Mini Maker Faire Athens

 Back in October, I visited the first Athens Mini Maker Faire. I have been waiting for the Faire to come to Athens for a few years, so I was quite excited when The Cube Athens along with FairsPro announced it. Athens is now pinned on the Maker Faire world map, a very symbolic and essential milestone for the maker movement in Greece. Local makers now have a new meeting point, an institution promoting their work, bringing together everything new in the maker field and connecting them with the public and the industry.

Maker Faires are places where you come across the ‘new’ because making is about inventing through hands-on experimenting, challenging existing norms through personal and collective vision. It is about mixing techniques, tools, disciplines, in order to tell new stories about the world; essentially re-designing ways of being; at work, in nature, with each other. And so my anticipation grew!

In the physical world of making and innovation, I found very interesting design initiatives such as Phee and Artichair. Phee harnesses the dead leaves of seagrass, Posidonia Oceanica, which are washed up in huge quantities along the greek coasts to make eco-responsible products. Another example of eco-product was Artichair by Spiros Kizis, a chair made of artichoke thistle, which is otherwise treated as industrial waste, and bio-resin from soya oil, mixed and shaped through a moulding process. These initiatives send out a clear message about design as an integral part of the eco-systemic cycle.

In the Internet of Things world, I was happy to meet the GR-IoT group, a knowledge hub, oriented in technological research, software & hardware development and implementation. For their first experiment with remote temperature sensing, they used the LoraWAN technology, which is an open source network intended for wireless battery operated Things in the regional, national or global network. I found out that three or four of those networks are enough to cover the whole area of Athens and allow smart Things to talk to each other seamlessly. is also a very interesting commercial application monitoring devices online, hence allowing companies with fleets of devices to monitor them in real-time, and collect or feed them with data.  

In social innovation, I came across Odyssea, a social enterprise that creates products to raise awareness about societal issues. For example, their LOVEST program seeks for solutions to an environmental problem created by the devastating refugee crisis in Greece. The huge amount of waste created from life vests is removed from island landfills, treated and re-purposed to make useful products.

Exciting news came from the transportation field too. Elektronio Wheels have a developed an electric handcrafted bike that allows you to move around the city in style and with an electrical boost if needed! As for outside the city, how would you feel about cycling on -disused- train rails?  The rail-biking team has built a custom rail-bike and they are trying to move past greek bureaucracy in order to introduce the sport to the wider public.

The Faire was also fun for young makers! Playing with robots, checking out all the cool kits and tools featured in the Faire, commercial ones, and DIY or making their own DIY robots at the Hebocon Athens workshop and contest were eye-opening and very engaging! A game for both young crowds and adults was Mind The Cube, inviting us to make a cube fly with our brain activity! Actually, I didn’t manage to play because of the queue, so I am looking forward!

Overall there were many different implementations of technology in the field of IoT and remote control, as well as representatives of manufacturing facilities with digital fabrication tools. Apart from those facilities intended for the industry I came across the Athens Makerspace a lab suitable for all kinds of makers, amateurs, designers, hackers who want to try out ideas. They are equipped with all necessary tools like a laser cutter, CnC router to get anyone started and they have a subscription offer running at the moment.

As an interaction designer with a background in architecture, I have a soft spot for experience design in the physical world. For example, I am very curious to see more applications for Liltech’s Lilywatch, a 3D printed watch that turns the top of your hand or any adjacent surface to a touchscreen. Apart from controlling other devices what could a designer or an artist do with this application?

This question reminds me of my personal vision; to see more designers joining technologists and see a more applied design, whether product, artwork or experience. I feel that the future of making is in the physical world with objects, games, vehicles and applications that tie us down to ‘earth’. By ‘earth’ I refer to physical experience, but also the environmental and social sensibility that comes along. People relate to technology when they see an immediate effect in their lives and are happier when it has a positive impact in the world. But physical also means tactile, playful, open, with others.

Moreover, I would like to see more physical games and interactive design that includes play. Play is a personal and social catalyst. Playing with the world allows us to see it through a less serious lens and get more involved. ‘Make through play’ or ‘make to play’ means to inject our moments with joy in our sometimes challenging lives. So make away, until the next Maker Faire.*

Artemis Papageorgiou

*This article was initially published at the Bare Conductive blog.