Dubbed “the greatest show (and tell) on earth” by organizers, the Portland Mini Maker Faire blends science and technology with arts and crafts in an interactive two-day event held every September. Projects like R2-D2 replica robots, sand sculptures and jewelry crafted from recycled skateboards showcase Portland’s wide-ranging DIY culture.
“There’s something for everyone at the Maker Faire,” says event director Andrea Edgecombe. “It inspires creativity and innovation.”
What is a Maker Faire?
Launched in 2012, Portland’s Maker Faire is held at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI). It’s one of many independently licensed Mini Maker Faires modeled after flagship events in New York and California.
Regional makers of all stripes, including scientists, engineers, artists and craftspeople, are invited to apply to participate. Makers are encouraged to create interactive experiences for attendees. “Most of the booths have something that the guests can make or do,” says Edgecombe. “Our biggest focus is being hands-on.”
At workshops, stage presentations and more than 100 booths, attendees can learn the process behind creative projects from the makers themselves. In 2017, for example, you might collaborate with Oregon Potters Association members to sculpt objects that reflect Northwest culture. (The pieces will be exhibited in Portland’s sister city Sapporo, Japan in 2018.) At the MapleXO booth, you can make key chains from recycled skateboards while learning about the importance of reusing materials. Or discover the steps to satellite making from members of the Portland State Aerospace Society.
“The Faire brings all these communities together in one place,” says Edgecombe. “Where OMSI comes in is that process of innovation and design and design thinking, of trying and failing and trying again — that’s critical to science and experimentation.”
Geared toward families (particularly those with elementary-aged kids) but enjoyed by all ages, the Faire is entertaining and educational. Everywhere you look, you’re bound to find something surprising, whether it’s a futuristic ‘bot, a wacky steam-punk creation or the Walking Beast (a giant, moving metal spider).
Portland Mini Maker Faire 2017
With 120 maker booths and an anticipated 8,000 attendees, the 2017 Portland Mini Maker Faire is shaping up to be the city’s biggest to date.
Held Sept. 16–17 from 9:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m. each day, the Faire is located primarily outdoors on the OMSI grounds, with some demonstrations held inside the museum.
Along with booths, the Faire features 60- to 90-minute workshops (first come, first served, located indoors). This year’s workshops include cupcake decorating “Adopt a Hand,” in which participants help to create a prosthetic hand.
The Innovation Stage showcases makers and projects that make an impact on the community. Presentations include “Meet Loki, the Humanoid Robot,” with Dave Shinsel; “Smart Bandage” (a bandage that uses technology to signal when it needs to be changed) with Google Science Fair winner (and OMSI kid) Anushka Naiknaware; and stop-motion animation with LAIKA.
As for the best way to take in Faire activities, Edgecombe advises attendees to “just explore.”
“It’s really intuitive in terms of walking around and seeing what you think is cool and going and checking it out,” she says. “There are so many things to see and do.”
Tickets & transportation
One-day tickets to the Faire are $16 for adults and $10 for youth (3-13) and seniors (63+). Workshops are free with ticket, unless otherwise noted. Tickets are available online or at the event.
Parking is limited, so Faire organizers encourage attendees to carpool or use public transit. Both the MAX Orange Line and Portland Streetcar stop at OMSI.