The entranceway at last year's Maker Faire. Photo: Ekai

One of the most exciting outcomes of the discussion at Berkeleyside’s Local Business Forum in January was the notion that the city had a real chance to establish itself as a hotspot for the burgeoning maker movement. Wired Editor-in-Chief Chris Anderson and Autodesk CEO Carl Bass waxed eloquent of the coming shift to viable, small-scale manufacturing, and about the potential of under-utilized space in West Berkeley.

Dozens of makers are already thriving in Berkeley, and many of them will be strutting their stuff at the annual Maker Faire in San Mateo this weekend. A list compiled by the organizers shows a couple of dozen Berkeley-based makers among the hundreds exhibiting, demonstrating and wowing the crowds.

The Maker Faire core audience is adult and child geeks, for sure, but even if you only classify yourself as mildly intrigued by technology and human ingenuity, you should try to go. There’s nothing like it.

Here’s a preview of some of the Berkeley makers on show. 

A student-run team will run Impulse in the 2011 World Solar Challenge across Australia

The CalSol car looks like something out of The Jetsons, but it’s a working prototype that will be in this year’s World Solar Challenge, an 1,800-mile expedition from Darwin in Australia’s far north to Adelaide in the south. The newest creation of the 75-strong student team is Impulse (above). You can marvel at it this weekend.

A very different kind of transportation is used by Berkeleyan Dan Goldwater and his colleagues at Monkeylectric. They’ll be showing how to create digital light art with — of course — bicycles.

A DIY magnetic stirrer from Tekla Labs

Lina Nilsson and her colleagues at Berkeley-based Tekla Labs are harnessing the maker movement for a very different purpose: using off-the-shelf materials to create high-quality lab equipment. The goal is to allow scientists in developing countries to have access to previously unaffordable, specialist lab equipment. Tekla is creating an online library of easy-to-follow blueprints so that anyone can make the equipment.

Or would you rather have your kids be budding MacGyvers, making an arc welder, or turning a casket into a jetski? That’s what Berkeleyan Matthew Jervis is aiming at in his MacGyver Class, subtitled “creative problem solving for kids”.

If you’re a regular Berkeleyside reader you already know about the Dale Family oil press and the PiE high school robotics competition. It’s all at the Maker Faire, along with other jaw-dropping ideas. Even though it’s not in Berkeley, you should go.

Update Through the comments, we’ve been alerted to Gokart Craze, out of Cragmont Elementary School. Ten-year olds Stavros Boutris and Jake Wallin worked with their dads to design and build this sleek-looking go kart.

The Maker Faire runs from 10am to 8pm on Saturday and from 10am to 6pm on Sunday at the San Mateo County Event Center. Tickets can be purchased in advanced through the Maker Faire site.

Lance Knobel (Berkeleyside co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine...