Saturated with students, artists, academics, and eggheady types of all kinds, the East Bay may be the perfect incubator for a large-scale celebration of arts-and-crafts and do-it-yourself culture. But despite all that geeky goodwill, people like Sabrina Merlo had to schlep to San Mateo for such a festival, Make Magazine's annual Maker Faire. So Merlo decided, appropriately enough, to make one herself. She's calling it the East Bay Mini Maker Faire, and the goal is simple: to celebrate tinkerers, do-it-yourselfers, and geeks of all kinds — people like Sean O'Steen, a Pleasant Hill programmer who got tired of writing software, so he decided to build a robot in his spare time. More specifically, he built a MakerBot Cupcake CNC. It looks like a mini-fridge and works like an inkjet printer by dropping tiny dots of liquid onto a surface — but instead of working in two dimensions, O'Steen's bot layers the dots on top of each other to create functional and decorative 3-D objects.
Like much of what you'll find at the Maker Faire, the MakerBot is designed to be hands-on and interactive. Merlo and her co-organizer, Jennifer Pahlka, have lined up more than one hundred demonstrations of all kinds. It's safe to say this is the only place where you can learn how to keep bees, press olive oil, solder metal, silkscreen, make jam, and construct the perfect paper airplane, all under one roof. Folks from the Church of Craft will lead a button-making workshop, and the Crucible will offer glassblowing and blacksmithing demonstrations. Michael Chabon will teach a workshop on comic-book making, and Free Radio Berkeley will lead a workshop on DIY radio broadcasting. O'Steen called it a "county fair for geeks."
In the end, all the geekery is for a good cause: Proceeds benefit the Park Day School (370 43rd St., Oakland), which also is hosting the event, happening Sunday, October 24. But though the faire takes place at a school and is certainly kid-friendly, Merlo said she's seen a lot of interest from adults. "Maker Faire is really about a manifestation of curiosity," she said. "And part of the appeal of Maker Faire is that it does not distinguish between the curiosity of a child and the curiosity of an adult." 10 a.m.-5 p.m., $10-$20. EBMakerFaire.wordpress.com