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White House Recap

A few photos and a breakdown of the first White House Maker Faire

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SparkFun was lucky enough to be invited to the first White House Maker Faire last week. I hope you got a chance to see Obama’s speech during the White House Maker Faire! If you didn’t I recommend it - Obama is funny. Here are a few photos from the event!

The EEOB

The Eisenhower Executive Office Building

The entire WHMF experience was a roller coaster. We didn’t know key details until a few days - sometimes hours - before things were happening. Talking to other attendees, this was a common theme and probably just the nature of event planning at something as hard to manage as the White House. Derek and I arrived Tuesday night before the event, and because of the hot weather, they very mercifully moved the event inside the White House. Unfortunately that meant a good portion of the attendees had to watch Obama’s remarks from the EEOB next door via live webcast. While it was for the right reasons, Derek and I got split: I got to attend the live speech and Derek got to checkout the EEOB next door.

White House 1

The view of the big house walking down Pennsylvania Avenue. What’s weird about this photo?

White House 2

There’s nothing weird about these photos unless you have shifts of armed snipers climb on your roof daily. I’m not sure if this is standard or not but pretty freaky. Did I mention it was 95 degrees (35C) and 70 percent humidity? Thank you armed forces!

Security Checkpoint Two

We were told we could bring a cell phone and various materials with us. Above is one of many security checkpoints - I got to go through two. Standard airline security, just bigger guns and more bulletproof glass.

Pancake Bot

Once inside there were tables and demos setup. Here’s PancakeBot (batter not included) demoing.

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Most of the demos were in center rooms. And when I say center (I had to have this all explained to me), I mean they are in between the east and west wings of the White House (where, presumably, real stuff gets done). I also learned the presidential residence is on the 2nd floor. Neat!

Needless to say this entire event was a mix of surreal (robots next to a soldier playing wonderful classical music) and pure, utter giddiness. As the attendees mixed, it was amazing to think that this movement, or whatever you want to call it, had made it all the way to the attention of the president of the United States.

Quin behind his booth

Here is Quin, our friend and collaborator, showing off a robot game he had made along with some new hardware he’s been working on.

Empty podium and waiting room

Around 11AM we were ushered into a side room where the podium was set up between a LED cube matrix and a 3D print of Obama’s state of the union address (about 3D printing [how meta!]).

President Obama giving his maker faire speech

I was in the room with about 150 other people when Obama gave his speech. It was amazing. He read the crowd exceptionally well and had some really funny extemps. He is shockingly close to ‘getting’ the movement that SparkFun is a part of.

3D Bust of Obama

After his speech President Obama left and we were allowed to explore for a few hours. At this point they allowed the remote attendees from the EEOB to come over to the White House. Above is a photo of the archival grade 3D scan and print of the president. It was really an exceptional print that required the latest in 3D scanning and printing.

I asked if the Smithsonian would be releasing and open sourcing the 3D scan data of President Obama to the public. Unfortunately they said they had not yet gotten permission from the White House. C'mon White House! The mashups will be amazing!

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Of course there was a Rally Fighter car parked outside. Kipp Bradford may or may not have been trying to drive it away.

While a good portion of the crowd at the White House Maker Faire were old friends and compatriots of the Maker Movement, I did get to meet many new amazing people. Thank you Obama and the White House for having us!


Comments 9 comments

  • I was in the DC area for a couple of days last week (for a memorial service). I’d forgotten just how miserable the weather is in the National Swamp. After having to sit in a car (in the shade) for half an hour, with the windows rolled down, I was about to take off to return to the pleasant weather in Phoenix – where it’s only 112F but likely less than 10% humidity. Glad to hear you survived your visit to 17 Square Miles of Swamp Surrounded By Reality!

  • I’m jealous.. I’ve lived in (around) DC for 41 years, and work in the Capitol, but have never gotten to go in the Whitehouse, let alone with a bunch of cool tech gadgets! BTW.. Yes, I think those snipers are up there 7x24, rain, shine, or even snow.. Here’s to hoping that their job is forever boring and those guns are never needed!

  • Hope they make it an annual event! (Methinks, though, that maybe there are venues more appropriate based on size in the National Swamp – a certain 5-sided building comes to mind! Hey, Obama has a car to get there!)

  • I hope you didn’t call that Marine a soldier to his face ;-)

  • It’s nice to see a FIRST Robotics team there.

  • Did Sparkfun demo anything?

    • Nate / last year / 1

      It was kind of weird - SparkFun was invited as a collaborator but not a maker so we didn’t have a table to really show anything off. Would have been fun but it made more sense for smaller outfits that had a single focus or project.

      • It’s awesome for Spark fun be a collaborator in the first Fair ,if it’s annual Faire ,i am sure Spark fun will have chance to be a make and have your table to show something .

      • Too bad. You could have demoed the machine that lets the blue smoke out.

        Seriously, would have been cool to demo something fun and simple, to show you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to be a maker.