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Monday, Jul. 01, 2013

Pop, whizz, bang, boom: Creators make a splash at Maker Faire

The Kansas City Star

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It looks like it’s official. You can make anything.

The evidence was everywhere Sunday at Union Station, where thousands of people visited the weekend Maker Faire — a celebration of all that a maker can dream up.

Like LP records, saved from a house fire and strung together to form decorative mobiles.

Or Andy Graham’s Slapperoo, which resembles a small curtain rod. When repeatedly slapped, it rocks like a souped-up electric bass.

Jordie Smith of the Cowtown Computer Congress made an animatronic tail, its plastic joints produced by a 3-D printer called the Replicator. Said Smith: “I’m going to attach the tail to a lemur costume. Just to have one.”

Bands made music outside the station. Stuff as simple as clay pots was made inside.

A group of underprivileged boys hawked their own barbecue sauces, marketed through Boys Grow Corp., a nonprofit that develops young entrepreneurs in the central city.

Holding a bottle of BGQ Sauce, Boys Grow executive director John Gordon Jr. said, “as of yesterday, it’s available in several locations.” The sauce developer is 12.

Paul Loupe, who is 13, operated a soldering tool for the first time as he assembled a flashing lapel pin at a booth. “Five minutes at it, and I’m not quite there yet,” said Loupe, who lives in Lawrence.

“It’s insane,” said soldering instructor Pat Spring. “I’ve had little ones who don’t have any problem getting down the skill … maybe a little too quickly.”

Nearby, Matt Bell of Kansas City tickled laptop keys to move a felt cube suspended on crisscrossing fishline. “What I’m working on is a 3-D positioning system,” said Bell. If perfected, the floating geegaw might plant garden seeds from the air, using downloaded images of flower beds, he said.

“Yeah, I just want to make random stuff to keep me occupied,” he said. “Hopefully, something cool will come of it.”

Can’t make anything? At the Maker Faire, you always can make things up.

“Hey, you want to be an experiment?” asked Professor Yekaterina Maksimeva in a luxurious Russian accent to a puzzled passerby, Josiah Berkebile.

Within seconds, the mad professor (a.k.a. Hana Spangler, with assistant, sister Marta Spangler) had Berkebile in a chair with a brass bowl on his head. A cord tethered the bowl to a bird puppet wearing its own bowl on the head. Berkebile slumped and folded his arms as a curious crowd formed.

“We’ll swap your brain with the bird. OK?” the professor said, scurrying about a mock lab spinning knobs.

The experiment didn’t succeed. But it did prompt Berkebile’s wife to ask: “What did you just do to my husband?”

She showed how to make a man embarrassed, just a little.

To reach Rick Montgomery, call 816-234-4410 or send email to

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