Rhode Island Mini Maker Faire Brings Robots, Escape Artists and Beer!

“A bunch of weirdos with strange machines and art”

Ah, it’s that time of year again; the doldrums of summer have arrived with each day being more hot and humid than the last. To fight the oppressive heat, you reach for your favorite beer and hear … CRUSH! KILL! DESTROY! A small squad of mechanical men with sharp steel appendages flailing and glowing red eyes comes after you, having recently been released from their maker’s control at the 2030 Maker Faire. Wait, wait … it’s not 2030 yet? Oh … well, that’s the future. Prepare.

foo-fest-got-beerFortunately, it’s still 2013, the great robot uprising still hasn’t occurred and the Rhode Island Mini Maker Faire is going strong. What is RI Mini Maker Faire (RIMMF), you ask? It’s a celebration of all things do-it-yourself that happens once every year. In short, the RIMMF event gets the most innovative, creative and odd-ball people in the area together for a day to showcase what they’ve been working on.

The larger cousin of the RIMMF, the Maker Faire in San Mateo, California, attracts thousands of people every year and has everything from a large dinosaur sculpture constructed from steel to demonstrations of Tesla coils featuring Adam Savage of “MythBusters” fame. While the RIMMF may not be able to boast such size, it is in its fifth year of existence and has grown larger since that first year when it took over a small square in the financial district. The RIMMF was started by two local tech titans who saw an opportunity and duty to show off the creativity of the local culture in Providence and greater Rhode Island. The two men behind the RIMMF are Brian Jepson and Kipp Bradford, both with strong maker and RI ties. Jepson is also a founding force behind the monthly Meetup Providence Geeks, which helps shine a light on the local tech economy. Kipp is a lecturer at Brown University and owner of Kipp Kits, a company devoted to making professional-grade engineering kits to facilitate easier living.

Previous years have seen all kinds of booths from trebuchets to sub woofers, upcycled RC planes to video games projected on the sidewalk, recumbent bikes to beer. The moral is, if you made it and have a story to tell, then RIMMF is for you. For the last four years, I’ve done a live brewing demonstration, first with my friends and then with my homebrewing club, The Rhode Island Brewing Society (RIBS). We always get people walking up to the booth asking, “What is that heavenly (or horrible) smell?” and then staying to chat about how beer is made. As homebrewers and makers, we tend to evangelize our hobby and we’re not alone in the community. Each booth at the faire has someone enthusiastic about something behind it; don’t be afraid to ask questions about what they do.

The roster this year has a number of RIMMF Alums, including:

  • The RIBS live homebrewing demonstration
  • TRACIMOC, which converts homeless comics into usable and wearable art
  • E1, a robot constructed from a motorized wheel chair base
  • DC401 and their how to escape from handcuffs demonstration
  • Brooklyn Aerodrome, which makes upcycled RC planes (they make trash fly!)
  • Free Geek Providence and fun demonstrations of open source software

This year will also include a few new acts worth checking out:

  • Modibot, Mo a fully articulated “action figure” with interchangable parts that can be 3D printed.
  • Close Quarters, a local maker/hackerspace in Pawtucket will be showing some past projects
  • International Yacht Restoration School, demonstrating fabrication methods
  • AS220 Labs demoing projects and providing a soldering workshop area

There’s plenty more acts that sign up and too many to list in this article. Speaking of AS220, where would MakerFaire RI be without AS220’s Foo Fest? This is the second year that RIMMF has been a part of the Foo Fest lineup and it seems to be a very fitting place to exhibit. For those foos who don’t know about the Foo Fest, I sure do pity you. Foo Fest is a yearly block party on Empire Street bringing you music, art, performance, activities for all ages, food and most importantly BEER!! Don’t worry, there are also non-alcoholic beverages there. It will be tough to top previous musical acts such as Andrew WK, Big Frieda and Thrillhouse w/ the viking parade, but I’m sure the AS220 gang is up to the task.

Foo Fest is happening August 10 on the block of Empire Street between Washington and Westminster. You should be able to follow your ears. Admission is only $7 per person. That’s like the price of a really good beer for hours and hours of entertainment. The Maker Faire will be held in the Pell-Chafee Auditorium; there will be signs posted and it’s likely the Rhode Island Brewing Society will be brewing beer right out front. There is no admission for the Maker Faire, but there is a kickstarter for you generous folks who want to see more events like this in the future (http://kck.st/1aipTiD). All the festivities begin at 1 pm and continue till 1 am.

So now you have plans on August 10, and who knows, maybe you’ll even run into me at the Maker Faire. I could be manning the Close Quarters or RIBS booth.

Mix-a-Six: Notes and Happenings From Around the State

Dogfish Head is returning to Rhode Island! In a fun announcement trailer, they announced higher capacity and the intention of returning distribution to RI later this year. Unfortunately, no dates have been announced yet.

Word on the street says that Beervana will happen on October 18. Better save the date.

Foolproof is throwing their own little fiesta, dubbed Augtoberfest, on Saturday, August 17, from 12 to 4 pm. The festival will be held at the brewery and will feature live music, food trucks and a new Foolproof beer, King of the Yahd Imperial IPA. Tickets can be purchased for $26 on http://augtoberfest.eventbrite.com. Four beers are included with each ticket.

A number of 40BBL fermenters were recently delivered to Grey Sail Brewing of Rhode Island.

Bucket Brewery is also expanding and they’re going big. They’ve already picked out a 3,700 sq. ft. space at 545 Pawtucket Ave. and have started molding the space to their needs. Once they’re done, they’ll add a 10BBL brewing system and some 20BBL fermenters. Unfortunately, as all these transitions occur, they won’t be brewing new beers, so grab them up while you can.

A law was recently passed that allows growler and small quantity sales at RI breweries. Finally!

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