As a giant cupcake zoomed past the crowds at the Maker Faire, the crowd turned to marvel.

"You can't go more than five feet without a picture," admitted Lisa Pongrace, blueberry muffin driver.

The cupcake cars were just one of more than 20 exhibits from Berkeley at this year's Maker Faire, an annual celebration of technical and crafting creation held in San Mateo and attracts around 100,000 people over two days. The idea is to inspire people to make their own projects, be it as simple as bubble blowers or as amazing as near-orbit planes.

The Berkeley "makers" were there to demonstrate everything from bird habitats to 3D printing, all in the spirit of the fair's do-it-yourself ethic.

David Glaser, a mechanical engineer at Berkeley Space Sciences Lab, demonstrated a solar cooker he equipped with a sensor to turn to toward the sun and then away when the food is done. That means he can put a baking pan in and let nature do the work for him.

"I come home and the food's cooked," said Glaser.

Glaser has cooked everything from chicken to pecan pie in the oven, which is made mostly of recycled materials. He's posted designs for the oven and controller online so anyone can build one.

Pongrace's cupcakes are also inclusive. As Acme Muffineering, she and Greg Solberg maintain an email list where they'll help people make their own, although parts can cost up to $1,500 for the electric vehicles, which also make appearances at Burning Man and the How Berkeley Can You Be parade.


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"We're absolutely happy to help anyone build a cupcake car that wants to build a cupcake car," she said.

Web designer Peter Gardner decided to celebrate his 40th birthday in a particularly Berkeley way -- by teaching people how to turn a pair of gloves into a stuffed octopus.

"It's a wacky idea and everyone loves that kind of stuff," he said.

Gardner used Kickstarter, the fundraising website, to pull together money for supplies. He asked for $1,000 but got $1,350 for his "glovetopus" project to teach around 400 people over the weekend event.

"It's not really a business plan, because there's no business," he admitted.

Maker Faire is run by O'Reilly Media, publisher of MAKE Magazine and a successful line of technical books. Since its inception in 2006, the fair has expanded from the Bay Area to New York and Detroit and inspired smaller versions, including one in Oakland.

Besides full exhibition halls, the fair includes speakers and demonstrations, including writer Dave Eggers and TV personality Adam Savage of MythBusters, as well as robots in every shape and size, from tiny boxes to a giant giraffe.

And it's clear on the faces of the visitors, young and old, that the spirit of creativity and fun is catching. Pongrace even admits to carrying painkillers for the headache she gets from smiling all day, but says it's worth it.

"That's very important to me, that happiness," she said.

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