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Maker Faire Detroit: DIY, Tech, Nerd Heaven

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Hi, I'm Gon Kirin. You might not want to stand too close when I sneeze. (WWJ photo by Matt Roush.)

Hi, I’m Gon Kirin. You might not want to stand too close when I sneeze. (WWJ photo by Matt Roush.)

DEARBORN (WWJ) — What, exactly, is a maker?

Well, it can be just about anybody with a career or hobby that involves building stuff — you know, actually making things.

More than 400 makers are gathered in the parking lots of the Henry Ford Museum this weekend for the fourth annual Maker Faire Detroit, a spinout of Make Magazine that celebrates the tinkerer, the do-it-yourselfer, the science geek, and the artist.

Artists like Ryan C. Doyle, for one. His 50-foot-long fire-breathing robot, called Gon Kirin (that’s “Light Dragon” in Mandarin) is a beautiful sculpture made out of metal pieces and old tire treads cut up to resemble scales.

The fact that it was built on the chassis of a 1963 Dodge W300 dump truck, that kids can climb up in it like a play structure, and that it shoots gas flames 50 feet out of its metallic snout — that’s the stuff that makes it perfect for Maker Faire, not a sculpture garden.

“I started building it in 2008 with an LED artist from Hong Kong, Teddy Lo,” said Doyle, who lives in a working artist community on the Detroit-Hamtramck border, “The idea was to build a dragon that looked like it was ready to pounce, like the sleeping dragon of the Chinese economy.”

Doyle describes his work as “large-scale kinetic interactive sculpture.” The Minneapolis native graduated from the Minnesota Center for Arts Education and the Minnesota College of Art and Design, and lived in the San Francisco area before moving to Detroit two and a half years ago.

Other major attractions at Maker Faire include the Power Racing Series, in which people race kiddie cars, a life-size Mousetrap game, model rocket launches, a full-size FIRST Robotics competition, other robots that do everything from carve pumpkins to decorate eggs, and all sorts of chances for kids to do cool stuff, from play a musical instrument made out of whirling hoses to build a speaker made out of a sticky note to learn metalworking, woodworking, and how to solder electronics. Maker clubs from Ypsilanti, Grand Rapids and Lansing also have displays.

That whirling tube musical instrument is called the Whirly Tubulator, and it was designed by Marie-Therese Enga of Harrison Township, who teaches astronomy at Macomb Community College. She built the device at i3 Detroit, a “hacker space” in Ferndale that caters to the tinkerer and inventor. More at www.i3Detroit.com.

There are also homemade musical instruments, animatronic devices controlled by brain waves, model railroads, a paraglider simulator, a remote-control hot-air balloon, and demonstrations of old arts like glassblowing, a giant Battleship game,

Maker Faire Detroit runs through Sunday at 6 p.m. Tickets are $28 for adults, $26 for seniors 62 and older, $19 for youth 5-12. Kids 4 and under are free. Two-day passes and discounts for members of The Henry Ford are available. More at http://www.makerfairedetroit.com/. Visit www.thehenryford.org/events/makerfaireParking.aspx for directions and shuttle and parking information.

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