Maker Faire organizers thrilled about move to Aberdeen Pavilion

Remco Volmer sounded awfully excited Friday about the big happenings at Lansdowne Park this weekend.

But his enthusiasm had nothing to do with the CFL’s RedBlacks or the North American Soccer League’s Fury, both of which are scheduled to play significant games at TD Place.

Rather, Mr. Volmer is all fired up over robots, drones and 3-D printers. He is one of the organizers of Maker Faire Ottawa, which takes place at the Aberdeen Pavilion on Saturday and Sunday.

The event, which is devoted to the burgeoning do-it-yourself maker movement, will host about 120 exhibitors, more than double the 50 who showed off their wares at last year’s Maker Faire at the Canada Science and Technology Museum. 

The museum is closed for repairs until 2017, but even had it been available organizers probably would have needed a larger venue, Mr. Volmer added.

“I think there is an increased sense from people that they want to get hands-on again,” he said. “We’ve had a period of time where people were just buying stuff and consuming stuff, and I think there’s a need for people to feel connected to their objects again. You see it in the increase in cottage industries – small-time manufacturers and producers that do small-batch production and sell it either online or at craft fairs.”

Maker Faire – which bills itself as “part science fair, part county fair” – is now in its sixth year. What started in 2010 as a small affair at the Arts Court with a handful of exhibitors has become a highly anticipated annual event that is expected to attract more than 6,000 people to a 33,000-square-foot venue. 

“It’s grown pretty dramatically in a couple of years,” said Mr. Volmer, the managing director of Artengine, a non-profit facility dedicated to fostering the connection between art and technology.

He’s attended similar events in Toronto, Montreal and New York and says what sets Ottawa’s fair apart is its emphasis on how art and machines intersect. 

“As producers, what we’re trying to inject in it is a very strong arts focus,” he said. “That’s something that we haven’t seen at other maker fairs.”

The centrepiece of this year’s event is Happy Machine, a curated project that features exhibits such as Paparazzi Bot, a robot that senses when people approach and automatically photographs them, and Kentucky Perfect, a device that “scans” patches of grass that are cut every 20 minutes by a reel mower.

Other features of Maker Faire include a workshop for kids and a biotechnology exhibit. Among the items on display are an incubator that was built using recycled parts from microwaves and other appliances at a cost of about $350.

Participants in the maker movement are “practical problem-solvers,” Mr. Volmer said, pointing out the incubator was created from components that would otherwise likely have ended up in a landfill.

“That principle can be applied to, let’s say, developing countries where they don’t have the money to buy high-end stuff, but they still need these tools,” he said. “That is such an example of the maker spirit, where you find solutions to problems.”

Tickets are available online and at the door at a cost of $10 for adults and $5 for students, seniors and youths aged 13-19. Children 12 and under get in free. For more information, go to makerfaireottawa.com.