SAN MATEO -- Amid the explosive, electronic mayhem of Saturday's Maker Faire, crowds flocked for a glimpse of the day's most silent and simple creation: Suzanne, the world record-holder paper airplane.
The graceful aircraft soared, slowed and stabilized to the cheers of admirers at the weekend event, a carnival of invention, art and engineering.
"It's origami -- a crazy idea that flew," said Suzanne's creator and self-taught aviation expert John Collins of Sausalito, sharing her folded secret: a dihedral angle that changes, based on speed.
Her stunning 227-foot flight in 2012, launched by a Cal quarterback, smashed the previous Guinness World Record by 19.5 feet, set by a paper javelin with wings.
The excitement was as palpable as the nearby lightning bolts shot from the ArcAttack! giant Tesla coils and the heat emitted from a fire-breathing sculpture. Think TEDx meets Burning Man, minus the drugs and dust.
The goofy, clever and irreverent Maker Faire, described as the greatest show (and tell) on Earth, drew crowds to the gates of the San Mateo Event Center as early as 7:30 a.m., hours in advance of its 10 a.m. start time.
Parking? Don't even think about it; the lot filled before gates opened. Try the train, a bicycle or the shuttle buses.
The DIY event, conceived in the Bay Area eight years ago, is now exported around the globe as "mini-Faires," from Anchorage to Wales. More than 1,000 "makers" contributed to this year's joyful and ear-splitting event, supported by hundreds of volunteers.
Last year's crowd of 120,000 was sixfold the size of the first event in 2006. Make Magazine, based in Sebastopol, creates the Faire with help from sponsors such as Intel, Oracle, RadioShack and NASA.
Favorite features on Saturday included cupcake cars, motorized muffins, a giant electronic giraffe and spider-like drones in combat.
But also on view was a ghostly white pig's heart in a jar-- stripped of all its cells, leaving only connective tissue as scaffolding. And then there was AeroQuad, an open source flying robotic machine.
There was even a clan of competitive lock pickers, who shared the skills of their sport. Rule one: Don't pick someone else's lock. Rule two: Don't pick a lock you depend on, like a car door, in case it breaks.
"I love being here. It is just so much fun to see all these people bringing materials to life, using their imaginations," said Redwood City machinist Charles Ogle.
The movement is fueled by an increasingly adept hardware and software-hacking community, along with the rage for recycling, falling prices of electronics and easy access to small machining centers.
It's a backlash against a passive consume-and-dispose culture. Elsewhere around the Bay Area, people were watching TV and shopping in Big Box stores.
These were not those people.
After Suzanne's brief flight, paper airplane designer Collins offered a quick lesson in aerodynamics, then displayed his other inventions: Interlocked Biplane ("two pages folded together"), Star Fighter ("hexagonal wings"), Tube ("It spins as it flies!") and Bat Plane ("a spectacular failure.")
Then he urged the people in the crowd to create their own private Maker Faire.
"Everyone needs to be thinking," he said. "We don't have any spare brains on the planet."
Contact Lisa M. Krieger at 650-492-4098.
When: Continues from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday
Where: San Mateo County Event Center, 1346 Saratoga Drive, San Mateo.
Ticket and travel information: Go to http://makerfaire.com