Growing up, I had a friend who spent hours tinkering away in his parent’s backyard, building the craziest contraptions. When we’d hang out, he’d outline in detail how he built a fish tank using an old computer monitor. Or he’d extol the virtues of his potato guns, wheelchair-wheel cleaners and a custom-made keg-chilling beer fridge. We’d laugh him off.

He later became an engineer, and I became less of a jerk, and I soon realized that his creative genius was actually very impressive.

Now there’s a whole event dedicated to these tinkerers. In it’s second year, the Calgary Mini Maker Faire (modeled after larger Maker Faire events) has partnered with Beakerhead to put on a massive exhibit of “built in your backyard” inventions on Saturday, September 14.

Interested in showing off your own contraption? Still need to dream up a cool idea? With the exhibitor application deadline coming up soon (midnight, July 31), here’s a few neat example projects from other Alberta makers to help you get inspired:

EZ-B Robot Controller and EZ-Robot, DJ Sures

Throughout his career, Calgary-based roboticist Sures recognized a desire by the masses to create their own computerized friends. And so he simplified the process, creating a circuit board he called the EZ-B Robot Controller that could be connected to toys to bring them to life. He later extended the project and founded EZ-Robot, a Calgary-based company that sells complete hardware and software kits that allow users to build their own robots.

This video shows a poor broken Teddy Ruxpin being resurrected through use of the EZ-Robot kit. Skip ahead to 1:40 to see the little guy in action.

CLOUD, Caitlind r.c. Brown and Wayne Garrett

For those who frequent any form social media, this creation will likely be a little more recognizable. Calgary duo Brown and Garrett are known for projects that are interactive in nature (see Wreck City and The House Project). Their imaginative CLOUD project, which was created from 6,000 new and burnt-out light bulbs, was part of Nuit Blanche Calgary. Each bulb is connected to a pull-string, allowing viewers to turn the lights on and off.

This video, produced by Brown, shows CLOUD in action.

CLOUD: An Interactive Sculpture Made from 6,000 Light Bulbs from Caitlind r.c. Brown on Vimeo.

Schmotoboard, Trevor Bielby

While some things are created simply for artistic merit, others are crafted to fulfil an unmet desire. Bielby, a Calgary truck driver, took his remote-controlled gas-powered board in front of the ruthless Dragons on CBC’s Dragon’s Den in 2009 (and ended up receiving one of those rare offers of partnership!), providing the panel an opportunity to, in a sense, “snowboard” year-round.

The board is a 49cc recreational vehicle with a wireless throttle handled by a remote control.

Below is Bielby’s audition video for the CBC show, which shows him cruising around a snowy University of Calgary campus.

Patronus, Phil Allen

Photo: Postmedia Archive

Using scrap metal that he had been collecting for years, Crossfield welder Allen constructed a 9.5-foot tall robot in his backyard over two-and-a-half years.

This week Allen told the Rocky View Weekly that he’d like to “have [the robot] talking by September” and eventually make the big guy move. Perhaps this could be the making of a beautiful (if not terrifying) partnership between the maker of giant 1,000 pound robots and a certain local roboticist that brings them to life?

—Kerianne Sproule


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