Thursday, July 26, 2012

Maker Faire KC: Fun with Electricity!

Welcome to the second installment on the 2012 Kansas City Maker Faire!  You can find background on the event on installment one presented on the topic of printing technology.  Today's post features a subject near and dear to me:  Fun with Electricity!  Let's get started.

The Quantum-Encabulator

This device lives in the "stuff and nonsense" category.  Every switch and dial makes different things happen including flashing lights, moving dials and fog. I didn't have a chance to chat with the maker, but it appeared to live with the stuff from the Cowtown Computer Congress, a Kansas City maker collective.
User beware!  Perhaps when I read a sign that says "DO NOT USE THIS SWITCH!" I should respond by leaving it alone.  Or not.  This little sucker actually delivers a mild electric shock!  At least I was not the only person that fell prey to this little prank.  I saw at least one high school age boy touch the handle.  Talk about impulse control issues!

This typecast is brought to you by a Remington Mark II.  It has the snappy and precise guts of a Torpedo 18 in a solid plastic body that looks something like the aftermath of a stingray becoming one with the Borg.  The machine does not look fabulous, but I got it for the the unique cursive typeface and a craving for Torpedo feel.
At Vintage Technology Obsessions, we support the excessive use of Nixie tube displays.  We have a Fluke multimeter equipped with Nixie tubes and have considered acquiring a clock kit on more than one occasion.

The Mad Scientist's Laboratory

Welcome to the mad scientist's laboratory!  As you feast your eyes on this display, keep in mind that all of this was brought in and set up just for a two day event.  The huge tube houses a home brew Jacob's Ladder.  Most impressive.

Unfortunately, there were always willing volunteers waiting in line for diagnosis and treatment.  I only got to see the act without hearing it.  In the next image, the Doctor is approaching the patient with great care lest he still harbors residual electrical energy from his first round of treatment.
Given his petulant nature, it became obvious that enhanced treatment was in order.  Be sure to click the photo below so you can read the labels.

Repeat after me:  Mwah, ha, ha.

Power Wheels Racing League

Our next stop transitions from the world of AC to the wonders of DC.  Have you ever noticed the jawas that cruise neighborhood trash piles the night before the real trash hauler comes?  The amount of useful detritus that ends up by the curb is truly sad :( 

Fortunately, it isn't just flea market, Craigslist and ebay flippers plucking good bits from the garbage!  When the right maker gets hold of one of those old battery powered kiddy cars the magic and madness of Power Wheels racing can begin!

You might guess from this pit area scene that the Power Wheels Racing League isn't about stock vehicles.  Nope, these are like the nitro burning funny cars of the kiddie car world.  Most of these have at least two deep cycle marine batteries in their customized chassis.  A day at the races includes endurance laps, drag racing and trips around the road course.

Yeah, I want to do this in the worst way.  The participants get bonus points for flair.  There are more photos from the 2011 event at

Real Cars with Electric Style

This little car got a lot of attention.  It has a hybrid drive train with pedals for the driver and passenger and a battery powered electric motor.  It is a street legal 1998 import from Europe.  While it is a daily driver, the lack of air conditioning probably causes it to be parked during heat spells like what we have been experiencing.  As I write this, it is 95 degrees at 10:00 PM after an afternoon high of 104.  Thank goodness for Tesla and Westinghouse!

This car is more for show than go.  Still, who wouldn't love to cruise around in a reproduction of the Back to the Future Delorean?
Looks like the flux capacitor is up and running.  Engage the time circuit!

Arc Attack

And now, welcome to the madness that is Arc Attack!  This band hails from Austin, Texas.  They built these two Tesla coils that crank out 12 foot, 500,000 volt streamers.  On top of that, they vary the input frequency so  the coils "sing".  The act started in 2005 and has been refined along the way.  The coils were redesigned after an unfortunate fire.  Just this year they added a robotic drummer to the crew.

I was unable to upload one of my videos, but there are plenty of samples on YouTube.  The sound may be a little garbled because these things are incredibly loud!  The microphone on my Sony NEX3 was totally overwhelmed.

The front man walks around in a chain mail Faraday suit.  It was a 100 degree day and at least ten degrees warmer inside the tent.  This form of insanity takes dedication.

Yeah, he is getting hit in the head with a streamer.  So jealous...
Part way into the performance, the band rolls out a Faraday cage and asks for volunteers from the audience.  Children must have parental permission and adults have to promise to dance like crazy people inside the cage.  Sadly, I have not been selected from the audience.  It would be a very Star  Trek experience!

Thanks for reading!  I'll do one more post to close out the series and hope you can come along for the fun!

A friendly reminder about the archaic concept of copyright:  all photos are copyright Dwayne F. at vintagetechobsessions.  Please cite the source if you liberate my images.  They are not to be used for commercial purposes with or without citation.  You could wake up with an Oliver 99 hovering over your bed.  You have been warned.


  1. Arc Attack looks like the ultimate metalhead / nerd experience!

    1. Pretty much. I added their t-shirt with the circuit diagram for the Tesla coils to my collection of robot/geek/nerd paraphernalia.

  2. Man.... This looks awesome! And a bucket load of fun. I need to get into this.

  3. Holy Moly! This stuff is wild. Great post - thanks! (I may be headed to the Detroit Maker Faire - next year though - this gets me so jazzed to see what'll be there)

  4. Agree with Richard, Arc Attack is pure nerd fun!
    Very nice typeface on that Remington Mark II.

  5. All: Yes, it is a lot to take in over a weekend and this is classified as a mini Maker Faire. The Bay Area and NYC Faires are the flagships and Detroit is almost there. I'll do one more entry on Maker Faire KC and it won't cover everything I saw or shot and I was only there for six hours! Wish I had more time, but the Art of the Car was only on Sunday that weekend.

    Ledeaux: You must go to the Detroit Maker Faire. You could probably use your Typewriter Day documentation as part of an application to be an exhibitor! It isn't all about electronics. Anachronistic technologies and hand craft are right at home.

    Ton: I love this variety of cursive. It has subtle charm. There is an identical Mark II on Etsy at the moment. I am lukewarm about the plastic body and Borgishness. However, the action is so choice.


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