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Maker Faire Celebrates Do-It-Yourself-Culture


Thousands of people gathered at the New York Hall of Science this weekend for what's called the World Maker Faire. It was the third an annual celebration of 21st century Do-It-Yourself culture, with workshops, speakers and demonstrations.

But, as reporter Stan Alcorn discovered, the main attraction is the makers themselves.

STAN ALCORN, BYLINE: At the center of the World Maker Faire is Katy Perry.

JESSE GREEN: Katy Perry is the unicorn that we made for a friend's wedding.

ALCORN: This standard carousel horse was named after the singer after being modified by Jesse Green.

GREEN: She sneezes glitter and she shoots colored methanol fire out of her horn.


CHRIS ANDERSON: Flame shooting is a long Maker Faire tradition.

ALCORN: Chris Anderson's new book "Makers" comes out Tuesday. He thinks we shouldn't let the bright green flames blind us to a broader Maker Movement, which is leading everyone become a manufacturer the same way that the Web let everyone be a publisher.

ANDERSON: You know, the Web has got, you know, cat videos and it's got Facebook. The point is that there's room for everybody.

ALCORN: There does seem to be room for everybody at Maker Faire. There's a race track for electric cars, classes in lock picking and crochet; there's even a trapeze for circus acrobats. But what connects them all? I asked Maker Faire founder Dale Dougherty.

DALE DOUGHERTY: I think it's sort of this notion of participatory culture where we do things, we make things. You know, we're not just consumers, we're producers.

ALCORN: Producers with an increasingly sophisticated set of tools.

DOUGHERTY: There's kind of a burgeoning democratization of technology where things that only professionals use are now accessible and affordable for amateurs.

ALCORN: For instance, infrared sensors. By hiding 12 of them in a fish tank, and programming each one to play a different tone when a fish swims by, Chris Losee and his daughter Jules created the Musiquarium.


JULES LOSEE: Last year, we did an instrument called the Slugophone. And it was basically the same thing, except it involved caterpillars.

ALCORN: There are more utilitarian makers here too. Andy Wekin is a mechanical engineer who consults with farms. He's showing a steady stream of kids what it feels like to generate 100 watts of power on a bicycle.

ANDY WEKIN: So that's like a television right there, you're pedaling the television.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Daddy, listen (unintelligible).

ALCORN: His Pedal Power project is meant to be practical; powering a water pump for a rooftop farm in Brooklyn, for instance. But he likes that people here also see it as art.

WEKIN: I really do see the art and the maker and the do-it-yourself and the inventor as all part of a spectrum. It's fun to have that interplay.

ALCORN: Kim Holleman is from the art side of the spectrum. She's here presenting Trailer Park, a working ecosystem housed in an 18-foot silver trailer. At galleries, people ask her abstract questions, but at Maker Faire...

KIM HOLLEMAN: I've already like described drip irrigation system, the construction of the planter beds, what size the brick is.

ALCORN: Not that Holleman minds.

HOLLEMAN: People have already asked me if they could take this idea, and I've already told them, like I'm going to take yours. You better take mine.


ALCORN: Holleman calls it open source art. Or you could just call its sharing.

For NPR News, I'm Stan Alcorn in New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Stan Alcorn