Miami’s Mini Maker Faire won’t be “Mini” for long

This Saturday’s Miami Mini Maker Faire will introduce young people and their families to the larger maker movement that’s happening across the globe. Photo from 2013 Mini Maker Faire by Michael D. Bolden.

The pulse of Miami’s creative talent will be felt in the streets of Wynwood this Saturday. More than 90 exhibitors — most of whom are from South Florida — will celebrate the latest inventions in art, technology and design alongside more than 3,000 attendees at the Miami Maker Faire.

According to organizer Ric Herrero, maker faires are one way of attracting and retaining talented people in the city, one of the focuses of Knight Foundation, a sponsor of the Maker Faire for the second year. This solution takes shape in the form of new-age robots, 3-D printers, video games and other utilitarian innovations. It’s a city-of-the-future experience that one must experience to fully comprehend.

“Maker faires are happening in cities across the globe,” said Herrero, co-founder of faire organizer MIAMade. “What they represent is the creative activity that’s alive in that particular community.”

Though Miami’s faire is still deemed “mini” in comparison to some others–such as the flagship Bay Area and New York faires that attracted more than 195,000 people last year–Herrero said South Florida does have the potential to become more influential in the global maker movement.  The region’s pioneering spirit and cultural richness yields unique, new ideas in art and technology, he said.

“What’s really interesting about great technologies is that they are also examples of great design,” he said. “The two worlds are constantly inspiring each other. The maker faire is a cross-section of that, where everything that you see is an expression of creativity and resourcefulness through the manipulation of all sorts of raw materials.”

Each maker faire, according to Herrero, is an opportunity to reach design talent and artisans at the ground level. He says the result is that local talent is drawn out of obscurity and into the open.

“This kind of community is what people look for when they are considering moving to and engaging with a city,” he said. “Every major tech hub in the world has a large-scale maker faire.”

With attendance at Miami’s second faire expected to double compared to last year, Herrero, is optimistic about the future of the many other maker initiatives that he has launched with MIAMade co-founder Daniel Lafuente. This year Knight Foundation provided $105,000 in support to MIAMade for the faire, Wynwood Maker Camp and a maker hackathon to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship.

MIAMade also  entered a three-year partnership with the AmeriCorps VISTA program. AmeriCorp nominated Miami as one of 10 cities with the highest potential to disrupt youth poverty in underserved areas through the implementation of maker hubs and educational programs. Since July, two corps members have worked with MIAMade at The LAB Miami in Wynwood to plan logistics for future workshops and events.

Herrero says that the success of the 2014 Wynwood Maker Camp for youth has already inspired a second camp for next year. In addition, attendance continues to increase at the MIAMade Maker Saturdays, a series of workshops for adult makers who want to improve their skills.

This Saturday, maker exhibitions will take place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on NW 26th Street, between First and Third avenues in Wynwood. Herrero says that in addition to support from Knight Foundation, other exhibition hosts, such as the The Light Box, The LAB Miami and the Wynwood Warehouse Project, have helped make the event possible. Registration for the event is open. Exhibit conversations will take place via Twitter using the hashtags #makerfaire and #makerfairemiami.

Jenna Buehler is a Miami-based freelance writer.

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