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At Mini Maker Faire, Oaklanders showcase one-of-a-kind inventions

on October 17, 2011

“I’m going to climb the gigantic spoon!” said Beatriz, 7, a Chabot Elementary School student, as she waited for her turn to climb a life sized milk carton, a large mint-green box that was about 15 feet tall and had MILK in huge letters on its sides.

A ladder with a shiny silver spoon-shaped bottom as a base had to be climbed in order to sit down in the large white bowl – filled with pillows and cushions – jutting from the front. And there was a slide for the return trip down.

This was one of the displays showcased at Sunday’s second annual Mini Maker Faire on the grounds of North Oakland’s Park Day School. The do-it-yourself faire consisted of more than 150 makers, vendors, and performers showcasing unique and one of a kind products, crafts, and inventions.

“We’ve invited everyone who’s a maker, and really wants to be a maker from the whole Bay Area, particularly in the East Bay, to show their stuff,” said Mini Maker Faire Coordinator Jennifer Pahlka. “A bunch of us parents at Park Day School were big fans of the Maker Faire that has happened in San Mateo for several years now.  We got the opportunity to do a smaller but still really big and exciting version of the event here at the school.”

She said there were “a lot of expenses to cover,” but that with over three thousand tickets sold, all remaining proceeds will go towards the Park Day School Scholarship fund.

Clicking, whirling, clambering, banging, humming, and buzzing filled the school grounds. Pedal-powered blenders; Ferris wheels; wool cleaners; and bicycles shaped as deer, dragons, and Cambrian era-style sea creatures attracted crowds.

“It’s an amphibious tricycle canoe,” said Jay Broemmel, 44, a San Francisco metal shop worker, explaining the silver canoe-style bicycle cruising around the fairgrounds. “It goes on land and in the water. It has paddles on both sides and the rear wheel also acts as a rudder,”

A member of the Cyclecide group, a San Francisco-based bike rodeo, Broemmel said he enjoys his hobby of creating pedal-powered carnival rides. Using junk and other discarded materials,

Silver Canoe-cycle on display at Mini Mini maker faire.

Broemmel said, he is able to make “cool stuff”.

Lea Redmond, 31, an Oakland resident who owns a creative projects business called Leafcutter Designs, wore a blue postal worker uniform as she showed off her miniature mailboxes, stamps, envelopes, and written-paper — The World’s Smallest Postal Service, Redmond had named her project.

“The paper is one inch wide by 1-½ inches tall,” Redmond said, picking up one of the tiny letters to display its detail.    “The envelopes are one inch wide by a half inch tall. They are sealed with tiny wax seals, packed with a magnifying glass, and sealed in larger envelope.”

While in college, Redmond said, she combined her passions for art and world change and began creating unique handmade projects. Her products are now sold in places as far-flung as Georgia, New York, Australia, France, and Singapore.

She also had another creation on display.  It wasn’t exactly her own invention, she said, but she had  built her own version of a Power-Pedaled Flour Mill. The mill was just a bicycle with a bin attached to its front wheel.  Redmond’s assistant poured about a cup of whole wheat into the bin, and after a few minutes of cycling, depending on the pedaling speed, a small pile of flour satcli in the base of the bin.

“I just got the pieces together, bought a bike from a yard sale and had a machinist to put together the pulley,” she said. “I use this at home when I’m baking.”

“It’s just like riding a bike, but you’re grinding flour,” said nine year-old Aislin, a third grader at Saint Joseph’s Elementary School in Alameda. “I think I will make something like a cake,”

The Homesteader stage showcased numerous DIY domestic arts. Novella Carpenter, the author of the bestselling book Farm City, about her urban farm in West Oakland, explained the process of honey extraction while showing the crowd how to prepare frames for honey extraction. “It’s a sticky job,” she said, as she uncapped wax from the honey frame.  “You do this all day, and you will be high from eating so much honey.” Children and adults then lined up to help Carpenter with the process and also taste some of the fresh honey.

Rachel Berry of Sierra Botanical conducted a DIY herbal workshop and made a lotion mixing sunflower oil, beeswax, and water in a blender in fifteen minutes.

“I’ve brought some jewelry and other really neat things, but the DIY personal herbal workshop was my favorite,” said Oakland resident Rebecca Lippert. “I’m really interested in making my own beauty products.”

The faire also had DIY projects that were especially kid-friendly. They could complete challenges with the mobile robots; build and launch their own paper rockets; or make giant soap bubbles by dipping two sticks, connected by string, into a tub of soap water.  By vigorously shaking whipping cream in baby food jars, they learned a simple way to make butter.

“It’s kind of overwhelming,” said Stella, 9, who attends Park Day School. “There are not many rules like there are in school, and you can do whatever you want.”

Four hours in, the faire appeared a huge success.  Jennifer Pahlka smiled as she saw the crowds still coming in. “I wish I had time to go to all of the exhibits,” she said

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Photo by Basil D Soufi
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