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Makers en masse

Lake Oswego developers and business owners will showcase their work this weekend at Portland's fifth-annual Mini Maker Faire

REVIEW PHOTO: KELSEY O'HALLORAN - Brian Echerer of Velo Gioielli welds bicycle-inspired artwork at his studio in Lake Oswego. He's one of more than 100 makers who will showcase their work at the fifth-annual Portland Mini Maker Faire.James Neal looks forward to the Portland Mini Maker Faire every year — not only because it’s a chance to share ideas and get inspired, but also because he can see how his customers are putting his products to work.

Neal founded the Lake Oswego-based company OSH Park in 2012 to serve a community that many traditional circuit board manufacturers were missing: electronics hobbyists. His company allows makers to order custom-designed printed circuit boards in bulk.

Whereas a traditional custom board could cost several hundred dollars, one of Neal’s boards, bought in a bulk order, might run closer to $10.

“Most of our customers are people who are making something for themselves, or to solve a specific problem in their life,” he says. “We are, at the core, a maker company.”

Neal will be one of about 140 makers sharing their projects this weekend at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry’s fifth-annual Mini Maker Faire. Visitors to the Sept. 10-11 event can meet makers, engage in hands-on exhibits, see demonstrations and take part in workshops led by local and national makers.

“It’s so inspiring to walk around and see what everyone is working on,” Neal says of the event. “Every year, it just keeps getting bigger and bigger.”

Neal’s customers, now 80,000 strong, have used his circuit boards to build wall clocks, 3D printers, robots and many other tools for home and work. He says it’s not hard to spot his circuit boards at work at Maker Faire events — they’re purple, while most circuit boards are manufactured in green — and his customers often come to his event booth to show off their projects.

Show and tell

This weekend’s event is part of a national movement of Maker Faires on a mission to create the “Greatest Show (and Tell) on Earth.” The first Faire launched in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2006 as a celebration of the “maker movement,” and the program now boasts dozens of Faires and Mini Faires around the world.

The Portland Mini Maker Faire has been part of OMSI’s annual offerings since 2012. The local event started as part of the museum’s focus on engineering and innovation, says OMSI’s director of events, Andrea Edgecombe. She says OMSI is expecting to host more than 8,000 visitors to this year’s event — most of them families — and looks to draw more makers into the movement.

“We’re trying to inspire the maker within,” she says. “We’re trying to educate the public and inspire the next generation to do what these people do.”

Edgecombe says visitors can look forward to seeing a yarn-covered car, a “Steampunk R2D2” and the Needybot — The Lodge at Wieden+Kennedy’s fuzzy robot that needs help from humans — among hundreds of other makers’ creations.

The event doesn’t just showcase tech enthusiasts and garage tinkerers, though. According to its website, it also highlights crafters, homesteaders and scientists.

REVIEW PHOTO: KELSEY O'HALLORAN - Brian Echerer creates welded artwork using cast-off bicycle parts.For example, this year’s Faire will feature the work of artist and longtime Lake Oswego resident Brian Echerer, who creates custom jewelry, home décor and etched pieces using cast-off pieces from old bicycles for his business, Velo Gioielli.

As an avid cycler, Echerer says the business, and its name, grew out of his love for the sport; “Velo” means “bike” in French and “gioielli” means “jewelry” in Italian.

“We’ve all ridden bicycles as children, and those are probably the earliest memories of independence, freedom and liberty,” he says.

Echerer started making spoke bracelets in 2009 and took part in the Portland Saturday Market for five seasons. He plans to have his pieces available for sale at the Mini Maker Faire, and he’ll also make jewelry on-site and demonstrate the stained glass techniques that he uses for his welded and soldered wall and window décor pieces.

“It’ll be the first time I really am showing anybody how to do it,” he says of the stained glass work.

Student-made software

Even young makers will have a chance to showcase their work at the Mini Maker Faire. Autodesk, a San Francisco Bay Area-based software corporation with a manufacturing hub in Lake Oswego, will have two booths at the Faire: one for the company and another for its high school interns who have built their own robot simulation software.

Brothers Everett and Mackinnon Buck, two Autodesk interns who are in their junior and senior years, respectively, at CAM Academy in Battle Ground, Wash., say they’re looking forward to sharing their Synthesis software on computers set up at the Faire.

“I like to see people taking an interest in the product that the team and I have been working on,” Mackinnon Buck says.

The open-source software enables high school students on FIRST Robotics Competition teams to practice and experiment with a computer-drafted model of the robot they plan to create, before physically building it.

“It provides such a benefit to the community,” he says, since teams can use the software to test their design without wasting time and money on a faulty model.

At Autodesk’s booth, visitors can see 3D printers in action and check out demonstrations for the Fusion 360 modeling and simulation software, says the company’s data and design product manager, Jason Karls.

Autodesk has been involved with the national Maker Faire since the program’s inception, he says, and the Portland event is a chance to further connect the company’s manufacturing hub to the community.

“There are a lot of people who may or may not be aware of what Autodesk has to offer,” he says — though he’s just as eager to see what the other makers will have on display.

“What I like best,” he says, “is all the different personalities that come out to share what they created.”

Contact Kelsey O’Halloran at 503-636-1281 ext. 101 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


What: Portland Mini Maker Faire

When: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sept. 10-11

Where: Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, 1945 S.E. Water Ave. in Portland

Tickets: $10-$15

Info: www.omsi.edu/maker-faire-pdx