Thoughts on the 1st Pittsburgh Maker Faire


So the first full Pittsburgh Maker Faire took place on October 10-11, 2015. I displayed Symonator there and had a pretty good time with it. Some thoughts from the weekend:

  • Overall, for a first time event of this size, it ran very smoothly. The organizers are to be commended for their efforts. The only hiccups were minor (getting our badges late, some confusion over whose power outlet was whose). The load in/out logistics and orientation were almost flawless; they made things that much easier for the makers.
  • Symonator held up pretty well. I had to replace a few LEDs (which was expected) and reattach some loose wires, but that was it.
  • I had things oriented wrong by 90 degrees. Players could play just 4 lights if they couldn’t reach across the board. This inhibited things for smaller kids. I need to run longer wires so I can rotate the game.
  • Little kids had never heard of the game Simon but picked it up the quickest. Adults had heard of the game but had the hardest time understanding the multiplayer or >4 lights modes.
  • The horn notice confused people. I needed a way to let people know the game was done showing the pattern and it was their turn to push buttons. They wanted to hit things as soon as they heard the horn. I should shorten it to a fraction of a second.
  • I’m glad I didn’t make the game speed up, especially on multiplayer mode. That really caused confusion among the players. I think it has to do with the fact you’re not using muscle memory all the time since you’re not always hitting buttons when playing with someone else.
  • Several people noted I should have different sounds for different lights. This is possible with just one player but becomes confusing when you have 2+ lights illuminated.
  • If I were to redesign the buttons, I’d make the lights a circular ring. I had to “wrap” my area with tarps to block out light so the game would be easier to see. With a circular ring projecting upwards, it would be easier to see. Plus, I think I can protect the LEDs better.
  • Only one kid recognized Darth Vader in the audio files. Then again, it was kind of loud at the faire.
  • I need to make a foam-filled suitcase with all my Maker Faire tools so I can easily transport them instead of just piling them in an old milk crate.
  • SMD WS2812 LEDs you source from China are cheap for this application. They can’t take the reflow soldering (unless you do it by hand) nor can they take the banging around. I’ve got some WS2811 chips and through-hole RGB LEDs on order that I think will work better. Plus, the LEDs are diffused already.
  • From being at other Maker Faires and talking to other makers, the independent maker seems to be a bit of an anomaly. I was often asked if I was selling the game or what company/school/etc. I was with. I had to explain that I was just there to show off what I made.
  • As is the case when you’re demonstrating at things like this, I didn’t get too much of a chance to see the other booths. I got about 45 minutes on Sunday to walk around while my wife watched my display.
  • One of the coolest things was watching my son (who had his own display there) trade contact information with another kid who had a Raspberry Pi powered Christmas tree demo. It’s good to see young makers establishing relationships like that.
  • It may sound selfish, but it gave me a mini-high when someone would leave and say, “Wow. That was so cool!”
  • I had to kick people out on Sunday at a few minutes after 5. I wish I would have waited a few more minutes. Rick Sebak was nearby, and I’d have loved to get a picture of him playing Symonator.

Overall, a great weekend. I have to say that I think I may have selected the wrong career. The greatest part about the weekend was watching little kids play my game and smile when they finished a long pattern. One little boy would jump up and down after every round, triumphantly holding his hands up.

Some shots of the game in action.




(BTW, this girl here was a trooper. She not only played the game many times, she actually helped me fix it when some LEDs went bad.)

Oh, and finally, Symonator got a ribbon for exhibiting the DIY maker ideal. So, yeah, me, I guess.