Category Archives: Meet the Makers

Activating Today’s Maker Communities


What are you working on? That is a question you might ask a few times a week when talking with colleagues who work in different departments, or after meeting someone casually and finding out where they work. We have been engaging with the maker community recently as we want to support their efforts towards promoting a creative, artisan culture, and we know that makers are often the source of new manufacturing businesses.

David Chadwick, Marketing Manager at Siemens PLM Software, shared his thoughts on what it means to activate today’s maker community over on the Siemens PLM Software blog. Earlier this summer the Siemens team was on hand at i3 Detroit (a longtime maker at Maker Faire Detroit) for an engineering assignment as they showcased the software. As a partner in innovation with us at The Henry Ford, we’re excited to share some of David’s recent blog entries.

You can see how Siemens’ Solid Edge software is being utilized by today’s makerspaces and innovators thanks to this YouTube playlist.

The Innovation Garage: Start Up 101

canstockphoto22213897-2-copyHaving spent much of our time in startup, nonprofit, and large corporate organizations over the last twenty years, we’ve come to understand some very simple, but often overlooked basics when it comes to getting an idea, company, or team within the larger organization off the ground.

These lessons are remarkably basic, but can be very challenging to have the discipline to stick to when you first start-up. Always remember, that your overall mission is to make your company or team successful and sustainable, and most often that means cash flow first, then focus on profits next.

To read more about The Innovation Garage‘s lessons on what to expect when developing a new idea, click here. Join The Innovation Garage at Maker Faire at The Henry Ford in Detroit, July for StartUp 101 Workshop with Jon Washington.

Meet the Maker: Matt West, Three-Story Hot Wheels Track


Tell us about yourselves.
I’m a technician working at Henry Ford. I’m basically a tinkerer, and my son Blade is the kind of kid that is very into electronics- he’s a very modern child. He’s good with tablets and computers, so it’s hard to impress him. He and I are both good at different things- while he’s figuring out how to code Minecraft, I’m busting trying to figure out how to make his Nerf gun shoot through drywall. But we always try to do little projects together, and the team here at work are all tinkerers in their own right too. We’re just typical makers- people who look for problems and find different solutions to try to fix them.

What inspired your project?
Basically, raising kids right now is a tricky challenge because there’s so much to distract them- they’re so wrapped up in technology and literally everything is at their fingertips. So the inspiration was to show kids that just because the instructions say do it this way, it doesn’t mean that you have to go that route, and also that you can take engineering and science and use it to push something beyond its design. To find weakness and trying to either change or modify it to go beyond that. The whole thing started 2013, when I noticed a Hot Wheel kit that my son had gotten for his birthday where you actually put the track on the wall and I started wondering if we could take this past what’s on the box. My son and I started taking the connectors off the wall and taping them in different positions and making it bigger and bigger. Before we knew it we had a 48-inch loop and we were dropping cars from the ceiling. It was basically the height of our playroom. This got me thinking that we could go further- go for a world record if there was one, which there was.

How long did it take to complete?
The original project took about two-month start to finish once we got the team put together. The only thing we didn’t make ourselves was the Hot Wheel track itself, but the superstructure we custom cut and set up. To physically assemble it only took a few hours. It probably took longer to create the design and build the materials than to actually make it.

What was the biggest challenge in making it?
Probably organization was my biggest challenge, that, and finding the right people to work on it. Luckily, I pitched it to the right people and they all jumped on board.

After it was built there were some minor tuning issues, we had to figure out if we could actually get these little cars to go around a twelve foot loop, but it was really just a matter of using the right people, figuring out what abilities they had and what our capabilities were and getting that all to go into the same direction once you have the parts- everyone’s talents just come together.

Do you have plans to build an even larger track?
Yes, if our record gets broken by someone else, then we think we’d be able to successfully reclaim our title. We learned a lot from this attempt and we already have some ideas on how we might make it bigger. There’s have enough ceiling height at our facility, so with a couple of tweaks we think we could possibly make it even larger.

What are you most looking forward to at Maker Faire Detroit this year?
Maker Faire is such a big event that I’m really hoping we’ll be able to show our track to a lot more kids and parents. To really tell them that this is something you can do. Working on a project like this is not so massive, it’s not the space program. It just takes the desire to apply concepts, to do some practical experimentation, and implement it. So I’m really looking forward to being able to share that with more parents and more kids, to really get the ideas going. I want someone in that group to go “I can do that, I can beat it,” and try and beat the record, and then we’ll take it right back.

Meet the Maker: Les Paul’s Big Sound Experience


What is Les Paul’s Big Sound Experience?
Les Paul’s Big Sound Experience is part of the nationwide tour celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the great innovator and musician Les Paul. The 53’ interactive state-of-the art mobile exhibit takes visitors behind the scenes into the world of Les Paul giving them an opportunity for numerous interactive exchanges within a 1,000 square feet full of music, technology and the energy of Les Paul! Guests young and old will immerse themselves in 1,000 square feet of music exploration, sound and technology innovations and hands-on interactive entertainment. Visitors will also be able to mix and share music as they discover Les Paul, the man many define as the most important innovator of the music industry

Who was Les Paul?
Many have called Les Paul the most important man in music history. As the creator of multi-track recording, the solid body electric guitar, over-dubbing and numerous other recording techniques, Les Paul changed the face of music. Musicians from around the world owe their careers to Les Paul. He was an inventor, an innovator, a musician, an entertainer and one of the most historical figures of the music industry.

What do you hope people gain from the experience?
We hope guests walk away from Les Paul’s Big Sound Experience with an understanding and excitement for Les Paul and all that he accomplished. We also hope by entertaining the guests with information, music and storytelling about Les Paul that guests want to create their own innovations or perhaps follow in the footsteps of Les Paul. Most importantly we want visitors to have fun within the interactive environment and learn something along the way. It is a very exciting exhibit with many hands-on opportunities.

What are some must-see features of the project?
Visitors have thoroughly enjoyed all of the interactive areas inside the tour exhibit. The many hands-on opportunities helps them to immerse themselves into Les Paul’s life and enjoy learning throughout the process. There is so much to do that it is very hard to determine one area to call a favorite as every part of the tour exhibit is a one-of-a-kind, can’t be missed opportunity for guests of Maker Faire.

Meet the Maker: Dara Dotz, Field Ready


What does Field Ready do?
The purpose of the organization is to provide disaster relief and meet humanitarian needs by transforming logistical supply chains. We achieve this purpose through technology and engaging people in new ways. In practical terms, this means we will send volunteers with technical knowledge to areas of need who will then use advanced manufacturing technologies, such as 3D printers, to meet need where it is found.

How does Field Ready utilize technology?
Additive manufacturing, particularly 3D printers, is especially important to our approach given its flexibility and potential as this technology matures. In answering this question, two points are particularly important. First, Field Ready approach is informed not just by what technology is available today but what is possible in the years to come. The concept of “exponential technology” indicates that the potential astounding. Second, people will remain at the center of our approach with specific technologies remaining tools in addressing specific problems and challenges.

What makes Field Ready unique?
A key element of our approach involves training others and exposing people to localized problem-solving, human-centered design and “making” in ways that they can immediately benefit. Additionally, Field Ready’s approach is specifically designed to work in areas where local markets have been shut down or are otherwise inoperable. Where conditions are improved, Field Ready focuses on items that are not readily available on the local market.

Meet the Maker: Cirque Mechanics


What is Cirque Mechanics?
We are a company that blends circus, acrobatics, and dance with mechanical apparatus that allow the artists to demonstrate circus in new ways.

What inspired the creation of Cirque Mechanics?
I had been working for Cirque du Soleil for a number of years performing circus in a fantasy setting. I (Chris Lashua, founder) was looking or a way to display “HOW” things are done. We believe that showing off the mechanics, opening up the clock face and showing off the lifting mechanism, or how something is moved across the stage can be magical.

Why combine mechanics and circus performance?
For us it is about mechanizing the circus. We are looking at ways to perform old circus acts in new ways. We try to find ways to use the movement of circus to power our devices or for our devices to complement and showcase our circus acts.

What difficulties did you face in combining circus performance and mechanics?
The machines that help us to show off the circus often require that our artists compromise some of their technique. Our belief is that while a juggler may be unable to complete his most difficult “trick”, while 10’ in the air, the overall performance is brand new and the image, in this case, of juggling in the air offsets the loss of that one trick.

What do you hope the audience gains from the experience?
At the heart of Cirque Mechanics is the belief that the magic lies in the interactions between mechanical apparatus, or scenic element, and artists. We seek to explore these relationships and hope that our audiences take away an appreciation for the physics of the performance, that they appreciate not only that an artist has amazing skills but that their performance is connected, supported, enhanced by the mechanical world.

What trends do you see in performance right now?
Collaboration is the key. It is for this reason that we have so much ensemble work in our two productions. It takes a commitment by all involved for this to work. Teamwork is something that happens naturally if the environment is designed to be collaborative right from the outset. We encourage this collaboration in our show research and development. When all are invested in the process teamwork just happens.

Meet the Maker: Miguel Valenzuea, PancakeBot


Does PancakeBot look familiar? It should! Migeul and his invention were featured on the first season of The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation. You can see his segment below.

What is PancakeBot?
PancakeBot™ is the world’s first pancake printer. It was created as a way to inspire kids and others to learn about programming, technology, robotics and food creation.

What was the inspiration for your project?
It was originally inspired in the late fall of 2010 while I was reading an article written in Make Magazine called Blockheads by Bob Parks that described prototyping with LEGO. While reading the magazine, Lily, my 3 1/2 year old daughter asked what I was doing. I responded that I was reading about a guy named Adrian Marshall from the UK that built a Pancake Stamping Machine out of LEGO for a prototype. I mumbled something else and Lily turned to her sister Maia, who was 1 1/2, at the time and with her eyes opened wide, exclaimed to Maia, “Papa’s going to build a ‘pamcake’ machine out of LEGO.” Maia did a little dance and thus PancakeBot was born.

How does it work?
It uses CNC technology to draw pancakes in any shape or form directly onto the griddle. Using timing, dispensing and heat, it creates different shades of color by caramelizing the sugar in the batter. The patent pending system emulates a ketchup bottle to control dispensing and flow of the batter.

What was the process of designing PancakeBot?
The PancakeBot started off as a LEGO creation and took over 6 months to develop with over 13 different iterations. After taking it to many different Maker Faires around the world, interest grew and I developed an acrylic version that drew more precise pancakes as well as using custom software to draw and design pancakes.
In the fall of 2014, I partnered with StoreBound to bring PancakeBot to Market and in March of 2016 raised over 460K on Kickstarter.

Are there plans to expand into other types of foods?
There are plans to integrate other types of pastries and foods into PancakeBot and we hope to be revealing those soon.

What’s your favorite design?
The most favorite and timeless pancake is of the Eiffel Tower. It’s an iconic landmark that has a complex design but yields a wonderful pancake.

What trends do you see in food technology?
I see PancakeBot as a bridge between technology, food and making as well as a stepping stone to inspire kids and adults alike to get into 3D printing. As more people get interested in combining food with technology, I hope to see improvements in distribution systems, packaging and creation of products and projects that will delight the eye as well as the palate.

Meet the Maker: Handmade Toledo


We’re excited to welcome Handmade Toledo to this year’s Maker Faire Detroit as curators of our craft sales vendors.

Tell us about Handmade Toledo.
Since 2012, Handmade Toledo has been bringing you the Maker’s Mart indie craft fair in April in November, along with mini marts and pop-up shops in and around the Toledo area. Two years into our DIY adventure, we decided to put on our big-kid britches and settle into a brick and mortar at 1717 Adams Street in the beautiful Uptown District in Toledo, Ohio. 1717 Adams Street now houses the Handmade Toledo Maker Shoppe featuring more than 100 local and regional handmade artists, a workshop space for all different types of classes, artist studio spaces and event space.

How do you discover new crafters?
We put calls out for artists out on our website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and local papers. A lot of time it’s from word of mouth from other makers. We love to share the love. We can’t tell you how many great shows, shops, festivals, faires, and markets we’ve found out about from other makers talking about having great experiences. The maker community is pretty great with that.

What do you look for in a maker?
Craftsmanship, originality, use of materials, creativity and innovation.

What trends in DIY do you see right now?
Fiber arts have been making a big comeback it seems. Lots of crocheting, knitting, weaving, macramé, and sewing. We’ve also been seeing a lot more industrious materials being used like metals, leather, and glass. And we love ALL of it!

Handmade Toledo Craft Vendors – Maker Faire Detroit 2015

Earthenwood Studio Ceramics: Handcrafted functional ceramic wares such as plates, bowls, and mugs, painted in durable colorful glazes with geeky and pop culture themes.

Joseph Mazzola: Up-scaled/repurposed vintage electric fans and cast iron speakers enclosures into beautiful table lamps using exposed filiment Edison bulbs and painted vivid eye-catching colors. Also handmake black iron pipe lamps.

Pretty Bookish: Pretty Bookish began with a box of old books. An idea was born to give these discarded books a new life by tuning them into pretty, handmade, repurposed products for people who are passionate book lovers and readers. Pretty Bookish offers playful tributes to the adventures the reader has had, the emotions they felt, and the characters that they fell in love with while lost in their favorite book. Handmade products include jewelry, keychains, typography, paper flower vases and terrariums.

Mary’s Monstrosities: I am using the centuries old Venetian mask-making technique of pressed paper mache to create monster and horror themed masquerade masks. I start by making an original clay sculpture, then take a plaster mold, then use 100% recycled hand made paper to press in the mold with a waterproof binding to create the mask. The finished product is extremely light and durable, and a very odd conversation piece.

Circuit Breaker Labs: Handmade jewelry and accessories made from recycled circuit boards and resin.

Rebel Nell: Rebel Nell creates defiant jewelry with a purpose. Our mission is to employ disadvantaged women in Detroit, to educate them on financial management, life wellness, and business, and to empower them to successfully transition to an independent life. Our jewelry starts with graffiti that we collect after it has fallen due to the weight of many layers of paint, and damage from Mother Nature. These scrap pieces of graffiti are then turned into beautiful works of wearable art. Each piece is unique.

Mike Roll: Mike Roll is a comic artist and illustrator from the Detroit, Michigan area. He’s best known for his adorably-gruesome “Apooka” series of children friendly comics chronicling the life (death?) of an endearing, cute-as-a-button zombie child. He is also illustrator of several children’s books including; Karli Meadows Makes Friends and The Trains of Christmas.

Algae Skateboards: crafted by me, as the sole creator and proprietor. Every board is pressed using the best wood available to me, then hand-shaped and designed. The graphic image is wood-burned and painted, and the whole board is stained and finished. The boards are both art pieces and well-made skateboards designed to be ridden and abused.

JKM Soy Candles: Candles hand-poured in small batches using 100% soybean wax and unique scent combinations using fragrance and essential oils. The candles are made in mason jars and upcycled tin cans. I also make hand-dipped incense and soy melts.

Cool Critters: I create weird, handmade, stuffed animals called Cool Critters. They can be plush monsters, extraterrestrial softies, unsettling couch companions, pet sacrifices or best friends. They are 100% handmade in Ypsilanti, Michigan and are all one of a kind.

Detroit Manufacturing brand clothing: Exhibit and sales of original design, Detroit-themed apparel, accessories, pet/baby items, and home decor items.

Strancar Studios: Sales of handmade glass objects. Functional and decorative objects in an intentionally limited color palette.

Jen Talley Art & Design: Original art including greeting cards and prints printed by the artist as well as handmade magnets and buttons.

From J.Loo To You: Goods created with (mostly) second-hand and vintage materials. A variety of goods include jewelry, accessories (for humans and pets), terrariums & planters, and home decor. Home goods feature a lot of hand embroidery, sewing, and painting, reflecting the artist’s aesthetic of kitschy meets cartoons with a heavy influence of pop culture.

Patchcoat by Carrie: Old sweaters, suits, dresses, etc., that are cut apart and then made into “Patchcoats.” These are one-of-a-kind coats/dresses/tunics.

Oh Sew Betty!: Oh Sew Betty! specializes in custom retro, rockabilly, pinup and bombshell dresses, pillows and bags.

Paintings by Jason Gibner: Jason Gibner brings all of your pop culture obsessions to life via handmade, original and totally awesome paintings inspired by comics, sci fi & everything that is awesome. If you feel like your bedroom wall is incomplete without that portrait of BB-8, Thanos, Nien Nunb, R5-D4, or a shirtless Abe Lincoln, be sure to seek out Jason Gibner.

Krmbal: Krmbal is dedicated to being eco-conscious and increasing awareness about sustainability, particularly in textiles and clothing. I create original designs and apply them to 100% organic cotton apparel, discuss different types of textiles and create up-cycled items from cast off textile scraps, as well as art prints, sketchbooks, etc. I’ll be showing how to make up-cycled no-sew textile coaster or place mat, bookmarks (easy sewing), cat toys (sewing & no-sew) & a fabric scrap swap.

Meet the Maker: Mat Roll, Astroliner


Tell us about yourself.
I was born and raised in Michigan-grew up around the Ypsilanti-Ann Arbor area. I traveled a lot because of my parents’ carnival business, and have always been interest and inspired by space travel.

What is Astroliner?
The Astroliner is flight simulator. It’s over 40 feet long and can carry up to 25 passengers.

What inspired Astroliner?
The Astroliner was inspired by the Saturn V rocket. It was originally built by Wisdom Manufacturing in the early 1970s.

How does it work?
The Astroliner runs 220v power and is driven by a hydraulic system. The inside of the ship is driven on pneumatic systems.

How long did it take to complete?
About nine months, after pulling it out of Massachusetts.

What was the biggest challenge in making it?
Time always seemed to be against us. We started rebuilding in the cold days of January. Our original goal was to rebuild the ship by the Fourth of July. Thanks to my dad’s knowledge of the ship, the rebuild was somewhat easy- just time consuming.

What are you most looking forward to at Maker Faire Detroit this year?
I can’t wait to see some cool inventions and DIYs for the home.

What’s New at Maker Faire Detroit 2015


Maker Faire Detroit returns to The Henry Ford for its 6th year on July 25-26 with a new location for the outdoor midway, new projects on display and more than 70 new makers debuting in Detroit for the first time.

New this year, visitors will see a three-story Hot Wheels ramp created by local engineer Matt West and his son Blade that is currently going for the world record for the largest Hot Wheels ramp. Visitors will also have the opportunity to get inside a 50-foot motion simulator rocket named the Astroliner. For music fans, Les Paul Sound Experience, a 53’ interactive state-of-the-art mobile experience offers hands-on interactives celebrating the great Les Paul. Also making their Maker Faire debut is Cirque Mechanics. Inspired by the modern circus, Cirque Mechanics is known for its unique approach to performance, inspiring storytelling and innovative mechanical staging through acrobatics and a bit of clowning around. In addition to new makers, Handmade Toledo has signed on to present the handmade arts and crafts portion of this year’s faire.

Fans of the Emmy-winning CBS series The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation will have the chance to see some of the show’s featured innovators at Maker Faire Detroit including Liter of Light, Medical MacGyver, PancakeBot and Solar Roadways. Other special guests include celebrity modder Ben Heck who will be hosting a special display and speaking with makers for an episode of The Ben Heck Show, author and craft king Mark Montano joining the Great Lakes Bead Workers Guild for hands-on demonstrations and designer and innovative humanitarian Dara Dotz doing a special presentation on Field Ready, an organization focusing in on on-demand manufacturing in post-Disaster Zones.

For the sixth annual event, The Henry Ford will be moving the faire’s outdoor midway location from the Henry Ford Museum parking lot to the Lovett Hall lot located behind the museum. The new location provides guests more convenient parking opportunities and easier access to makers located both inside and outside the museum. A shuttle service sponsored by the University of Michigan-Dearborn will also be available at its Fairlane campus located at 1900 Hubbard Dr. in Dearborn.

We’ll be sharing more updates and news in the weeks to come leading up to the faire. See you all soon at Maker Faire Detroit!