Maker Faire - Bay Area 2014

The past weekend saw the Bay Area's 9th annual Maker Faire return to San Mateo, CA. For those unfamiliar with the event, it is part county fair, part low-key trade show and (mostly) features the work of 900+ independent and early-stage inventors/researchers across a wide range of sectors. 

The focus of a lot of the exhibition areas is on fun and general creativity rather than cutting-edge innovation but the Expo Hall plays host to more scientific stands. Since makers were grouped according to product type (e.g. 3D printing, robotics) rather than use-case, projects relating to specific interests such as biotech/health were a bit hard to identify.

Nevertheless, they were there and in growing numbers, judging by the anecdotal accounts of regular attendees and the makers listed online. Here's a short list of some of the more interesting projects in alphabetical order:

  • Biomonstaaar: An open-source biohacker project, the aim of which is to rebuild expensive biotech equipment out of off-the-shelf parts. The current focus is on an affordable, automatic photobioreactor array. Projects in a similar vein were AlgaeLab and Sensabot.
  • Bionico: An open-source, myoelectric prosthesis, produced via 3D printing to serve as a low-cost robot hand for disabled people. The creators, led by amputee Nicholas Huchet, are not professional prosthesis manufacturers and none of them has a medical background.
  • CellScope: A piece of equipment that turns mobile devices into diagnostic-quality microscopes. A group of students and post-docs from UC Berkeley and UCSF who have been pioneering mobile microscopy developed the product which can be applied in both health and education contexts. The spin-off startup CellScope Inc. is part of Rock Health's portfolio.
  • Biocurious: This group had a few projects on show but the most interesting was its bioprinter. The hackerspace community has built its own using an inkjet cartridge, an Arduino and CD drives.
  • Inspire: A device to provide healthcare workers with an accurate breath-rate reading and therefore diagnose pneumonia. Inspire was invented by Michael Script, CEO of Guardian Technologies.