This weekend is OMSI's sixth annual Portland Mini Maker Faire, an event that showcases the DIY (or "Do It Yourself") culture of the Portland area in a family-friendly environment. The faire brings inventors, hobbyists and educators to the public, and each participant will have an area to showcase their work — and invite museum-goers to interact with it.
This year, over 150 different "Makers," as OMSI refers to them, will be showing their stuff, and major draws include 3D printing, a giant walking robotic spider called the "Walking Beast," and soapbox derby cars.
"We were blown away by both the volume and caliber of entries we receive this year, with 150 diverse exhibitors creating our biggest, most vibrant event ever," said Andrea Edgecombe, OMSI events director, in a press release. "Portland's robust creative community is reflected in the ingenious, innovative 'Makers' who will be part of this year's showcase."
That robust creative community Edgecombe speaks of extends to Washington County, and many of the makers come from the area. Here's a look at three local makers who will be at OMSI this weekend.
Inside a classroom at Village Home, big block letters spell out a motto: "ALWAYS LEARNING."
The educational organization, which has campuses in Beaverton, Northeast Portland and Salem, provides classes for children who either are homeschooled or attend charter schools. Hands-on learning is a major tenant for Village Home, which is why it will have a spot at the Maker Faire.
"We have a maker culture here," said Lori Walker, Village Home's executive director and founder. "Our classes tend to be hands-on … when the 'maker' movement expanded, it was right on board with how we thought education should be."
Village Home's spot at the Faire will showcase "scribbling machines," small contraptions made from soda cans, markers and small motors that create different scribbling patterns on paper. Walker said that building and using a scribbling machine is a typical activity at Village Home.
"It is active learning, basically," she said. "If they are interacting, they're going to be retaining more, and they're also going to be more excited about learning more once they're out of the classroom."
Walker demonstrated the scribbling machines with four Village Home students, and Lila Kamas, 4, remarked that the concentric circles, which hers was making, looked like the solar system.
"The pink is orbiting the green," Walker answered. "What orbits around the Earth?"
"The moon," Kamas answered.
Carina Miner, 12, then shared what she had recently learned about Galileo Galilei, the 17th-century astronomer who hypothesized that planets orbit around the sun.
"It freaked people out," she said. "People wanted ... the Earth to be center of the universe."
"That just happened spontaneously," Walker said after the students were done using the scribbling machines. "Did you hear all those different topics that were covered, just with this one activity? That inspires the conversation."
Village Home will have supplies for kids to build their own scribbling machines at the Faire, and will also sell packs of supplies for a few dollars each, so kids can build them at home.
"We want kids out there, asking questions, wanting to know more, wanting to explore more," Walker said. "Having an experience that excites them is what fuels that."
Brian Wegener, Northwest Vintage Radio Society
Tigard resident Brian Wegener bought an antique radio at a garage sale one day on a whim, and found it so fascinating that he joined the Northwest Vintage Radio Society.
"Radio waves are invisible, intangible, you can't see them or smell them, and it's hard to even know they exist," he said. "But we can manipulate them in order to transmit sounds and data and photos."
The society, which has been in existence since the 1970s, will use its space at the Maker Faire to show people different styles of old radios. Its booth will include a board showcasing the different parts of an old radio.
This is the organization's first time at the Maker Faire.
"We thought of it as a good opportunity to get together with other people who are making something or repairing something using their technical skills," Wegener said.
Because the event is family-friendly, the group hopes to reach a younger age set that can carry on the passion for vintage radios.
"OMSI's the place to do that," Wegener said. "Our group, we have a lot of guys who are electronics technicians or electrical engineers from the Navy, and some are from WWII and the Korean War. Getting new, younger people interested in this hobby is something we want to do."
Wegener went on to say that he's most excited to show off 1930s-style radios, his personal favorite.
"What I find interesting is, the 1930s is when the Depression was happening, but some of the most beautiful radios ever made, including those gorgeous wooden cabinets, were being sold and very popular in the 1930s."
For Beaverton resident Richard Miner, the Maker Faire will be a chance to show off his favorite hobby: a machine that uses computer numerical control, or CNC, to cut wood into highly precise and irregular shapes.
"I will be carving nameplates for people," he said. "I'll be using scrap wood, and I'll be taking names and carving them into the wood. I'll also be showing off various other things that I've carved into the machine."
In addition to nameplates, Miner uses his CNC machine to create art pieces, unique plaques and more. He had a piece in last year's Portland Winter Light Festival that included a large wooden dome made up of different original shapes.
Miner compared his CNC machine to a word processor, saying that the same way a word processor helps someone to type a paper with precision, a CNC machine acts as a "wood processor" to help people cut wood accurately.
"It takes a little to learn how to use one, but then once you know how to use one, you start seeing things you can do with it throughout your life, like making a plaque for something in an oddball shape," he said. "It can be difficult to cut the wood accurately, but the machine, that's what it does."
Like the other Maker Faire attendees, Miner said he looks forward to bringing his joy of being a maker to the public.
"What I like about the faire," he said, "is bringing so many people from so many different backgrounds together for the joy of making things."
OMSI Portland Maker Faire, held from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 16 and Sunday, Sept. 17. at OMSI, 1945 S.E. Water Ave., Portland.
Tickets range from $10 to $28. Purchase tickets and learn more at http://portland.makerfaire.com/tickets/.