Spotted: Robots, drones, plants in space and Formula One at Maker Faire Miami

The two-day family-friendly festival featured 250+ makers and drew 2,000 attendees

By Krysten Brenlla

If you live in Miami, you know that April is our month – from tech conferences to events and exhibits, there’s so much to see, do, and learn about all throughout Miami Tech Month.

This year, Maker Faire Miami featured more than 250 makers, either local or from across the country, 40 students presenting their research, and more than 2,000 attendees – one of their most successful Faire’s to date.

The Faire’s organizers touted the two-day affair as an event for all — whether you’re a creator looking to get known, or a guest interested in learning more, there was something to see and do for all.

Refresh Miami was at the Watsco Center to bring you the key takeaways and favorite highlights from this year’s Maker Faire Miami:

Creativity and community

One of the highlights of the Faire was the Airigami Bubble Mural, a creative installation built by community members using biodegradable latex balloons. Guests went through the process of inflating the balloons and tying them together, and labeled the balloon with their initials. At first, it may have looked like a jumble of random balloons, but once it was ready, guests saw a masterpiece unfold – the Maker Faire Miami mascot!

“Everyone takes just five minutes to inflate the balloons to create their own piece of art, their own piece of mural,” said Larry Moss, founder and creative director of Airigami. “It’s all about community-building and creativity to create something really special.”

In addition to creative masterpieces, the Faire’s all-new Maker Education Zone provided Miami-Dade County Public Schools (MDCPS) STEAM and Title 1 educators free entry to the Faire. Through the Faire’s Maker Education Zone, educators were provided with a series of professional development talks and workshops to learn more about the future of technology and how to integrate technology education into modern-day classrooms. “I would like to extend a BIG thank you for hosting us,” said Marilina Figueroa, a third-grade teacher at Ruth K. Broad Bay Harbor K-8 Center.

“I had so many wonderful conversations with the various exhibitors and walked away with lots of ideas for class – we had a blast!”

Hands-on activities in STEM and higher education

Right next to the bubble mural was a hands-on soldering experience hosted by Women in Computer Science, an organization from Florida International University. With soldering equipment set up, guests stepped right up and learned the basics of soldering to make their own circuits.

Alongside FIU’s exhibitions were also Miami Dade College and the University of Miami, all who featured their schools’ different organizations and clubs, such as the University of Miami’s American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Miami Dade College’s Makers Lab, and more.

Guests at the Faire also saw Princesses with Power Tools, a program within Reinvented, a nonprofit organization and magazine that “aspires to break barriers and aid the movement to get more girls in STEM.”

From behind the table, volunteers at Reinvented sported princess costumes while helping guests use hand drills to create their zodiac constellation within a piece of wood. Once done, guests shine a light at the piece, and their constellation will illuminate against a flat surface.

“We travel around the world to encourage girls to use power drills,” said Caeley Looney, Reinvented’s chief executive officer. “Drilling is beautiful, and through our 100% volunteer-led program and organization, we want to make sure girls (and boys) are confident with it.”

In addition to learning how to drill, guests also learned how to create a bracelet using binary code with Code/Art, a Miami-based nonprofit inspiring youth to code by using art and creativity.

And, drones were flying high across the Watsco Center at the Miami EdTech’s build-a-drone through code exhibit, with guests maneuvering a carefully-drafted obstacle course using Blockly.

Augmented Intelligence Academy, a Miami-based nonprofit that introduces augmented intelligence and STEM to underserved communities across South Florida was also in attendance, showcasing their hands-on programming that involved making, building, and coding using virtual reality for communities in Opa-Locka, Brownsville, and more.

STEM projects (and space!)

Maker Faire Miami was also a place for students to showcase the Growing Beyond Earth Project, a Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden challenge operated in partnership with NASA designed to advance NASA research to grow plants in space.

On Saturday, April 14, six schools, including Palmetto Senior High School, Felix Varela Senior High School, Vineland K-8 Center, Pinecrest Preparatory Academy, iMater Preparatory Academy High School, and Biotech at Richmond Heights High School presented their original projects to NASA researchers Dr. Gioia Massa and Trent Smith from the Kennedy Space Center. Their projects showcased the effects of simulated microgravity on different plants and vegetables – and the results were incredible.

Battlebots, robots, international makers, Maker Talks … and more!

Faire attendees got to witness some cut-throat competition, with Robot Renegades’ battlebots taking center stage. More than 25 youth robot teams from across South Florida, hosted by Team Witch Doctor from Discovery Channel’s Battlebots show, and Palm Beach Bots, were in attendance, battling it out with hand-made robots throughout the entire weekend.

In addition, one of the Faire’s main attractions was the Infento Build-a-Thon, which offered three different MDCPS schools – JFK Middle School, Ruben Dario Middle School, and iTech Edison Magnet School –  the opportunity to participate in a build-your-own electric Formula One Race Car Challenge. Throughout the entire weekend, more than 20 students across the three schools competed in designing their own Formula One electric-style vehicle, using Infento’s STEM modular product line, and presented their vehicles to an audience of friends, family, parents, and attendees.

The winner… *drumroll please* was iTech Edison Magnet School, who came in first place.

Faire attendees also had the opportunity to listen-in on some incredible conversations from featured speakers, all who flew in from across the country during ‘Maker Talks.’ Speakers shared their innovative work to a room full of attendees –  from an infinite stopwatch created by Chei-Wei Wang and Taylor Levy, to emerging robotics practices, digital fabrication, app development, and circuit art.

“Our mantra is to treat every project, no matter how big or small, as a lottery ticket,” said Levy and Wang during their Maker Talk: ‘Making as a Way of Life.’ “You never know which project – the one you worked day and night on, or the one you finished in five minutes yesterday – might blow up.”

“We want to thank all of the attendees, makers, creators, schools, and exhibitors who showed up this weekend and made the Faire a huge success,” said Tom Pupo, executive director of Moonlighter Fab Lab and co-producer of Maker Faire Miami, and Mario Cruz, co-producer of Maker Faire Miami. “We’re thrilled to see the growing passion and interest in the maker community, and we’re grateful to all who participated and made this event possible.”

More scenes from Maker Faire Miami via maker community Twitter

Krysten Brenlla