TechFlesh Blog

5 Coolest DIY Projects From Detroit Maker Faire 2011

Everybody’s favorite celebration of nerdy DIY joy rolled into dearborn, Mich., last weekend for the second annual Maker Faire Detroit. This year’s event added steam-power exhibits and streer performers, but the star of the show remained big ideas and clever thinnking. These are some of the top projects from detroit Faire.

Gon Kirin

Without a doubt, one of the main attractions at the Motor City’s Maker Faire was Gon Kirin, a tremendous mechanical creation by Ryan Doyle and Teddy Low. It was built on the bones of a 1963 International Harvester Travel all and destined for a trip to the Burning Man Festival. The machine is a compilation of found objects and materials that its creators kluged together at the artists’ lofts that occupy the massive Russell Industrial Center. It breaths fire, waves its spiked tail and strikes fear and awe in all who see it.

Low-Altitude Wind Turbine

Detroit artist and metalworker Carlos Nielbock debuted the Low Altitude Wind Turbine, a beautifully crafted all-metal wind turbine designed to be as much a kinetic sculpture as a power source. It’s been under construction for a few months just outside downtown Detroit.

Shark-Inspired Efficiency

Inspiration often comes from nature, and Anthony Reale took his from the basking shark, the second largest fish in the world (after the whale shark). The basking shark is a krill raker, swimming through the sea with its huge mouth open and filtering the tiny organisms from the water. Reale looked at the shark’s mouth and saw beautiful efficiency borne of millions of years of evolution: The gills direct flowing water around to the back of the mouth, drawing water in with a more consistent flow pattern. He took these elements and applied them to in-water turbine housing. When tested at the University of Michigan’s hydrodynamics lab, it demonstrated a 40 percent better efficiency than comparable turbines. Reale is now shopping the patent-pending design around to investors.

The Boxer

A few years ago Tom Wilson crafted an enormous, four-wheeled, four-person quadricycle using cast-off bike parts, sewer pipe and creativity. Since then he has refined that design–and of course added some fire–and now he’s gone smaller with this build, the Boxer. Like its big brother it has four wheels but it carries just two drivers, elegantly bent steel tubing and a slick suspension system. The Boxer still uses as many bicycle parts as possible, and with the smaller footprint and sportier design, this one looks like a hoot to drive.

Maker Bots

Maker bots are essentially compact CNC (computer numerical control) machines designed to cut material or build up polymer design, and the little machines are becoming a hot commodity within the Maker Faire crowd. The offerings go from entirely open-source, cobbled-together home-brew machines to this model by Bits from Bytes. It’s a slick 3D printer made from machined aluminum and acrylic able to create parts from digital designs.