Attending an event is always fun – especially so at Maker Faire – but have you ever wondered about how it all came together?
This thought occurred us as we meandered down the myriad aisles at Maker Faire and, luckily we bumped into the host of the Faire, Omar-Pierre Soubra. He was on hand to explaine a little more about the Maker Faire and how it came to Cape Town for the first time ever.
Omar is a director at Trimble, a company that makes and distributes unmanned aerial vehicles and laser range finders, positioning software and more. Trimble is also the organiser of the Maker Faire.
Maker Faires are organised globally by Maker Media but independent parties are able to host a Maker Faire using the license – in the same way TEDx events use the TED license.
Of course, in order to organise a Maker Faire, you also need a venue and permission from the right people so Trimble approached the City of Cape Town and Open Design who graciously accepted the honour of hosting the first Maker Faire in the Mother City.
We asked Omar how the City of Cape Town came to be involved in the project..
“About a year and a half ago two of my vice presidents met with Mayor Patricia de Lille, and explained the concept of the [open-source building kit] Wiki House to her,” he says.
The discussion prompted the Vice Presidents to suggest getting makers involved in the project to de Lille. Her reply?
“What’re the makers?”
It was then the VP suggested that de Lille “should have a Maker Faire in Cape Town, even better we’ll organise the first one for you. That was when I got the phone call saying ‘Omar, you’re going to Cape Town and you’re going to organise the first Maker Faire over there’.”
Preparations and planning then began in earnest. Omar spent two weeks out of every month over a period of 10 months travelling between his home in the United States and Cape Town. In this time, he says, he met with designers and makers who have turned their hobbies into businesses and maker organisations such as KAT-O.
It didn’t take Omar long to discover that Cape Town – and South Africa – is filled to brimming with makers and inventors.
“There was a talk about the SKA which is a scientific project but when you listen to the story they are running in the Karoo with no power and everything they do has to be made, they are ultimately makers in the desert” Omar tells htxt.africa while talking about some of the maker projects he’s seen in his time here.
It’s clear that the Maker Faire in Cape Town was a labour of love for Omar, who has deep ties to the maker community. He also has a lot of advice to offer anyone who wants to become part of the maker community.
“Just open that door and take that first step,” he says. “It’s like a baby when you learn how to walk, you’re going make steps and fall and after some point of time you’re going to manage to walk.”
“Making would be like walking, trying experimenting, tinkering. Take an old appliance and take it apart see how its working inside, maybe its a fuse that needs changing and its working again or maybe its not working and we make something new out of it.”
What we learned at Maker Faire is that the term “maker” is all encompassing. Whether you’re making biscuits from scratch or building a glove to control your drone, you are a maker.
The key aspect of the movement is community and for some that can be intimidating but it needn’t be. We have yet to meet anyone in the maker community that isn’t willing to spend a few minutes of their time sharing knowledge.
We have high hopes for the future of Maker Faire in South Africa and we aren’t the only ones; a highly excited Omar declared to everybody at the Faire that “2017 will have the first Maker Faire with giant robots fighting on the water”.
We’ve already booked our flights.