About 60 vendors attended Chattanooga's inaugural Mini Maker Faire on Saturday, to show off the stuff they can make and explain how they make it. The event featured a wide variety of DIY products, from hydroponic gardens to a life-size R2D2 and even a fire tornado, powered by pedaling a bicycle.
The "maker movement" is about people creating complex products completely from scratch. Big faires already exist in places like New York and Atlanta. Smaller communities get "mini" faires.
Graham Bredemeyer, director of the faire, said he's wanted to bring this event to Chattanooga for a few years. He said a lot of times, makers aren't aware of other makers in their area, and he hoped this faire would help bring them together.
"Chattanooga is bursting with awesome makers that identify with this community," Bredemeyer said.
Although the faire Saturday was mostly attended by humans, there were a few robots present, too -- most notably, R2D2, who had been brought to life by Dan Baker, a hobby maker.
Children and adults alike posed with R2D2 as he beeped and blinked, rolling around near his maker's booth.
Baker said it took him four years to make R2D2. He said he takes the bot to children's hospitals, fairs, charity events and even weddings.
"He's been the ring-bearer in three weddings," Baker said, with a laugh.
Baker said the maker movement comes out of the idea that people should get back to how it used to be, when things were fixed instead of thrown away, or made instead of bought.
"Getting back to kind of that construction mentality is what the maker movement is all about," he said.
Another vendor, John Olafson, traveled to Chattanooga from Goshen, Ind., to show off the 3-D printers that his company, SeeMeCNC, creates.
He said he and his co-founder started making the printers in 2011. Their first printer took a month to make. Now they make thousands of printers every year for customers. At the faire, they had a printer demonstrating what it could do, as well as several printers for sale. One pre-assembled printer was on sale for $999.
Olafson said he travels all over the country to different maker faires, and he said that Chattanooga's first faire impressed him.
"For a first year, this one's pretty awesome," he said.
Bredemeyer said he hopes to make the faire an annual event in Chattanooga, and that this year had a bigger turnout than Atlanta's first faire, several years ago. In the meantime, he said, he hopes this faire will help turn the maker community into more of a collaboration in Chattanooga.
"We're hoping we helped change that for the first year," he said.