On October 8, the 2016 Charlotte Mini Maker Faire was held at Discovery Place Science. From audience to venue, the event played a number of roles. Local makers who had previously attended the event and others like it saw another opportunity to exhibit the things they were creating. For newcomers, it showcased the things that can be done with technology, art and everyday tools. In addition to these groups, the venue of Discovery Place proved more than adequate shelter from the wind and rain caused by Hurricane Matthew, which meant not only something to do for locals on a rainy day, but a great destination for those who had to evacuate from areas to the south and east and would otherwise be stuck in a hotel.
From ShopBot’s stance as exhibitor, this year’s Charlotte Mini Maker Faire was also different. Not only did they have the help of Eric Schneider, a local maker and Handibot owner from nearby Davidson, NC, but had to improvise the setup since the booth had been moved indoors (ShopBot’s was one of the stations originally planned to be outside on Tryon Street). The new location was Kids U, a multipurpose room that usually houses bugs, snakes and other critters, which were cleared out to spare them from the noise and crowd. The space was shared with Southern Piedmont Woodturners, a nonprofit organization dedicated to spreading the art and education of woodworking.
In true maker fashion, the experience was defined by improvisation. With the new location, people would have a hard time locating both groups. Luckily, Discovery Place had a five-foot-long T. Rex they had cut on their in-house ShopBot. The dino was put to work right away to help guide visitors over to the station. Immediately outside the room, Eric set up his printmaking station. He cut a set of letter and character stamps on his Handibot, as well as a series of layered pumpkin prints that, when used in a certain order, created a striking glow-in-the-dark print that anybody could make. The stamps proved not only popular with kids, but made parents and makers wonder how they were cut and drew them into Kids U, where they could see the Handibot in action, cutting names and figures drawn in SmoothSketch with FabMo, ShopBot’s wireless interface software.
Despite all the last minute planning and changes, the Charlotte Mini Maker Faire was a huge success. Rather than prove a hindrance, the rain and wind actually drove a new audience into Discovery Place Science. Makers from all over the Charlotte area and beyond were able to share all the creative and interactive things they were doing, which provided a day full of welcome distraction from Hurricane Matthew and its effects.