The fifth annual Maker Faire drew tens of thousands of people to the county fairgrounds in San Mateo, Calif. Started by Make magazine for the Do-It-Yourself crowd, the event is a blend of wacky Burning Man style creativity, Rube Goldberg inventions, and technological marvels. Organizers estimate 95,000 people will attend by the end of this weekend. The 600 exhibits featured science projects by kids at local schools to well-financed projects by major corporations. All of them were celebrations of the can-do attitude that fuels Silicon Valley, breathing life into the innovative prototyping process and the culture of hacking.

(Above) Boy versus robot: This chess playing robot just took out this boy’s pawn in a human against machine battle of wits.

Make magazine has featured lots of the more than 600 exhibits built by hobbyists in its pages over the years.
But this year’s event featured big corporate sponsors such as Ford, which showed off its Ford Sync voice-controlled car electronics system as well as its tech-heavy Ford Fiesta model coming out later this year.
The Maker Faire featured a definite “steampunk” theme that combined technological coolness with Victorian mechanical madness. Here’s an example of the computer-mechanical theme with a webcam on a bicycle-contraption.
The sign on this “interactive kinetic sculpture” exhibit is “Life Size Mouse Trap.” The car in the foreground on the left discovered what happens when you spring this trap. Don’t mess with this one.

Rich Hilleman’s day job is being chief creative director at Electronic Arts. But in his off-time, he designed the Capstone CMT380 Blackbird, an electric vehicle sports car with a turbine engine. It has a range of 85 miles as a plug-in electric car or 500 miles as a hybrid electric-diesel car.

There were a bunch of funny bike and music acts at the faire. Some of them actually used bicycles to power the electricity for the musical equipment on stage.

Do you want a do-it-yourself rollercoaster in your backyard? The Dragons Flight rollercoaster won’t fit in my backyard. This hand-crafted wooden device was made by architect James Horecka.

Here’s one of the machines that started the personal computer revolution, the Apple IIe. Check out those graphics. It’s a technological marvel that something this old still runs properly.

Ge Wang, chief technology officer at Smule and a music professor at Stanford University, showed off one of his company’s apps for the iPhone. The Leaf Trombone app is one of a number of Smule apps that let you make music with the iPhone.

This NYU ITP demo was one of the more creative projects. You painted water colors on paper. And as you did so, a sensor attached to the paintbrush transferred your strokes into a computer, which played music on speakers based on the pattern of your strokes.

This robot was a mean one. It was going around popping balloons.

This is exhibit was a completely automated robot orchestra. It’s called the Gamelatron and it is modeled after the Balinese and Javanese Gamelan instrument. There are 117 robotic striking mechanisms.

I have no idea what this is. It looks to me like a modern shrine to technology.

NASA showed off some of its remotely piloted exploration vehicles.

This is more flame-themed art work. The sculptures by Orion Fredericks look like the giant, nasty bugs from Starship Troopers.

This is a five-foot long Russian spy submarine.

There were lots of cool light-themed projects inside one of the exhibit halls.

Not sure what it is. But it’s pretty. The sign said that these were “kinetic light sculptures” by Jason Dietz.

These Battle Bots were fighting robots that caused some serious destruction among the toy car victims that were strewn about like so much cannon fodder.

Here’s another example of a flaming metal sculpture, combining technology and primitive ritual.

This exhibit was a healing eye.

This Raygun Gothic Rocketship was the tallest exhibit at the Maker Faire. You could walk up the stairs, take a tour of the inside, and then walk out the other.

This guy was dressed as a cupcake on wheels. I didn’t stop to ask why.

This was one of the biggest sculptures out there. It reminded me of a scene from the Brutal Legend video game, which depicts a lot of scenes from hell.