Maker Faire Rome – “How To ReMake the World” Conference Recap

By on October 4, 2013
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Here’s a complete writeup of what happened yesterday 3/10 at Rome Maker Faire.

 Overall it was a great show with I think more than 1000 attendees (during weekday, in Italy, it’s pretty huge) attended an overcrowded Palazzo dei Congressi in Rome’s EUR, the neighborhood that is the best expression of Fascist era architecture.

In this suggestive place, we had the chance to watch to a load of talks with top notch speakers as Bruce Sterling, Dale Dougherty, Raffaello D’Andrea, and many many more. Here’s the detail of the speeches list.


First to intervene was Joey Hudy, the nearly mythological guy that once shown President Obama what a marshmallow gun can do. The boy – with a really impressive experience and story to tell (after all he’s 16 now and already has products on makershed) – stressed out the importance of having a context for making when you’re young. He mentioned the impact of having access to a makerspace and how’s about to feel part of a community and being accepted for you own passions (he mentioned how attending the maker faire was a blast). Finding likeminded people and have great social interactions makes a maker.

After Joey it was the turn of Mark Frauenfelder, editor of Make Magazine and guru of the maker community, that told us a bit about the story of making (since 100 years ago). It was impressive to see how many publications (mainly from the US) was published during the 1900s. Mark also pointed out how the makers movement is going through a transformation from a first phase during which Makers mostly made things for themselves (DIY) into a second phase where makers make things for other makers (pretty powerful vision when you think to manufacturing).

This second one  is mostly about the end of organizational advantages as Fraunfelder told us: R&D, Design, funding, sourcing, prototyping, manufacturing, sales and distribution. All of this things are now very inexpensive, connectivity between people and the internet is doing the rest, it’s a matter of sharing experiences.

David Gauntlett told us that making is connecting and that’s why making is important for society, the economy and us. Making is connecting because you connect materials, because you’re socially connected and because it makes a connection between you and the world when you create something.

Making is because people want to be involved with networks and communities and seen themselves as active, be recognized:  it’s like saying “here I am, I made this” and then, within time “we made this”.

Making is a small steps into a changed world – Gauntlett said – it’s not about cheaper alternatives, it’s about the beauty and joy of making things.

Leah Buechley, MIT professor and mum of Arduino Lilypad – the Arduino board for wearable – gave a wonderful speech about art/crafts/fashion and wearable. She said that Making is being human.

We’ve seen a snapshot of several beautiful projects, made with Lilypad, and she focused on engaging very young childs (a book Sew Electric that will be out end of the month, could be a nice read).

Open source hardware: she shown the crowd  the open cellphone made by David Mellis lately. We saw the results of the “maker your own phone” workshop to focus on how people interpreted the idea, very nice talk.

Then shown Jennifer Jacobs from DressCode told us about a IDE and programming language to design fashion with code. In general the speech from her was focusing on seeing making and the makers movement as mixed and in continuity with crafting, creativity, design: so true.

Josef Prusa introduced the crowd to Rep Rap projects is important: it started a whole 3d printing movement. Was nice to see the Darwin printer and then the Mendel, the point in which the Rep Rap community kicked in (Mendel was the last printer designed in the lab in Bath). Then it showed the many derivatives of rep rap (very impressive). Basically he told that Reprap community succeeded to push Github to implement 3d features because all the community was using Github for hardware design.

Then he showed some nice 3d printers (the Rep Rap Simpson is kinda cool! 90% printable).

Then he gave a glance into the rep rap community: basically uncontrollable, fast and lean to adapt but nobody wants to do the boring stuff that, for developers, is marketing, so there’s a scarce communication with non developers (I’ve seen this problem a lot in open tech).  And he kind finished calling for stop overhyping 3dprinting. He was eventually joined by Alessandro Ranellucci (Slic3r) that reinforced the call for open source, openness, collaboration vs competition, very heartful call, who knows Ranellucci knows how this is really sincere and meaningful.

Enrico Dini (Think big / Print big – dshape) heart fully told the attendance that thanks to 3d printing on a large scale:

“you can print math, petrify algorithms”.

Shown very beautiful pictures of the first prototype of machines he built, with people working, covered in dust, polishing the first prints. Math has a key role. Math is an expression of nature, so he wrangled with the concept of Archi-nature (Italians!) for all the talk. I loved this idea of “printing  nature”. “Never the brain was so near to materialize thoughts” he told us ad hen showed the lab that he has now in Pisa (a public funding project) with a huge printer used for printing houses.

He actually closed the talk talking of some great experiences in printing coastal reefs for fish protection. Nice stuff.

Bruce Sterling: in a very deep talk explored the changing concept of production: conventional products are in the intersection of buildable-desirable-profitable on the other hand some machines are created to do absolutely nothing, but to work – just for the beauty or art. Fantastic passage about Japanese Chindogu, the un-useless products. He eventually continued exploring this and other aspects of making: the joy, the need, the beautiful and more. Nice talk!

Rome Maker Faire Bruce Sterling

Then it was time for Alice Taylor from Toys from the future. She focused on enabling technologies and co-creation: each of the toys is unique (interesting passage on getting the CE certification – “you can make toys too”). Confrontation between mainstream brick and mortar toy industry and their experience: customization in mainstream industry is faced in a very expensive way  – like having 40 models and then allowing the user to choose the one that fits the best with her). They have a very different approach: real time production and sharing as much as they can (designs). Within time, the community grows and hacks and mods emerge (such as using Arduino to add features).

Very interesting to see how to face market expectation: low prices. According to her 3Dprinting is maturing and will eventually be more than competitive. Also, marketing: big brands spend big bucks on it. So there’s hype on 3dprinting but enterprise 3d printing and professional machines are approaching maturity, and companies like this are at the forefront of building new ways of creating stuff.

Jennifer Turliuk spoke about how to increase human potential and innovation: be at the intersection of what are you good at, what you like to do, what the world needs.

You need to do it with little children: she made a parallel with Montessori teaching style (kind homage to Italy). I didn’t know that people like Bezos, Page and many others are Montessori alumni.

So the point here now is to engage children with making (these guys are going to be the changemakers of the future): the idea behind Makerkids (Makerspace for kids) It’s exactly about that, an approach that is really focused on creativity and not following rules.

Dale Dougherty then moderated panel with Massimo Banzi and Brian Krzanich (Intel CEO). Apparently Intel started a project sixty days ago with the Arduino environment – they just wanted to be part of the community. After a while he announced Galileo, the first Intel based Arduino board: this board will be open source (completely as he said), that’s a really interesting move. The board will be available in November, the pricepoint should be around 40$ if I got it well. Here’s the official announcement:


According to Banzi, Arduino is now putting together a global partnership effort to make Arduino technology available to the masses and that’s the reason in partnering with Intel. On the other hand, Intel has very strong interest in Internet of Things and that’s the major driver behind the relationship with Arduino. As a whole: a big Win-Win for everybody.

Jack Andraka: this guy is special, everybody knows but it was really nice to know his story of curiosity. A young guy wants to know more about cancer and thanks to the internet he learns that 85% of cancer victims are diagnosed late. Then basically thanks to Google and Wikipedia he made some experiments for protein detection at home (proteins can detect early cancer) and at the end of an entire summer of work he focused on Pancreatic cancer and hunting for a specific protein. The interesting part is that he created a 32 page abstract and sent this to 200 labs and was rejected for 199 times. At the end, he was interviewed and accepted to work in a lab and, after seven months, he created this incredibly cheap, simple and sensitive paper sensor to detect cancer. I love this guy.


Nina Tandon then gave a talk about the potential of integrating prosthetic technologies with stem cells. It’s been interesting to see how, thanks to scaffolding (based on 3d printers/3dmodels) and a very innovative bioreactor, they can actually come up with replacing parts for the human body.

She presented a very cool bioreactor project (from Epibone), and also her experience in replacing a 3000 dollars electrical stimulator with a supercheap hack that cost few bucks. They’re now scaling the bioreactor project to enable the drug screening scenario (making it really democratic and cheap) as an alternative for animal tests for example. In general these guys are taking costly biological engineering techs and democratizing them. Amazing company.

For sure she raised a call for a new generation of bio-hackers and also for spaces to allow people to hack biology:

“first industrial revolution was about machine, second was about information, the third must be about life”

Then it was the time go get on stage for an Italian maker. The bio-on company recently created a bio-plastic that comes from recycled materials (agricultural waste, mostly beet molasses) and bacteria. Actually they learnt that bacteria store energy in polymeric chains, that can be the matter at the base of a new kind of plastic. The interesting thing is that this plastic has the very same features of the industrial plastic. Plastic also gets extracted from the bacteria with no chemical solvents but just thanks to steam and mechanical process. Why the hell we are not doing everything with this plastic?

A great quote from Marco Astorri: “Chemistry of the Future comes from Nature”. He certainly pointed out clearly the importance of biomimicry.

Now the company is facing the big issue of Electronic waste, and especially electronic waste deriving from consumer electronics: apparently bioplastic is capable (when graphene is used to complement) to carry elecrtricity. Kinda groundbreaking. Maybe just much in line with the “makers” topic (no open techs involved, no digital fabrication).

Professor Raffaello D’Andrea started recapping on super mega trends making these days exciting: inexpensive sensors, incredible computation power and actuation. We are closing the loop with the physical world (I’m sure you’re aware of it :D). He’s doing a great work with robotics and it’s amazing how he and his team just use robotics to push the boundaries of research. I don’t know if you saw their Distributed Flight Array or the Flying object arena

Maybe the folks at ETH are pretty focused on flying stuff but they really have a powerful vision: unprecedented confluence of technological and algorithmic development allows us to do things that have never been done before. Let’s do that.

Then it was the turn of BlackShape another Italian company. The company got a 25k public grant and bootstrapped to build an incredible ultra light airplane mostly made (95%) of carbon fiber. The company is now scaling thanks to some investments and building a bigger plane, with the same technology. In a way, this story embodied a lot of the makers approach: these guys bootstrapped an agile manufacturing company from nothing in a complex location like southern Italy. Chapeau.

Another Italian followed, Filippo Sala with his Zero Emission Vehicle ZEV, a solar powered vehicle that was ironically created in the very same city where Ferrari was born. Six hundreds students helped professor Sala to build his solar vehicle within years and finally came up with an incredible machine (after tens of prototypes). The latest version is now off to a Solar Challenge in Australia. Great story. BTW these guys created a complete solution that is able (thanks to 8 solar panels) to create hydrogen to allow the car to run for 70 km from a glass of water. Amazing, again.

Ionut Bodisteanu presented his experience in building a low cost, self driving car equipment. You’ll say: another self driving car? Yes it is, but it’s low cost. Current self driving cars use a component called 3D Lidar (from the company Velodyne) that, according to the guy, costs 75 k $ and is used from all the brands working of Self Driving car. A monopoly: that’s why Ionut focused on building a 4k$ alternative. He won Intel prize ISEF 2013, maybe not a real coincidence J.

Then Carlo De Micheli presented OSVehicle: the idea is to have an open source chassis for a vehicle that is parametric and customizable and that you can assemble in 60 minutes. This idea has something interesting for sure, such as parametric design of the chassis and interchangeable motors (even hybrid or electric only). If only this project really delivers all the promises that it claimed on stage (don’t forget this was a world premier, again). I’m wondering if these guys know the work of Open Source Ecology, Wikispeed, Local Motors. By the way: there’s always room for another Open Source Vehicle. A bit coming out of nowhere: I think I’ll try to interview the team to know more!

I’m curious to know more about the business model these guys put together.

Nur-it Bar Shai wants us to socialize with bacteria: kinda strange title but as her talks unveils the picture comes more clear. The idea is to understand how bacteria communicate, via networks to maybe learn more about how we can communicate in this era. Despite being single cells, bacteria work socially in colonies, and communicate with each others.

The most interesting thing here is that Nur, continued most of her works (after visiting Tel Aviv University) in a bio-hacking space in Brooklyn, called Genspace, and this is another demonstration that there’s no more such thing as a closed academia. Everybody can do research today and that’s a great thing. We need more open science.

Then it was time for Stefan Heckenberger to tell the crowd about Lasersaur: an awesome project, and the Maker Faire Rome was finally a good opportunity to tell to the European and Italian crowd a little bit more about it. Lasersaur is great as it addresses democratizing laser cutting, a process that – differently from 3dprinting – has yet to undergo the flow of innovation that we recently saw in more well known digital fabrication realms. We need more Lasersaur like projects around: open, hackable, community centric.

Professor Peter Troxler introduced the inexperienced in the crowd to the world of Fablabs. Troxler is one of the most eminent experts in the world of fablabs and fabbing in general: it was great to have him on stage.

The question he put on the table was: “Are fablabs about personal fabrication or are they about social fabrication?”

Troxler insisted a lot on the social aspects of Fabbing during his short talk. Great vision as always.

Tomas Diez eminently traced the story of innovation as related to technological improvements. He framed it in the overall history of development: from the renaissance to computers, from discovering the Americas to the internet. This served to introduce a clear picture of the current productive models: despite we have computers and the internet we still have a production based on centralized approach. Product In – Trash out. What if we add distribute production to the picture? We have a new model that is called Data in – Data out: that’s the vision behind Barcelona FabCity project. Is about trying to create distributed hubs of production. Really needed. Really.

Rome Maker Faire Tomas Diez

Massimo Menichinelli then gained the stage to tell people in details what does it mean to be Open in Design. Massimo’s wide experience served to sort out a clear picture of the complexities and meaning of open design. Open design is a complex thing, still being explored by designer all over the world: is about sharing, openly, but with an eye on empowering people to access, learn and replicate. Massimo also explained how open design is about processes, interactions, social issues, fair sourcing.

Massimo continued explaining what does it really mean open design, in terms of sustainability, right to fix stuff, short supply chain. A refreshing presence on the Maker Faire stage, clear message: openness as a mean to drive change. Loved it.

Finally nice to see Sam Murihead showcasing his experience in living one year of opensource. Obviously enough, most of his experience this year, went through open source hardware (a man can’t live of software). It’s a very important experience and project, since it demonstrated the current limits of the open approach when faced to our current production system. Not everything can be open apparently (yet) and Sam experienced it. You should dig into his story as it’s an interesting view on the current stage of penetration of open source approach. And yes, Sam actually used open source underwear.

 Rome Maker Faire Sam Murihead

Emiliano Cecchini, another Italian speaker, introduced the idea to escape from the over population drama that is going to happen (it is) thanks to a radical choice: a box that can enable you to live off grid. Any grid.

The Off Grid Box is essentially a small module that can produce you electricity, water, hydrogen etc… It’s a matter of putting together self resilience and a new way of looking at life. Disconnected.

Here’s what happened on stage at Maker Faire today: a great conference day after all and flawless organization; a big up for the team.


I expected a bit more serious content on the economic promises but that’s a show and I’m not the average attendee. Overall just few talks under expectation/standard but also some really great and entertaining moments. The (huge) crowd seemed a bit scared and , hope that they’ll have fun at the exhibition: it is really promising as one can see from the huge setup.


Follow me on @OpenElectronics for next day livetweeting and stay tuned for next updates on the exhibition day on Saturday!

Follow me on twitter @meedabyte

About Simone Cicero

Simone Cicero is a blogger (at, strategist & speaker. Simone is also a long time Open Source advocate and Open Source Electronics editor. Follow him on twitter at @meedabyte


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