The June 2024 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

The Best of the 2017 World Maker Faire

Video games, a mechanical fire-breathing dragon, and a 3D printer for your smartphone among the projects

3 min read
A large red humanoid figure with a red M on it's chest.
Photo: Megan Joseph

The World Maker Faire is known as the Greatest Show and Tell on Earth—a carnival of innovative DIY projects made by hundreds of tinkerers, from novices to engineers. More than 100,000 people attended this year’s event, on 23 and 24 September at the New York Hall of Science, in New York City.

Visitors checked out a host of maker projects and learned how to create a few themselves. Attendees included teachers, families and, of course, techies. IEEE had a booth there for the fifth year in a row with volunteers from Region 1 and IEEE-USA and staff members from IEEE Educational Activities and Member and Geographic Activities.

The IEEE booth featured three stations. One offered IEEE membership information and The Institute’s September issue on the maker movement. Another featured a DIY LED torch–building project that was led by IEEE volunteers, and the third displayed IEEE Member Soon Wan’s Rubik’s Cube–solving robot.

Here are three other outstanding projects from the event.


    Have you ever wanted to build your own video game? Bloxels, created by game developer Pixel Press of St. Louis, allows kids do just that. To build obstacles of different heights for a character to jump to, for example, a child would insert green blocks up and down the game board. Blocks that represent rewards when a challenge is completed can be inserted, as well as blocks for obstacles.

    The designer uses a smartphone or tablet to take a photo of the pattern on the game board and uploads it to the Bloxels Builder app. The app turns that image into a video game. Kids can then play the game on a mobile device.

    The Bloxels booth was packed throughout the weekend. About five game boards were available for kids to experiment with. I overheard one librarian say she wanted to buy at least 50 game boards for her middle school.

    Pixel Press raised US $40,000 through a 2015 Kickstarter campaign, and Bloxels products are now in more than 20 countries including Australia, Brazil, and the United Arab Emirates.

  • Video: Kevin Bracken


    Visitors entering the fair from the west entrance were greeted by a fire-breathing mechanical dragon. The Heavy Meta dragon, designed by Kevin Bracken and his 12-person team from Toronto, has an animatronic mouth and is almost 6 meters high and 9 meters long.

    Built atop a General Motors minibus, the dragon is made of hand-cut and hand-welded sheet metal. Every few minutes at the fair, it would breathe fire, move its wings, roar, and light up its eyes to attract interest. To entertain the audience, one maker even hung from the dragon’s neck and swayed back and forth while the machine breathed fire.

    Heavy Meta, Canada’s largest so-called art car, has appeared at music festivals and the annual Burning Man event.

  • Video: Ono 3D


    The event featured countless 3D-printing companies including Ono 3D of San Francisco. Its new device is the first-ever smartphone 3D printer.

    Ono is compatible with iOS and Android OS phones. Users select a model to print from Ono’s mobile app and place their smartphone underneath the printer, which is about the same width as the device.

    Once the phone is beneath the printer, the user adds a resin. There are eight available colors and three textures, depending on whether the product being printed is solid or flexible. The resins harden using light from the phone.

    The printer can create items up to 72 millimeters by 124mm by 52mm. Designs include cases for electronic gadgets and small figurines, like holiday decorations or Pokémon characters.

    The printer sells for US $99; each resin costs $15.

This article has been corrected.

The Conversation (0)