The annual Country Fair at Conner Prairie Interactive History Park is a chance for families to enjoy antique tractor parades, hayrides, and heirloom foods.
This year, innovations of the past will be joined by the most inventive art, craft, and technology of the present with the addition of the Indy Mini Maker Faire. On view this weekend are ten-foot-tall robots, beaded jewelry, a seven-person bicycle, and more.
The Art Of Mechanical Reproduction
Whether they’re high-tech or off the grid, all of the participants in the Indy Mini Maker Faire identify as makers. So what is a maker, exactly?
Carina Eizemendi, an experience developer at Conner Prairie Interactive History Park, says makers are connected by their desires to invent and to be free from the constraints of manufactured goods.
It’s certainly not rejecting technology, but embracing technology and saying no, I own this. There’s also a mantra saying ‘if you can’t open it, you can’t own it.’ So if you don’t know how to repair something, it’s almost as if the company that manufactured it still owns it and you’ve just paid for the usage of it, and it’s not really yours. That’s more of the mindset. So the ability to say ‘I want this to do something else,’ to say I want to hook up this speaker to something else, or do something it wasn’t intended to. Or I want, there’s a student project that’s coming, I want to have a robotic arm that I can control with my brain only. That’s kind of a cool thing.
Build Your Own Adventure
Along with the robot controlled solely by brain power, other new technologies will be on display at the Mini Maker Faire. Doug Keenan, one of the makers, designs and builds his own four-color 3D printers using industrial technology that has been adapted for use on a smaller scale. With these printers, Doug can render three-dimensional objects ranging from business card holders to dice to glow-in-the-dark house numbers.
From his workshop in Indianapolis, Doug explains that the printer works by heating ABS plastic–the same kind used to make Legos. “Then, while it’s melting the plastic and pushing it down into a straight stream, the robot is moving the bed beneath it in a single X-Y plain.” The bed moves to create the design, one thin layer at a time, building three-dimensional objects from the bottom up.
Makers are working to develop new applications for 3D printing outside of the art and engineering workshops where it is widely used. Eventually, they want to make the technology more accessible to the public.
Taking Tech Out Of The Factory
“I think it’s really going to change how everyone does everything in art and engineering, because you can basically, if you can design something in CAD, you can print it. You can print it and make a 3D object out of it, out of any material you choose,” says Carina Eizmendi.
Doug Keenan agrees. He believes 3D printing helps him to re-conceptualize what is possible. “We have a brand new design space that’s open in our head, where you used to have to wait for industry to manufacture what you needed,” he says. “That’s kind of the philosophy behind the maker movement: that you don’t have to wait for somebody to make what it is you want.”
Low-Tech And State Of The Art
Musician Brad Hoyt is taking advantage of this new design space as well. After spending years searching for the perfect instrument, he has designed his own one-of-a-kind harp guitar. He’ll be showing it off at the Indy Mini Maker Faire.
“A harp guitar is like a guitar, it has fretted strings like a guitar, but it also has open strings that are meant to be played,” Hoyt says. “In my case, I have open bass strings and I also have open super treble strings, which are short strings that appear on the lower end of the guitar, in addition to fretted strings.”
Brad’s instrument may be acoustic, but it required state of the art technology to build. He and luthier Steven Sedgwick even had to design a new tuning system, using deconstructed viola bows.
That’s the maker spirit Brad Hoyt and Doug Keenan will be evangelizing at the faire.
Brad Hoyt believes the “maker mentality would be the mentality of: Whatever idea I have in my head, I want to make it a reality. That’s what happened with this instrument, it didn’t exist before, so it became a reality. It’s very cool.”
And Doug Keenan wants everyone to get into the maker mentality. “We’ve only scratched the surface. That’s the thing. I really like that it enables people to just let their imagination go, not be restricted by what somebody else wants to make you for you. Have at it.”
Indy Mini Maker Faire
A festival celebrating art, craft, technology, invention, and the DIY mindset. Held in conjunction with the Country Fair.
Conner Prairie Interactive History Park
Saturday, September 17 10a-5pm and Sunday, September 18 11am-5pm
$14 adults, $13 seniors, $9 youth. Admission to Country Fair incl.