PIEDMONT -- While dozens of children played on a see-saw fountain and even more gathered around several computer screens highlighting apps at the Piedmont Makers open house Saturday, 15-year-old Ian Taylor pounded furiously into his black keyboard as he sat near a 3D printing machine that he and his high school club members put together.
Taylor and his friends from the 3D printing club at Piedmont High School were showing the adults and children how the printer works to create objects modeled from computer programs. He was happy to explain how the printer, which club members assembled in 18 hours over a three-day weekend, uses heated filament to shape a variety of objects.
The 3D printer technology, he said, is just in its infancy.
"This opens up the possibility of designing your own objects in the way that 2D printing helped people design their own projects like pamphlets and posters," Taylor said.
Hosting a table at a faire such as this one and talking about how the machines work is exactly what a Maker Faire event is all about.
Saturday's open house, which featured a couple of drones and a room full of youngsters building a hexagonal object, was just a taste of what the Maker Faire-sanctioned Piedmont Mini Maker Faire will be like on March 31 at Piedmont High School.
A Maker Faire is like a science fair on steroids. But instead of people simply explaining how concepts work, people who make everything from flaming Burning Man-like metal sculptures to computerized mind readers bring out their projects and talk to others about how they were made to perhaps spark the listener's imagination. Maker Faires are all sanctioned by Maker Media, who put on huge festivals all over the world. One of their signature events, the massive Maker Faire in San Mateo in May, attracts thousands of builders and tens of thousands of spectators.
Piedmont's Mini Maker Faire will be more homegrown and feature projects by Piedmont residents including K-12 students, said organizer Dave Ragones.
"There's a lot of energy in the town around technology in general," he said, noting that many Piedmont residents work in tech. "The motivation here is we want to inspire our kids around technology. A great way to inspire is to show projects and whatever people have done."
Melissa Cowan, a teacher at Wildwood Elementary School, came to the open house with her daughter, hoping to get her further interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education, especially science and technology. Her daughter was glued to the paper hexagonal structure, helping several other kids put it together.
"All the recent information about how girls are not into science is alarming and she's interested," Cowan said. "We're trying to lead her in that direction and this helps."
Cowan said with a laugh that she's going to encourage her daughter to make one of these paper structures in their living room.
As a handmade drone buzzed in the sky, Rachel Peterson and her children looked on, mouths wide open.
"This is a great idea. It gives the kids a taste of what they can do, what's possible," she said. "It's great that Maker Faires exist."
To learn more about the Piedmont Mini Maker Faire or to begin, find or share a project, visit www.piedmontmakers.org.