Maker Faire comes to life (photos)

This weekend, about 80,000 people will flock to Maker Faire in San Mateo, Calif. Here's what it looks like before the crowds.

Daniel Terdiman
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The new Electric Giraffe

On Saturday, Maker Faire will mark its fifth annual appearance at the San Mateo County Event Center in San Mateo, Calif., south of San Francisco.

The do-it-yourself festival will feature more than 600 exhibitors of all kinds of projects, from singing tesla coils to crafts to walking electric spiders and the Lifesize Mousetrap. Over the course of the weekend, about 80,000 people are expected to visit the event.

CNET News visited Maker Faire on Friday to see what the event is like before the tens of thousands of attendees show up, and to watch the makers setting up their goods.

One person who has been at all five Maker Faires is Lindsay Lawlor, creator of the Electric Giraffe Project, formerly known as the 'Rave Raff. This year, the giraffe has some hot new features, particularly new mechanical work that allows its head to move side to side and up and down, either autonomously or when controlled by a person. Here, Lawlor poses with the giraffe.

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Motorized cupcake

Another Maker Faire regular is the set of motorized cupcakes and muffins. The little marvels never cease to bring smiles to people's faces, whether at Maker Faire, Burning Man, Yuri's Night, or any other event. Now, however, the cupcakes are also available as a fantasy gift from Neiman Marcus for $25,000. Those driving them around at Maker Faire surely paid less than that.
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Raygun Gothic Rocketship

The Raygun Gothic Rocketship, a retro rocketship "built" in 1944, was actually crafted for Burning Man 2009. Having survived its blast-off at the annual arts festival, the rocketship is now making the rounds of events like Maker Faire and Yuri's Night, an annual celebration of Yuri Gagarin's first-ever manned spaceflight that takes place all over the world, but that has its main event at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif., as a festival of art, robots, music, electronics, astronomy, aviation, and more.

The Raygun Gothic Rocketship may also be slated for installation on San Francisco's Embarcadero later this year.

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The Electric Giraffe

Lindsay Lawlor's Electric Giraffe stands proud at Maker Faire the day before the start of Maker Faire in San Mateo, Calif.
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Custom software for a giraffe

To control the Electric Giraffe, Lawlor and his team use custom software built by Russell Pinnington that controls the giraffe's modular system--its audio inputs, music player, audio mike and output and more.
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Pulling the mondo spider off a trailer

The Mondo Spider team pulls its 1,700-pound walking electric spider off a trailer at Maker Faire. The spider is billed as the world's first zero-emissions electric walking vehicle.
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Backing up the spider

A member of the Mondo Spider team backs it up after it was pulled off its trailer. The 1,700-pound electric spider is certain to be the center of attention wherever it goes at Maker Faire. It used to run on gas power, but is now all-electric, something that's more in keeping with the Arts Collective that supported its creation, the Vancouver, B.C.-based eatART (Energy Awareness Through Art).
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The next big project from the Mondo Spider team is Prosthesis, an all-human-powered walking machine that dwarfs the spider. It's not expected to be finished for about three years. This is an artist's rendering of what it is expected to look like.
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Atari boxes

A stack of boxes for Atari 400/800 computers and peripherals sit in a hall at Maker Faire.
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Hermes Space Shuttle

The Hermes Space Shuttle is a spacecraft "for everybody." Designed to take passengers to suborbital altitudes, the craft, which is about one-third the size of an actual space shuttle, was built by Morris Jarvis and his colleagues at Space Transport and Recovery Systems.

"We were all supposed to be Jetsons by now, but I got tired of waiting, so I decided to do it myself," said Jarvis, a lifelong fan of space travel.

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Bringing fire to Soma

Members of the Flaming Lotus Girls add flame to the pilot lights of their huge art piece, Soma. Built for Burning Man 2009, Soma is being featured at Maker Faire this weekend in San Mateo, Calif.

"Soma translates the anatomy of neurons into metal, fire, and light, magnifying the microscopic world to an epic scale," the Flaming Lotus Girls Web site reads. "In Soma, an elegant axon arch connects an earthbound neuron with its partner floating overhead."

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Propane tanks

Here are two propane tanks being used by the Flaming Lotus Girls for the arts collective's project, Soma, which uses both fire and LEDs for effect.
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Po-Bot, by artist Nemo Gould, is, as its Maker Faire description puts it, "a kinetic sculpture made entirely from found materials. This coin-operated character is a self-portrait of sorts, depicting the artist as beggar."
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Typewriter sculpture

This is the Typewriter Sculpture by artist Jeremy Mayer. The entire piece is made from parts of old typewriters.
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Lego Jeep

Bay Area artist Kevin Mathieu's Lego Jeep, as seen at Maker Faire the day before the event's opening.
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Model T and the Rocketship

This 1912 Ford Model T, which was on site at Maker Faire as part of an exhibit by the Bay Area Horseless Carriage Club, is seen with the Raygun Gothic Rocketship in the background.
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Aetheric Message Machine

The Aetheric Message Machine, by John Nagle, is a "steampunk brass-and-glass aetheric message machine." The machine was printing out RSS feeds from Reuters mentioning Maker Faire, and attendees can send it text messages to be printed on, believe it or not, paper.
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A series of Posables--life-size stick-figure mannequins--do their thing at Maker Faire.
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Learn to solder

One of the great things about Maker Faire is that attendees can try their hand at tools used in DIY projects. Here, a series of tables are set up for soldering instruction.
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The Gamelatron from LEMUR (the League of Electronic Musical Urban Robots), is said to be the world's first robotic Gamelan Orchestra. It was designed based on traditional Javanese and Balinese gamelans, and "is an amalgamation of traditional instruments with a suite of percussive sound makers." It uses MIDI sequences to control 117 "striking mechanisms" which together make deep, complex, and rhythmic sounds.

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