Last month, Concordia University hosted the Montréal Mini Maker Faire! Co-presented by Maker Media with an organizational team drawn from the Milieux Institute for Arts, Culture and Technology and the Montréal making scene, the event was a diverse showcase of engineers, artists, scientists, and crafters. Described as a the Greatest Show (& Tell) on Earth, it celebrated the city’s rich maker scene.
- Hosted at Concordia University in Montréal on November 16 & 17
- 70+ exhibitors, speakers, and performers.
- Over 2000 attendees.
- 40 volunteers to help run the event.
Of course, one of the most common questions visitors have about the event is: “what exactly is a maker?” Dr. Bart Simon, co-director of this year’s Mini Maker Faire and associate professor at Concordia, admits that the term can be a bit difficult to pin down.
“We left the definition very open! The word ‘maker’ tends to call to people, but it doesn’t designate anything in particular – it could refer to tinkerers, hobbyists, DIY’ers, engineers, artists, and more. So it speaks to a lot of different constituencies and, in a sense, is something we like to call a boundary object. Everybody has a take on it and, because they have a take on it, they can have a different conversation about it.”
Looking through the long list of exhibitors at the Faire, it’s clear to see why the term can evade a simple definition. Although featuring a bevy of stereotypical maker activities and technologies such as 3D printers, micro-controllers, and other electronics, the sprawling event floor was home to much more. There was a strong contingent of green tech projects – environmental works focusing on upcycling, recycling, and remaking – as a well as pieces that skewed more towards interaction design and new media arts.
Musical Sidewalk by Montreal’s Daily tous les jours was perhaps the most prominent among these interactive installations. Catching the eye of visitors in the Mini Maker Faire’s black box area, attendees were invited onto a super-sized dance pad that dynamically reacted to their shadows with the sounds of singing.
“Daily tous les jours coming with their shadow sidewalk installation was a nice addition,” Simon noted. “They’re professional studio designers that do huge contracts all over the world and it was great to have them in the mix with all the other projects.”
In addition to the exhibitors set up in the main floors, the Mini Maker Faire pulled together a Saturday Speaker Series featuring over a dozen presenters. Split into two halves, Adventures in Making and Meet Your Maker, the talks mixed professional, hobbyist, and academic perspectives on maker culture.
Drawing what was perhaps the largest crowd of the day was Ann-Louise Davidson’s session, Les jeunes et la culture maker / Youth and Maker Culture, which included students from various area CEGEPs and schools. Recently, Davidson collaborated with a youth group from Maison des Jeunes Côte-des-Neiges, who used 3D printer technology to fabricate a dragon Halloween costume designed to fit over a wheelchair. The costume was prominently featured during the talk, donned by Grade 5 student Émile Laliberté.
Despite its successes, Simon admits that putting on the Mini Maker Faire was a bit of gamble for the organizational team at Milieux. “In a lot of ways, we’re not really qualified to put on an event of this size,” he laughs. “So why would we want to do it?”
“I wanted to challenge the students and faculty at Mileux to try and make something extremely big in very short period of time. So this was really a giant experiment – an experiment in communicating, working with, and playing host to members of the public. It’s really meant to ask ourselves the question: can we, as researchers, orchestrate something that is a bit more process involved, difficult, diverse, and a little bit out of our comfort zone?”
Although the Montréal Mini Maker Faire is now complete, there are still plenty of opportunities to learn more about maker culture in Quebec and worldwide! Milieux is home to various new media arts, digital culture, and information technology projects that embrace the maker ethic, and Maker Faires are branded events that frequently occur around the world. You can also find documentation of Concordia’s event on their website, Facebook, and Twitter.