Maker Faire Milwaukee makes its Wisconsin Center debut this weekend

Will feature more than 250 exhibitors

The Dark Room at Maker Faire Milwaukee.
The Dark Room at Maker Faire Milwaukee.

Maker Faire Milwaukee, an annual event produced by Betty Brinn Children’s Museum that celebrates technology, education, science, art, engineering and sustainability, will showcase more than 250 exhibitors this weekend at the Wisconsin Center.

It’s the sixth annual edition of the fair, and the first time it will be held at the downtown convention center. For the past five years, it took place at Wisconsin State Fair Park.

Carrie Wettstein, Maker Faire Milwaukee producer, said visitors can expect new exhibits and activities, along with the return of fan favorites. The event, which is free and open to the public, is designed to attract tech enthusiasts, inventors, students, educators and DIY enthusiasts.

“We have makers and exhibitors of all ages young makers, old makers, hobbyists, professionals, higher education and K-12 schools, makerspaces from around the state exhibiting,” Wettstein said. “There is really something for everyone. It’s very family friendly; that’s our mission.”

The fair’s signature Dark Room will return with a live show, created by local makers Jake Bissen and Sam Catania, that utilizes six Tesla coils. Other exhibits at the We Energies Foundation-sponsored room include film, electronics, coding applications, games and light sculptures, and displays that transform minute by minute in the low-light environment.

Briggs & Stratton is sponsoring the Power Racing Series, which will include 19 teams from around the country competing in a power wheels racing competition. Vehicles are designed from ride-on toys and enhanced with batteries and other features, as well as decorations that earn points in the “Moxie Competition.”

Making its debut this year is “Robotic Football,” provided by Valparaiso University. Two teams will play on a basketball court-sized field in a competition that involves running plays and tackles indicated by LED displays on robots.

“Football fans need not worry; there’s football at the fair,” Wettstein said.

RoboFest 8, an off-season FIRST robotics competition, will return to the fair. As many as 24 high school FIRST teams from around the state will compete in the challenge that involves building a robot in six weeks that can complete a series of challenges.

EAA of Oshkosh will make its fair debut with its “Spirit of Aviation” mobile experience, featuring various simulations and hands-on activities.

Wettstein said the fair has seen increased interest from out-of-town exhibitors because of its relocation to downtown Milwaukee.

“We’re really interested to see how our move downtown translates into new visitors and people,” she said.

Other demonstrations include:

  • Northwestern Mutual’s Cream City Labs will demonstrate 3D modeling and printing.
  • UW-Milwaukee College of Engineering & Applied Science will share student research projects.
  • FIRST Robotics will showcase robotics programs for K-12 students.
  • Maker Michael Overstreet will introduce a collection of humanoid and non-humanoid robots.
  • Jenny Ross will exhibit fiber art techniques, including hand embroidery and hand dyeing of textiles.
  • Max Kasprzak, a seventh-grader and founder of the Greenfield Raspberry Pi Coding Club for kids, will provide programming lessons.

The fair will be held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Pre-registration is available here.

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Lauren Anderson
Lauren Anderson covers health care, nonprofits, education and insurance for BizTimes. Lauren previously reported on education for the Waukesha Freeman. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she studied journalism, history and African studies. In her free time, Lauren enjoys spending time with family and friends and seeing live music wherever she can.