This past weekend, the University of Washington hosted the fourth annual Maker Summit, showcasing—as its name infers—anything that can be made. This event pulls student research and projects from a range of disciplines, from music videos to sock puppets to Tesla coils shooting electricity into the air to create music.

The variety of showcases fostered a friendly, lowkey environment filled with a variety of spectators. With students looking to support their fellow classmate, as well as parents bringing their kids for an entertaining yet educational afternoon, the crowd was a diverse mix of people looking to enjoy the Saturday afternoon.


One of the makers explains his project to a group of engaged attendees

The summit began with entries from two categories: short film and music video. One filmmaker, Hannah Sheil, submitted entries in multiple categories. Her photography entry “Things I Wished I Said,” documented Sheil returning to places where she wished for opportunities to obtain closure.“Everybody has that moment in time where they wish they could have said that one thing,” Sheil said.

The second day of the Summit featured more art pieces, notably a sock-puppet collection created by Brittany Quan. Quan sewed together several custom-made, stuffed bunnies to be donated to Seattle’s Children Hospital. Quan collected information regarding the children’s personal preferences and began stitching together these custom companions.

“Each one is customized for the child’s needs or requests,” said Quan. “One girl has a prosthetic limb so I made her a little bunny that has a prosthetic limb.”

Saturday also dove deeper into the fields of technology and science, showcasing makers’ work in the “gizmo” category. Now it was time to see what the engineers had in store, and they did not disappoint.

Student and Maker Liam Taylor came out with quite an impressive showing, a tesla coil hooked up to a piano that could play recognizable video game themes. Though technically complex, Taylor explained his coil to his audience in digestible language. Having been part of orchestra throughout high school, Taylor wanted to tie in his project idea with the tesla coil with music.

“I started with the tesla coil, and I saw online you could play music through it… I’ve always had an interest in music… so I wanted to use my coil as an instrument.”

Filling the room with both electricity and music, Taylor’s project stood out as an exceptional entry to the Summit.

Artist, inventor, Stanford mechanical engineering professor, and Keynote Speaker John Edmark highlighted the Summit with his “Blooms” project. Blooms are 3D printed sculptures that animate under a strobe light to produce beautiful, entrancing sequences that were designed and invented by Edmark himself.

“Most of the objects that you see that are circular… they are all primarily based on the same recipe nature uses in making things like pinecones and sunflowers,” Edmark said.

They were inspired by a multi-year study on spiral geometries which could be animated through a simple strobe-induced illusion– similar to that of helicopter blades. Spinning at 900 RPM with a light strobing at 40 frames per second, only on at one percent of the time to get the flicker to be timed right visually with the speed at which the object spins.

The only word that could describe Edmark’s sculptures is stunning. It blended together comprehensive mechanical engineering skills with the intricacies of the natural world with such beauty that it left viewers engaged and awestruck. The calculated artform perfectly melded the themes of the Maker Summit with both art and science present in Edmark’s Blooms, easily proving to be a worthy flagship project.

Upon the completion of the showcased projects, a beautiful, cherry blossom-filled walk across campus yielded student-led workshops. The Spray Paint Art workshop was led by friendly staff who were not only incredibly helpful, but who also showed a clear interest in their respective workshops and fostered a fun, creative atmosphere. After spray painting portraits of space nebulas, another staff member helped the group use the laser cutting machine to create custom-made coasters.

The overall vibe of the Summit was one that fostered learning and cultivated curiosity. It was supportive of artistic endeavors and expressions of one’s unique self by giving a platform for young inventors to show off what new masteries they had achieved. A forum for every kind of person, the Maker Summit boasts an environment for all ages and an educational energy– an event worthy of returning to next Spring.

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