When the Smart City meets the Maker Movement

About the author

Louise Overgaard is a development consultant and co-organiser of Aarhus Mini Maker Faire.

A huge pile of cardboard has just been delivered at Dokk1 in Aarhus. It is a stack of pieces that have been cut on a gigantic lasercutter. An upcoming firm has created a business model where they not only lasercut designs, but also create designs themselves and they provide an online platform for their customers, where they can store their designs. Together with the pile of material I have received a link to all the designs – I can chose to download them or just keep them on the company’s platform if I need more of them.

Ahead now lies three hours of assembling big letters spelling “Maker Faire Aarhus”, a three-meter tall rocket (yes, like the one from Tintin – Destination Moon!) and a robot (just as tall!). We are getting ready for Aarhus Mini Maker Faire 2015! We are a bit nervous, quite busy and looking so much forward to two days filled with fun and activity.

What is a Maker Faire?

A Maker Faire is a festival about maker culture and maker philosophy. It is a celebration of Do-it-yourself and Do-it-together, of inventors and creators. It is an event where the audience has the opportunity to do hands-on-activities, see new technologies and meet new ideas.

Aarhus Mini Maker Faire tries to be exactly that – a mash-up of activities for children and grown ups, talks, workshops, exhibitions, high tech, low tech, art, play, weird stuff and funny stuff. And during the two days 45 makers exhibit, work, design, play, show and tell to somewhere between 4000 and 6000 citizens, who visit the maker area.


Who are the makers?

One of the makers is the brand new company Sculpto created by two young men. They have created a 3D-printer that is so cheap and small that it is possible to have it in the children’s room. They have started their company with a Kickstarter campaign, they have used Twitter, Facebook and Thunderclap to promote the campaign and they reached their funding goal actually exceeded it by quite a lot more. Their mission is to let children play and work with 3D printing and it looks as though they will succeed thanks to internet borne services.

Another exhibitor is the small company Air Spot that is the first and only company in Aarhus that create professional films with the use of drones. And actually the drone operator from the Municipality of Aarhus also turns up to do a small drone flight on site. he has created this small film about a robot controlled remotely and built out of an old wheelchair by some of the other makers present.

In one room a bunch of students spend two days offering design workshops including “Come and build your own game controller” where children, families and adults create funny and imaginative game controllers. In the room next door another group of students help children build flashlights and upstairs children and families build a huge super market out of cardboard to celebrate the event Global Cardboard Challenge.


What does Aarhus Mini Maker Faire have to do with Smart Cities?

Aarhus Mini Maker Faire is the place to be if you want to meet techy nerds, but it is also the place to be, if you want to meet people who can see an opportunity in creating business models using new technological possibilities or using technology in a design thinking process.

Not everything in the programme is technological – not at all in fact. The programme gives the possibility to meet different kinds of expression and creativity and it gives the makers the opportunity to do exactly the same thing – meet across silos.

That is for me what a smart city is all about. A city that works smart brings people’s interests and skills out into the open, and tries to mix them to invent new things and create alliances. It is a city that delivers easy access points to internet, technology and to developing and trying out new ideas. A city that works smart makes the citizens a part of the development and hence the city becomes a Smart City.

For more information about Aarhus Mini Maker Faire see or contact Louise Overgaard and @l_overgaard.

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