Ben Hockman holding HedgehogWhat do you make?

I make robots that explore extraterrestrial worlds in the solar system.

Who do you make it for?

NASA, and by extension, for humanity’s understanding of the cosmos.

Where are you located?

I am originally from Hockessin, DE. and I now work at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, CA.

How long have you been making?

I have been making things since I got my first K’nex set as a young kid, and I have turned my focus to space robots over the past five years.


What inspired you to make Hedgehog?

I have always been inspired by the cosmos and all its many strange and exotic environments. The small objects in our solar system such as comets and asteroids hold many interesting possibilities for scientific research and resource mining, but they have extremely weak gravity which poses a serious challenge for traditional wheeled rovers that rely on surface traction forces to move. In order to enable future surface exploration missions on small bodies, our team from Stanford University and NASA JPL have developed a hopping robot that can more efficiently negotiate these extreme environments.

What makers inspire you?

I am inspired by all makers who turn simple ideas into creative and unique products which may be functional or purely artistic.

What’s next?

I will be working with a fantastic group of engineers at NASA to develop the next generation of robotic systems to explore the far reaches of the solar system.

Joining Hedgehog and Hockman will be Michael LaPointe and Katherine Reilly from the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts program (NIAC) who funded the project.

NextFab laser cut model challenge

Without NextFab’s workshops and sponsorship, the Faire would not be a reality! Puzzles, planes, soldering, and more hands-on activities can be found in the following, fun-for-all-ages workshops.

Scheduled workshops

NextFab laser cut crosstitch

Laser Cut Cross Stitch

Learn the basics of cross stitching by making a laser cut, wooden cross stitched necklace or key-chain.

NextFab wood coaster workshop

Wooden Coasters

Use glue, sanding tools, and colorful wood scraps to create a unique drink coaster.

NextFab laser cut model challenge

Laser Cut Model Challenge

Love puzzles? See if you can assemble a laser cut model without directions. Choose either a working car, or insect.

NextFab Hydroboard soldering

PCB Soldering

Learn about electricity while trying your hand at soldering your own light up PCB kit.

NextFab flying races

3D Printed Flying Races

Compete for prizes and see who can fly their 3D printed glider the farthest in these short distance races.

Drop in!

Modern Beading

Make your own unique necklace or key-chain out of 3D printed and laser cut beads

Our amazing sponsors over at NextFab will be leading the workshops.

TOBOR - the robotic dinosaur

What do you make?

I specialize in making projects using Arduino – from control systems to displays to prototypes to low-power wireless sensors and data collection devices. I handle everything start to finish – from specifying and ordering the necessary components, designing printed circuit boards, assembling everything, and all the programming.

Who do you make it for?

I have clients all over the country ranging from lone inventors to Fortune 500 companies in many different industries. Some examples include a control system for an ampule sealer, control boards for rental storage lockers, monitoring of groundwater levels, monitoring tension on conveyor belts, and a display board that’s used in aircraft.

The Arduino is really much more robust than many people initially assume and it makes a great replacement for expensive PLCs. It makes putting a controller in a low-volume product incredibly viable.

Where are you located?

Macungie, PA – (Allentown area). Macungie means “Bear Swamp.” I haven’t seen any bears here though.

When did you start making and how long have you been making?

I’ve been specializing with the Arduino for about 7 years now, but I’ve been programming and building things since before high school – over 20 years ago.

TOBOR - the Robotic DinosaurWhat inspired you to make TOBOR?

Robotics is a combination of mechanical and electrical engineering and programming, all of which I have experience in. I had been working for one of my clients redesigning an ampule sealer for them, which originally relied on mechanical arms and linkages for motion and timing. Before the Arduino came along there were a variety of microprocessors, each with high prices, low market share, and a limited community. Back in about 2011 I saw that the Arduino was taking over in terms of market share, the price was low, and it had huge support in terms of the availability of sensors and libraries. At that point I decided that it made sense to use the Arduino for the re-engineering of the ampule sealer for the cost savings and capabilities we’d get from it. My client had no idea what an Arduino was – they just know that they pull one off the shelf and load the program onto it and it works. Prior to this I was focusing my business on database development, but I had one line on my website that said that I worked with Arduino. I got a call from a prospective client in Boston, who told me “I’m looking for someone who specializes in Arduino. The next closest guy I can find to you is in India. I was about ready to give up and at the 11th hour decided to do one more search and found you.” And I thought to myself “You’re 20 minutes from MIT, which has one of the best robotics programs in the nation, and you’re calling me down here in Pennsylvania… there’s definitely a need for an Arduino consultant.” So I decided it would be easier to focus on being the best Arduino consultant instead of competing amongst thousands of database developers.

What makers inspire you?

Elon Musk. He may not be as “hands on” in the traditional sense as a lot of makers, but he’s responsible for the development of reusable rockets lowering the cost of launching into space and bringing affordable electric cars to the masses and disrupting the auto industry in the process. I have a special place in my heart for disruptive people who make things happen even when everyone else tells them “no.” There’s absolutely no reason a major automaker couldn’t have brought a viable electric car to market first. GM probably spends more on office supplies than Tesla spent to build the Supercharging network.

What’s next?

I’m coinventor of a product called the SeeSaw that can be retrofit to any existing power tool in about 30 seconds to indicate when blades on for example a table saw or a band saw are still moving. Many people injure themselves because they try to remove the scrap from the last cut and don’t realize the machine hasn’t come to a complete stop yet. There are other devices out there to mitigate injuries from spinning blades on table saws, so this is definitely a problem in search of solutions. We’re working on bringing the SeeSaw to market.

What would you like to ask the maker community?

My question is “What have you done to improve your corner of the world lately?”

Anything else you want to add?

Just because there are many people out there with more money and resources than you that have been doing something a certain way for a long time doesn’t mean that they’re right. They’re often so entrenched in their ways that they’re blind to new possibilities.

And never be afraid of standing up for what’s right. The entrenched interests will often try to bully you into keeping your mouth shut. If they threaten to fire you and follow through with it, they’re doing you a favor. Sunshine is the best disinfectant and word gets around much more quickly these days.


PMA Craft Show participant Lee Chunghie

PMA Craft Show LogoWhat do you make?

We produce the Philadelphia Museum of Art Contemporary Craft Show which highlights the very best in contemporary craft and design.

What inspired you to come to the Faire?

We’re here to promote the Show, to make people aware of this great event right here in Philadelphia. We want as many guests as possible to attend and support the artists.

Who do you produce the Show for?

This year we have 195 artists from across the country plus 26 guest artists from Germany exhibiting. What’s great about our show is that you get to meet the artists and build a relationship by learning more about what inspires them to create and purchase their work. Media categories are baskets, clay, fiber, metal, mixed media, furniture, glass, wood and jewelry.
PMA Craft ShowPMA Craft Show

What’s next?

The Show is the largest single fundraiser for the Museum. When someone purchases a ticket to the Show, they are directly supporting the Museum. This is our 42nd Annual Show. Over $12 million has been raised in the last 41 years. Proceeds support the acquisition of contemporary craft, funds special exhibitions and a variety of programs and projects. We support many of the Museum’s Education Department’s initiatives and especially, Art Splash Family Programs. That opens on June 30 at the Museum.

Rachel Fuld PMA Craft Show

Where are you located?

Our office is at the Museum but the Show is held at the PA Convention Center in November. This year’s dates are November 2-4. For more information, our website address is www.pmacraftshow.org

Parade of Spirits photo by Neil Kohl

Where are you located?

The Parade happens ideally two Saturdays prior to Christmas, in Liberty Lands Park, which is around Third and Poplar Streets in Philadelphia.

How did you get your original idea or concept for The Parade?

When we started doing Parade, there was only one other city in the US that did a Krampus event, and that was Portland, Oregon. I had watched what they were doing from afar (on Facebook) and although what I wanted to do was more kid-friendly, the Portland organizer (Arun Once-Was-Zygoat) and I got along so well and meshed in so many other ways that I felt we were planning sister events on opposite sides of the country. That was in 2011, and at that time we were “just” a Krampus event, at a time where you had to explain to pretty much anybody who and what Krampus was — that’s hardly the case now! It seems that every big city has a Krampus event, and there is merchandise in stores like Target… he’s just everywhere.

I knew that just from the creativity of the original crowd we were working with, there wasn’t anything productive or fun in telling people that dressing as Krampus or anything related to Krampus was a “rule” of the event — people were going to come up with their own ideas — and when we decided to officially change the name of the event to Parade of Spirits, it made it even easier for people to do that. Regardless of the trendiness of Krampus, I don’t think anyone involved in Parade of Spirits feels affected by it, since anyone involved could be thinking of some different folklore entirely — whether it is something from their own heritage (we have a steady Pennsylvania Dutch contingent) or something that they were interested in and wanted to anthropomorphize (my daughter was an amethyst geode this last year).

Parade of Spirits photo by Neil KohlWhat is your company mission?

Overall, I think we give people something to look forward to and concentrate on outside of the commercialism and emotional pressure of secular Christmas. I have spoken to so many people who take Parade of Spirits on for themselves as a personal ritual and are processing very private issues. That said, the only rules we have ever enforced is that the event is not an “entertainment” event and that anyone who comes is responsible for their own fun and some of someone else’s; this does not mean you have to perform or do anything uncomfortable to you, but it also means there’s not much you can expect by coming and standing with your arms folded waiting for someone to put on a show for you. And, because we have so many monsters — Krampus still figures heavily into the event, he’s always there in a number of forms — we insist that any child giving a clear signal that they do not want to be scared, be respected. Back off and go play with somebody else. There are always plenty of kids who do enjoy taunting and running from Krampus, or just approaching him. It’s easy enough to steer clear of the ones who want nothing to do with him. (I’ve personally never seen a crying child at our event — although I see crying children in the Santa line every year at Macy’s.)

What role do you play and what skills did you bring into your company?

I am a good sheepdog and a good project manager. When it comes to workshops, group building projects — I am good at nudging people. I’m also good at helping connect people who will enjoy working together and often my favorite things about Parade are the things I had no idea were coming — the costume I never saw or had any part in the planning of. But I don’t have any goals for anyone else to meet when it comes to Parade — I don’t need it to be a certain size or the “best one ever” or the “biggest one ever” — in fact, I’d be pretty happy to think we’d already passed our biggest one ever, as there was a year we hit what was possibly close to 500 people and that was too much — but I do tend to look at it as data collection. Whatever happens at Parade from year to year tells me something about the people that are there and what they are getting out of it, and since it’s not a commercial experience, it’s a community experience, there’s only so much I can do to guide that. It takes care of itself.

How do the majority of your customers find you now?

It is still baffling to me when I see a post on social media from someone who says they have been coming to Parade for years and it is one of their favorite Philly things and this turns out to be no one involved with the park, or the fire dancers, and someone we’ve not met at all! The only social media we use is Facebook, and we print fifty posters, most of which go around to neighborhood businesses or get saved for friends who want them as souvenirs; we don’t do much in the way of promotion. Word of mouth, I suppose.

Where are the majority of your customers coming from?

I have to presume most people come from at least NEAR Philly, although I have a friend who has driven through the night from Athens, Georgia, twice to come to Parade, and friends who have come twice from Pittsburgh.

Parade of Spirits photo by Neil KohlWho has been your biggest inspiration and why?

At Parade we see more costuming than we do large puppets, although we never know when that could change. I really do love large puppets and would welcome anybody who wanted to start building them out of anything into my living room immediately. A lot of “big puppet groups”, however, look very similar to me; a few that don’t, which I really admire, are Paperhand Puppet Intervention, and Snuff Puppets (definitely, nothing looks like Snuff puppets.) When it comes to inspiration and how really hard just *wearing a costume* can BE — there is a beautiful TED talk that I watch again and again, by Adam Savage called “My Love Letter to Cosplay” that talks about the real physical discomfort that comes from, well, being a magical thing, even temporarily.

Where do you see your business in the next year? In the next five years? The next ten years?

I don’t think I make this decision. At the end of last year’s Parade — which was really beautiful, and had all kinds of special personal moments to me, because my daughter gave a beautiful invocation in Latin, and my son was part of the fire dance routine — I was also pretty sure that the whole thing could have gone on without me, and at least 80% of the people there would not necessarily have noticed my absence. Every year I get something specific in my own mind that keeps me interested in continuing — something that I think other people will find beautiful, and be able to interact with — and I try to bring as much of it to the event as is possible. Sometimes this manifests as someone else building something that I barely have anything to do with, but might have just suggested. I’m thrilled that photographers like Neil Kohl and Rich Wexler have been able to do such interesting work at Parade — it’s not hard to take a good picture of an event that gives you a setting and models for free, but both of them have done much more with it than just that and done work that other photographers could not have duplicated.

Parade of Spirits photo by Neil KohlIn 2016 I spoke at a conference about Winter Festivals and Traditions at Oxford University, specifically on the topic of processional arts and neurodiversity — specifically, what made events like Parade of Spirits (or, specifically Parade of Spirits) tolerable or intolerable for people on the autism spectrum. Because accommodation for neuro divergence is one representation of the future for me — and in a really, REALLY broad list of things that represent the future, so are improved LEDs and wireless musical instruments — these things started to blend together in my mind. What makes “participation” in events like a parade a zero-sum game — where you have go be in attendance to be part of it? What if there’s another way to be part of it, if the sensory issues of the actual travel, parking, crowds, etc., would make it too difficult to do otherwise? And what about things that light up, things that make music? Even in Parade of Spirits, some of our light comes from actual flame. But we are always scouring the web for new and better LEDs for our lanterns, and that aesthetic isn’t at odds with the folk-revival feel that Parade of Spirits has. And the term “Folkfuturism” keeps appearing in my head. But it’s not a thing I can make happen — it’s just a direction I see things moving, or a direction I would happily follow, if things looked like they were moving that way. Folkfuturism sounds exciting!

Parade of Spirits photo by Neil KohlI’ve always felt there would be something important to the history of Parade that it take place once or twice under really reduced or altered conditions. We have done it in a raging blizzard, literally, and that didn’t seem to slow down anyone. we had belly dancers breathing fire in a blizzard. I have a fantasy though, of it happening and there only being maybe five people present. It’s not that I want it ruined for anyone! Or that I want people to drive long distances and be disappointed… I feel like it is part of the journey of Parade to have one incarnation of tininess. I don’t know if this is a hope, or a prediction. I just see it in my mind. I feel like it’s coming and that it will not be a disappointment. I also recognize that while Liberty Lands is a lovely park it is a trek for many and not very wheelchair accessible. When we talk about remote participation for those who have a hard time traveling at all, I realize that remote participation does not just mean one physical location plus virtual locations, or live streaming — it can mean more than one physical location. It can mean surprise locations! I don’t know. Someone else’s enthusiasm will motivate me — that’s almost always what does it.

I am particularly excited to be part of Maker Faire because I am hoping to meet more people interested in costuming and puppet-making and processional arts who know more about circuits and stuff than we do. I don’t think those kinds of advancements need to look “high tech” to bring a greater facility to the costuming, lighting, even the safety of the types of pieces we use now for Parade.

Follow Parade of Spirits, Liberty Land on Facebook and their website.

All photographs by Neil Kohl. Follow him on Instagram.


Day Cycle clock at Night

Inside DayCycleWhat do you make?

My projects stem from ideas for useful, interesting and/or novel projects. So they tend to involve mechanical, electrical, software, woodworking, metalworking, etc whatever it tak es to get the project done. I enjoy learning new skills so I can turn my ideas into tangible functioning things.

DayCycle maker Rich Nelson

Who do you make it for?

For myself (to scratch the itch), for friends and family (presents), and for my employer (so they’ll keep paying me).

Where are you located?

I live in South Jersey and work in Center City.

When did you start making? How long have you been making?

I’ve been making things my whole life. My “maker origin story” is about a trait common to most makers, the curiosity of how things work. When I was 9 I wanted to figure out how my bike changed gears, google didn’t exist so I had to do it live. While riding down the street I watched the gears by the back wheel while shifting gears. That day I rode into a the back of a parked car breaking my jaw in multiple places, and learned how a derailleur worked.

Luckily I’ve managed to continue learning without breaking any more bones, continue learning and making as much as I can.

What inspired you to make Day Cycle?

It started out as a birthday present (now a bit late) for my brother who is a die hard Philadelphian. Then The Maker Faire inspired me to make it BIG and interactive!

What makers inspire you?

The maker community at large! I’ve always been driven to learn, tinker, and make things but haven’t known too many others with the same passions, with the recent explosive growth of the maker community driven by online communities and Maker Media that has definitely changed.

What’s next?

I have a lot of projects on the to-do list, but beyond just making new things I plan to be more active in sharing my projects and how they were made. The maker community is inspiring, and I’d love to participate and contribute more.

Anything else you want to add?

I’m looking forward to the Faire! If you’re interested in seeing more of my projects, you can check out my website www.RichNelson.me and YouTube channel.


Day Cycle clock at SunriseDay Cycle clock daytimeDay Cycle clock at Sunset

NextFab sponsors #PhillyMakerFaire

Today marks the first day of the National Week of Making so it’s seems appropriate to share how the first Philadelphia Mini Maker Faire went from an idea to a reality.

It all began when Dale Dougherty , the man who started Make magazine in 2005, came to a local meetup in Philadelphia. “He visited NextFab, spoke to the City Council and gave a wonderful presentation to the Maker Meetup at the Franklin Institute. Dale’s visit was hugely inspiring and prompted a conversation that lead to the Mini Maker Faire in Philly.”

Click through to the article to read the entire story and stay tuned while we celebrate makers everywhere.

Cassette loop by Grand Bouvier, sound artist

Grant Bouvier, sound artist What do you make?

I make cassette tape loops, design my own synthesizers, and hack together all manner of electronic sound devices that I find. I also occasionally take the time to compose and record music using various instruments and other fun things I design and make myself.

Who do you make it for?

Right now, everything I make or design is meant for myself to use in the studio or in live performances. However, I am currently taking steps towards making my designs and work available to others through a variety of avenues.

Where are you located?

I am currently live and work in Brooklyn NY, attending Brooklyn College as a graduate student (MFA Sonic Arts). However, I am a native Philadelphian (go birds) and spend a lot of my time back in Philly working on various projects and performing with friends around the city.

When did you start making?

I first became interested in making my own instruments and studio equipment after taking a class on Audio Electronics at the University of the Arts while working on my undergrad there (around late 2013). They have one of the first Moog modular synthesizers ever built in the studio there, and a number of really interesting pieces of vintage analog equipment. Seeing those and learning the basics of electronic engineering inspired me to try and make my own gear since I could not afford a giant modular synth or high end tape equipment at the time (I still cant) and I wanted to be able to continue making music with one after I graduated.

How long have you been making?

I have been officially making since about 2013, but I always loved to tinker when I was a young kid. There are still a bunch of old disassembled guitars in my mother’s basement with a bunch of half baked modifications. So I guess I would say that I’ve been a maker at heart since I can remember.

What inspired you to make?

Magnetic tape has a long and illustrious history in the world of experimental and electronic music as a tool rather than a medium of storage. I began studying the works of the minimalist composers like Steve Reich and Morton Subotnick, along with more recent artists like Brian Eno, and was inspired at trying my hand at using tape editing and manipulation as a means of composing and performing rather than just recording. I found there to be something very liberating about working with record sounds away from a computer, and felt like I needed to continue making tape loops and experiments until I was a master. While I’m no master yet, I’ve gotten much better since I started.

What makers inspire you?

While I could easy make a long list of classic composers, musicians, and composers that have inspired and informed my work, a few of the more recent makers that have directly inspired my work have been Tony Rolando, founder and designer at modular synth company Make Noise, and the artist/producer Amulets, who is a sort of master/virtuoso of cassette tape manipulation. Both are very different individuals, but both have produced some really great things in the bast several years. Tony’s modular designs are among the modern classics of analog synthesis, and Amulets is probably more responsible than anybody else for a renewed interest in tape looping and cassette technology on the internet.

Grant Bouvier, sound artist during a performance

What’s next?

I still have another year of graduate studies left before I receive my MFA in Sonic Arts from Brooklyn College, but before that happens I want to continue making music and honing my tape loop skills. I also want to begin to compile some of my more interesting designs and builds into one place so that others can learn from my work and make them for themselves. I have an ever expanding back catalog of projects that I would love to get started working on tomorrow, but for now I’m going to focus on wrapping up school and soaking up as much knowledge as possible along the way.

Anything else you want to add?

I have a record of music comprised entirely of tape loop base compositions coming out this summer! You should follow me on Instagram, @midi_lizard, for updates and check out some of other music and projects on my website.

Philadelphia Mini Maker Faire Skyline

Our media sponsor Technical.ly wrote about the upcoming Philadelphia Mini Maker Faire including this excellent quote by co-organizer Marvin Weinberger:

The Philadelphia Mini Maker Faire is another step towards Philadelphia becoming a true Maker City, and to reigniting the city’s past as a manufacturing hub and resource for innovators, from Ben Franklin to now.

Read the full article here.

The pipewarmer at East Falls Glassworks

What do we make?

We make a range of things here at the studio, from ornaments to vases, custom orders for lighting, decor, and artwork. Basically if its made of glass and theres a chance we can make it. We also teach classes at the studio, to other future makers in this material, and people looking just to get an one day experience, which is really a lot of fun to spread this knowledge.

Students at East Falls GlassworksWho do we make it for?

We make things for a wide range of clients, from a company called Night Orbs, specializing in outdoor and indoor architectural lighting, to custom orders from anyone looking to have something made for a project, or home renovation. We have also work with artists who are looking to use glass as a medium, and hire us to execute their ideas, which is always a fun time and a challenge.

Where are we located?

We are in East Falls, about a 10 minute ride down Kelly Drive, right before you hit Manayunk. The Glassworks is in a development called Scotts Mills, formerly Sherman Mills, and are surrounded by an artist and business community ranging from Gyms, Haircuts, Stained Glass, Ceramics, Painting, Printmaking, you name it! We are right off of Scotts Lane, with free parking on the street, which usually is pretty easy to find a spot.

Sean Bradley from East Falls Glassworks making a glassWhen did I start making?

I started in Glass just about 5 years ago, but have been making since my childhood, building anything from mini bikes, to woodworking, I was just a kid who liked to make stuff. Which led to me attending a Technical High School, in which I tried just about everything, but majored in Commercial Art. Long story short, drawing was not satisfying to the maker inside me, leading me to drop college after the first year, and I took a mechanic job at a local Honda. 5 years later, I went back to school to pursue Engineering, and took a glassblowing class as an elective, and I fell in love. I had never had access to it my entire life, and as soon as I found it, I knew it was the medium that I had been waiting to find.

How long have you been making?

I’ve been making in Glass for 5 years in August, and our Director and my mentor Nikolaj Christensen, has been at it for about 15 years.

What’s next for East Falls Glassworks?

As of right now, we are looking to build a new furnace, upgrade equipment, get more programming in different glass techniques, and find a way to grow this craft in the Philadelphia region and beyond. As many makers know, this takes lots of upkeep, knowledge, and funding to keep it going, especially in a material where the Furnace runs 24/7, for over a half decade! It’s a juggle to keep it all up and running, but we love it!

Sean Bradley of East Falls GlassworksAnything to add?

Keep on the lookout for summer open houses and events at East Falls Glassworks, we plan on hosting open nights where local and traveling artists come to the studio to demonstrate their skills, and we make a fun night of it and grow our community to   help support this awesome thing that we do here.

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