts and engineering studies (LAES) students under faculty adviser architecture professor Thomas Fowler and LAES professor David Gillette.
After the class of approximately 30 LAES students came up with four design proposals, Fowler’s 12-person community design independent study class, called Integrated Projects Group or IPG (and mostly architecture and landscape architecture students), took the most affordable and possible designs and came up with a structure through three weeks of feedback and redesigning that eventually evolved into the 12-feet wide, 8-feet tall temporary petal structure.
“It was a brainstorming process,” Fowler said. “It was pitching the idea of having a centerpiece that gives the fair a Central Coast identity. It’s one thing to invite all these people and get the generic pop-up tents from Costco or Big 5, and it’s another to have this structure that identifies with both the Mini Maker Faire and the Central Coast.”
The students took extra care to ensure the pneumatic petals were zero waste. Every part of the plastic sheets (donated from a man in Los Angeles) were used — even the excess plastic left after the petals were cut out were made into scraps for the bags or integrated into the structure.
“They are trying to be as responsible as they can,” Fowler said. “And at the same time, making sure it’s safe, it’s going to work. In some ways, students become experts in this whole process.”
After almost eight weeks of preparation, Fowler said the structure has become “the iconic piece for the fair.”
“It’s like walking inside a flower,” Fowler said. “Without it, it’s just pop-up tents and people. It’s a bit mysterious and elusive because that will attract people to come see the real thing.”
Besides the pneumatic structure design team, the Cal Poly Audio Engineering Society, KCPR and Engineers Without Borders will have booths at the fair.
“The students have really stepped up,” Leduc said. “It’s great, and they are really essential to making the fair a success. It’s been fun to see that develop.”
While almost 200,000 people attend the mother Maker Faire in San Mateo, Leduc said she expects between 1,000 and 2,000 attendees at San Luis Obispo’s.
“Because it’s the first year, it’s hard to anticipate,” she said. “That’s a huge range, but we’ll see.”
The idea of San Luis Obispo’s Mini Maker Faire is less than a year old — it was proposed to SLOMA exhibitions and development director Ruta Saliklis in September by materials engineering professor Kathy Chen.
“She had been to the one in San Mateo and wanted to bring it to SLO,” Saliklis said. By January the event was approved, “so we hurried up and got one together, one thing led to another and we started reaching out to other organizations that would want to be involved.”
The event is free, and all ages are welcome.
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