Maker Faire to make its Southwest Michigan debut Saturday

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

ST. JOSEPH – A nationwide festival is coming to Whirlpool Centennial Park.

The Southwest Michigan Mini Maker Faire is making its debut in the region from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 30, in the park at 330 Broad St.

Festivities are free to the public and will include hands-on demonstrations from 3D printers to arts and crafts.

Joe Rommel, educational technology consultant for Berrien RESA, said the event will attract artists, engineers and designers from across the region.

“It will be a day of family-friendly making, learning, crafting, inventing and tinkering below the bluff in downtown St. Joseph,” Rommel said. “It’s a ‘maker movement,’ so you do it yourself. This is a convergence of tinkerers.”

The event, expected to be the convergence of science and technology, will include crafting and horticulture activities.

John Olafson, vice president of an Indiana 3D printing company called SeeMeCNC, said his company will be in St. Joseph with nearly a dozen 3D printers in tow for Maker Faire.

SeeMeCNC has been going to different Maker Faires across the country since 2012.

“From a building aspect, Maker Faire is the only way to go,” Olafson said. “It is the largest ‘show and tell’ on Earth. Everything from science and technology to arts and electronics is there. People come to show off what they are making.”

The Maker Faire originated in California near the San Francisco Bay Area. With more than 150 events taking place in 2014, the nearest faires have been in Detroit, Grand Rapids and South Bend.

Olafson had been the Bay Area Maker Faire earlier in May, which played host to more than 150,000 people.

While he doesn’t expect as large of a turnout for the Southwest Michigan Mini Maker Faire, Olafson said he has seen other regional faires, like the one in Fort Wayne, Ind., grow each year.

“We are hoping to get some of the guys out of the woodworks and show off their cool products,” Olafson said.

Rommel said RESA, along with other organizations, have been trying to bring a Maker Faire to this region since fall.

RESA had to apply with Maker Media, who produces the faires, and with the city for the park space.

“We think this area has got a long era of creativity,” Rommel said. “It’s a great event that highlights all the things we can do in our area.”

Rommel said organizers will have a film screening called “Maker” at 6 p.m. Tuesday at The Livery in Benton Harbor. The film is free to the public and explains the reasoning behind why the “maker movement” began.

Anyone who has questions or would like to volunteer can visit the event’s website at swmimakerfaire.com.

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@thehp.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on May 23, 2015)

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