OAKLAND -- While cruising the scene at a rapturous annual event called BarBot where inventors make robots to mix their master's cocktails, Oakland's Katherine Becvar wanted a more comfy, made-to-order machine. She wanted a robot that could make her a spot of tea.
Enter in some wiring and computing, an Arduino board here and Earl Grey there and you've got The Tea Engine, Becvar's answer to her husband's cosmopolitan-brewing drone. Go to the East Bay Mini Maker Faire on Sunday and you'll see the bot in action. Dial 8 on the old-school telephone that controls her machine and you might get some sugar and cream in your tea.
The fourth annual East Bay Mini Maker Faire happens at Park Day School and Studio One Art Center in Oakland's Temescal district from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Expect a bit of family-friendly Burning Man here, show-and-tell there, and a lot of opportunities to get your hands dirty.
"Certainly our hope for attendees is they get to try something new that they haven't done before, including adults, including parents," said Sabrina Merlo, a Maker Faire program director who volunteers time to put on the East Bay Mini Maker Faire. "No hiding behind your children at Maker Faire!"
Maker Faire is famous in the Bay Area for the signature spring event in San Mateo where thousands of makers meet tens of thousands of people for a two-day show with "Mythbusters" host visits. The East Bay Mini Maker Faire is more lowkey, licensed from the original, but nothing to sniff at. More than 200 makers, mostly from the East Bay, will show off their works and cajole you into doing something fun and creative during the one-day event on the leafy grounds of these two centers.
"It's a mash-up. It's a modern event, interdisciplinary, noncommercial. It's showing people's passions, it's showing what they made," Merlo said.
Highlights include watching metalsmiths Dan Romo and Hopi Breton and her students perform a bronze pour, a detailed learners 101 discussion of the ever-popular geocaching and a demonstration from a seasoned rock climber on how to do crate stacking, a new sport where climbers test their skill on wobbly crates. There will be do-it-yourself rides for kids and adults and representatives from maker spaces including Ace Monster Toys, Hacker Scouts, NIMBY, Rock Paper Scissors, American Steel, The Crucible, Counterculture Labs, and Mothership HackerMoms at the event to talk about their spaces and how you can join them to do projects of your own.
Tea lover Becvar didn't always think she could build a robot. The reference librarian at the College of San Mateo and steampunk seamstress who specializes in utility belts sniffed around local events and expositions until she realized her dream of making a robot that specialized in the host realm. It took her a few months of work and lots of help from friends and fellow Arduino programmers to program her bot. She's proud of it.
"It's not easy but it's not so difficult that you can't wrap your head around it," Becvar said. "What's really great is there are so many people out there with Arduino that you can find something similar and you can modify your own code. It's really friendly for beginners and people who are novices at doing this."
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday
Where: Park Day School and Studio One Art Center; main gates at 360 42nd St., Oakland
Tickets: $12.50 for children ages 3-18, $15 adults in advance online; $15 for children and $20 for adults at the door
More information: http://ebmakerfaire.wordpress.com