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Tech creations find home at Pittsburgh Mini Maker Faire at Children's Museum

Sunday, Aug. 18, 2013, 10:33 p.m.
 

A wood trebuchet flung water balloons as artists demonstrated 3D printing technology.

They were surrounded by crafts, computers and electronics, and more robots than a “Star Wars” movie.

Dozens of do-it-yourself makers assembled Sunday at the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh in the North Side for the third annual Pittsburgh Mini Maker Faire, showing off technological creations to families from across the region.

Among them were the Girls of Steel, an all-female robotics team demonstrating their Frisbee-tossing, pyramid-climbing robot that made it to a national robotics competition in St. Louis this year.

The high school girls, dressed in blue flannel shirts and red bandanas like the iconic Rosie the Riveter, had six weeks to build their robot before a regional competition held each year at University of Pittsburgh.

“It teaches you a lot about problem solving,” said Simran Parwani, a junior at Fox Chapel Area High School and team member for the past two years.

The remote-controlled and battery-powered contraption drives and maneuvers in multiple directions, and can fire off several Frisbees up to about 20 feet in rapid succession.

Rachel Round, a home-schooled senior team member, estimated the 40-girl team spent more than 25 hours a week designing and building the robot starting in January. The team, which has shop space at Carnegie Mellon University and obtains corporate sponsorships to finance the team, competes in events set up by FIRST, a national group that organizes robotics competitions for high school teams around the country.

Bill Schlageter, director of marketing for the Children's Museum, said 75 vendors set up displays at this year's faire, which was more than expected. The museum space and outside grounds were teeming with children and their parents.

Schlageter said the event aims to inspire both children and adults to try building their own creations. Organizers hope the faire sparks interest for children in science, math and engineering, he said.

“Hopefully they walk away saying, ‘I'm going to roll up sleeves and try to make something,' ” he said.

Ryan Bates, 26, an electrical engineer from Crafton, was displaying home-made video-game consoles modeled on arcade games of the 1980s and '90s.

Since 2009, Bates has built 10 game cabinets using old computers and displays, and parts he orders from the Internet. His website, www.retrobuiltgames.com, shows several of his creations.

Although he sold a few of them, his goal is to form a business by selling kits.

“I'm hoping it will turn into something more than a hobby,” he said.

Alex Nixon is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7928 or anixon@tribweb.com.

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