Anouk Wipprecht is a well-known designer of robotic fashion. To her, artistic expression is not enough: She wants her creations to move and breathe and communicate. One of her gowns appropriately called the Spider Dress, senses and communicates quite aggressively if someone is invading the wearer’s personal space because robotic limbs embedded into the shoulder area of the dress will go into attack mode. She created another dress that addresses this in a less aggressive way, by emitting sensual plumes of smoke.
Another garment, created for Britney Spears, uses ink running through the veins of the dress to create artistic expression that is always moving and never the same. And the diva of the Black Eyed Peas wore one of Anouk’s creations, adorned with Swarovski Crystals and optic fibers that light up, while performing at the Super Bowl’s halftime show in 2011.
“I’m from the Netherlands … I didn’t know the Super Bowl meant 12 million watching,” she said. “It was fun but super scary.”
She also created a robotic cocktail dress that quite literally pours a drink for you, and she open-sources her tutorials so you can make one too, she showed a few examples of girls who posted their own re-makes of her designs using lego technic and vex kits.
Over the weekend, Anouk gave a keynote talk about how she envisioned, created and iterated her fashions at Maker Faire Miami, which brought thousands of maker enthusiasts of all ages to the two-day event at Miami Dade College.
“Maker Faires are awesome, they create a meeting place to see all my fellow collaborators and artists. It’s a great place for people to celebrate the notion of innovation, and making and creating together. … Everything here — it’s the future,” said Anouk, who got into robotics when she was 17.
After the hour-long talk, Anouk’s fans crowded around a small table to ask her questions and get a closer look at some of the technology and prototypes of her designs. And that’s what Maker Faires are all about — creating a space for makers and aspiring makers to gather, share creations and advice, learn from the experts in the field and leave inspired to create their own projects.
Maker Faire Miami’s sixth edition, the third one being hosted at Miami-Dade College’s Wolfson Campus in downtown Miami, turned it up a few notches:
More hands-on activities for kids, more show and tell by some of the world’s best-known makers, more interactive booths and opportunities for inquisitive, creative minds to get advice. In all, more than a hundred makers and maker organizations participated with exhibits, and thousands of people attended the Faire.
Maker Faire co-organizer Mario Cruz wanted the Faire to be a place where kids would be inspired to learn more about technology and innovation to level up their skills for the future. Mission accomplished. And, judging by all the smiles, everyone was having a good time, too!
Entering the Faire, it was hard to miss Miami Coral Park’s team of robots who were zipping around the walkway and entertaining the Faire goers. One of them even plays some hoops.
Coral Park, which is a magnet school for engineering, has a very active robotics club with 90 to 100 student members who compete in FIRST Robotics competitions at the highest level and are competing in the World competition in less than two weeks. Coral Park brought its whole team of robots used during the past four years of competitions.
The school’s magnet program teaches all the necessary engineering skills, but the club is where students can really put their skills into practice, said Charlie Delahoz, a teacher who also advises the club. That’s especially true during the 6-week robot building period, said Alexis Cruz, a 10th grader who participates in both the magnet program and the club. They have 6 weeks to go from concept to design, prototyping and building, coding and beta testing.
Some people think robotics is all about the competitions and the fighting, but there is a lot of construction before the destruction part and it gets the kids excited about learning about building things that don’t break, said Andrea Suarez, part of the Miami engineering group behind Team Witch Doctor in the BattleBots television show. It’s about taking a project from start to finish “and doing what you need to do to get it done,” said Paul Grata, a fellow team member.
Paul, Andrea, and other team members gave a talk at the Maker Faire about the process leading up to the televised episodes. In the upcoming season, the shows will be twice as long and will include more behind the scenes color, they said.
As if all this wasn’t enough for this team that also has day jobs in technology, two years ago this Miami BattleBots team opened MakerMIA, a makerspace for the community with classes for kids 6 and up to learn how to build 1-pound robots.
Abby K., an 11 year old student at Pinecrest Academy South, said she didn’t think enough girls at her school were interested in robotics so she set out to
change that. Now she has an active Youtube channel, Vex iCutie, where she offers inspiration and practical tutorials in her videos. She exhibited at the Faire to share why she thinks it’s important for tech to be “Girl Powered.”
Exhibitors came from far and wide to participate in Maker Faire Miami, including A makerspace from Guatemala, a Mayan e-robotics club, and a Machine Perception and Cognitive Robotics lab from FAU, Led by Matt Trask who showcased a physical Raspberry Pi Processing Capacity visualizer which won a Maker of Merit award and was featured on Raspberry Pi’s Blog!
MDC Wolfson Campus’ Maker’s Lab, an interdisciplinary makerspace, exhibited some student-led projects, including a vertical garden, a formula-one car, a fashion project, and an exoskeleton. They also engaged the audience with hands-on activities such as link-together takeaway toys and laser-cut models of current projects at the lab.
FIU Honors College’s EdgeLab, a student-run makerspace space on the FIU campus that is open to the community, also exhibited at the Faire. The goal of this makerspace and others, said Juan Lopez, an advisor for the makerspace and an IT manager for the Honors College, is to build a community of makerspaces to increase access throughout the community. People come in with a general idea of what they want to build but they don’t know how, or they are well along but just need a little guidance, said Honors College student David Rodriguez, a biology major who wants to be a dentist. At Maker Faire, they hosted a Make-A-Button activity so fairgoers had a keepsake they could take home with them.
The Girl Scouts, who were showing some of their STEM creations, particularly enjoyed the presentation of Estefannie Explains it All so much they couldn’t wait to take a photo with her and ask her more questions after the talk. John Park, whose long career in tech includes animation work with DisneyImagineers and hosting a maker show on PBS, says he now has a dream job as a full-time maker for Adafruit, which sells products for makers, so who better to give a talk about ways to share your maker knowledge? Engineer Mohit Bhoite explained how he unleashes his inner-artist by creating free-formed circuit sculptures.
James Brazil unveiled his new book, The Food Wheel, at the end of his talk about urban prototyping. It is the culmination of a project supported by Mano and Maker Faire Miami, in collaboration with university students at the University of Miami School of Architecture. The idea was to design a CNC millable mobile kitchen and urban farm that could simply roll out to different locations and pop-up in various communities. It was a great example of how open-source designs can be used to test changes in our urban landscape.
Maker Ian Cole presented a Magic Wheelchair project, where Maker organizations turn a child’s wheelchair into something magical. “It’s a great project for any maker group that wants to make a difference,” Cole said. In less than four weeks, 27 Makers with MakerFX in Orlando, MakeMIA and other Florida groups transformed young Alex’s wheelchair into Bumblebee of the Transformers. Made from a 60’s VW bug, it also featured an elaborate dashboard and keyboard. “It was pretty featured,” said Cole. Alex loves it so much his parents are giving him a Bumblebee-themed bedroom “so he can have the experience all the time.”
Ian also joined Andrea and other visiting makers in the first ever Power Wheels Racing event in Miami – A national circuit where engineers hack toy electric vehicles and compete for speed, style, and endurance. It was incredibly entertaining to watch a Star Trek Enterprise go head-to-head with a cookie monster, mystery machine, and Star Wars land speeder.
If you wanted to learn more about Quantum Computing, you could do that at a session given by Robert Loredo, Quantum Ambassador and Master Inventor with IBM. IBM put the first Quantum Computer in the cloud and Dylan Parsons, an 8th grader at American Heritage in Delray Beach who took part in the talk, said he incorporated some quantum computing in his science fair project. He gained his knowledge by doing his own internet research and by reaching out to IBM and wants to continue studying quantum computing. “I hope to bring it to a larger scale use like in chemistry and a larger problem,” he said.
In the STEMLab bus, you could learn about how Fairchild Tropical Gardens is trying to reintroduce a million native orchids into Miami. Miami-Dade middle school students are helping Fairchild’s botanists grow the orchids from seeds in a small safe enclosed environment and then over time introducing them to a greenhouse and then into the wild, the urban wild, anyway. More than 200,000 have already been put on trees around the Miami area. They also hosted a hands-on activity where fairgoers could vacuum form their own plant pod. They recently announced their new Innovation Studio in partnership with NASA and Moonlighter Makerspace – where botany and technology will be ever more accessible to the community to dream up and tinker solutions for growing edible plants on the International Space Station. This will be the first ever makerspace in a botanic garden – and will build on the successful research and educational outreach of their Growing Beyond Earth program.
The Maker Faire was all about inspiring the youngest of kids, including a four-some so engrossed in what they were building in MDC’s Lego 305 station they didn’t hear their parents saying it was time to go (or didn’t want to). Children were also contributing to Cristina Serarols’ public art piece made from plastic straws, designed to draw attention to the environmental impact of the plastic. Giovanni Martinez, 10, brought his creation, the “Cherry Copter” – a mix of a plane and helicopter – to the Moonlighter Makerspace booth to proudly put on display. He’s been learning about wood cutting and 3D modeling at Moonlighter, a STEAM Learning center and community Fabrication Lab in Wynwood. They also had projects on display from their after school and camp programs, including a 3D printed moon base for the Airbus Foundation design challenge. Their Summer Camps give kids a chance to build the skills they saw on display all weekend at Maker Faire.
And for kids of all ages, what better souvenir to leave with than an official Maker Faire Miami t-shirt that they made themselves. With the end of a successful Faire weekend, Mario the Maker is already thinking up how to make next year even bigger – bringing in more schools and makers to participate and getting local tech experts to mentor ongoing maker projects. So if you didn’t get a chance to participate this year, you’ll still get to join the movement for 2020.
Maker Faire Miami is presented by Miami Dade College and MANO, and sponsored by The Knight Foundation, Make:, Santander, Prusa Research, Microsoft and Particle. If you’d like to help support this showcase for local Miami Makers, reach out to email@example.com.
By @ndahlberg and @MarioCruz