Idea Fab Labs brings makers together for annual showcase
For those who haven’t yet made their way to Chico’s Idea Fab Labs, Saturday, March 12, might be a good day to introduce yourself to Chico’s pre-eminent “maker space.” The 7,000-square-foot member-driven art/craft/tech hub on Orange Street will be hosting its third annual Maker Showcase, a celebration of the art and innovations of local artists, designers and tinkerers of all stripes.
“We want to give everyone an opportunity to present what they’re doing,” said IFL co-founder Jordan Layman. “We have art shows here, where we bring an artist in and give them a crash course on all the tools, and then they have their show. But then there’s a gap of time between [those events], where other people say, ‘Hey, I want a show.’ So this is for everyone else, to give them a slice of the pie.”
A slice of the IFL pie means a space to display art, give demonstrations, present exposés or showcase anything else related to making stuff. While it’s an open-submission, nonjuried show, there are perks of being a member prior to submitting. “It’s 20 bucks to submit a piece, but free if you’re a member,” Layman said. Plus, members have access to IFL’s bevy of fabrication tools, from sewing machines and power tools to digital fabrication equipment (laser cutter, 3-D printer) as well as space in which to create.
Local engineering wizard Scott Franzyshen has been taking advantage of IFL’s tools while developing the idea he’ll be presenting at the showcase. “My concept is based around The Internet of Things,” the virtual interconnection of physical devices, he said. “I’m making a game called Melody Sound, based off Simon Says to demonstrate how limited functioning devices can combine together to create a more complex device,” Franzyshen said. To show this, he’s created a button (covered with a Frisbee) that lights up with colors once turned on. “The input is the button, the output is the lights,” he said. “On its own, it’s limited. But together with three other buttons that light up and listen to each other, it becomes more complex.”
Using the laser cutter, plus a soldering iron, Franzyshen constructed his device out of a circular motherboard, wires and a tiny chip to control the function of the button. “As these chips get smaller, they’ll be put into everything. One day they’ll be in hammers, and you’ll be able to hook a hammer up to your phone and evaluate how well you’re hammering.”
Part of what makes the Melody Sound game “smart” is its ability to hook up with a phone or tablet. “You can access the game through a Web interface on your device, and either watch or play from there,” Frazyshen said.
He also hopes to have the game projected on a large screen at IFL, so folks can watch as they play.
Previous maker submissions have included everything from Brian Shaver’s cigar-box guitars to Justin W. Smith’s “Sequoia Dimensions,” a didgeridoo synced to LED lights. And this year’s participants will include, among others, local filmmakers, live painting by Justin Cooper and a demo of IFL’s own beer project, the Fabrewcation Club. The showcase also will feature workshops (on soldering, etc.) and vendors. “This is our third year of the showcase. It’s fun. We’re going to continue doing it—it’s something we bring to the community,” Layman said.
“These kind of labs can change the world; users and makers are dictating what products are getting made and purchased, not corporations,” Franzyshen said. “If you have a good idea and you want to share it, it’s possible.”