Eco Knievel: A Macho Force For Good | Maker Faire 2011

Having been to the Maker Faire a few times, I found myself feeling a bit like this guy. I rushed to the faire early Saturday morning, totally against my nature, to see Eco Knievel jump an electric “motorcycle” (BMX Bicycle, actually) over a Hummer (well, Prius, actually), at high noon. OK, it was a jump, it was cool. Then he rode through a wall of Tofu (held in wall form by some Tyvek), which was nifty too. But it was much more crowded than any previous faire, with a smattering of familiar Playa art, as well as some new pieces, like these lovely farting flowers:

Making Eco Macho

I went to the Maker Faire with the intention of writing about whatever interesting new vehicles people had been building in their garages, and didn’t find much. Although it was a bit difficult to see through the throngs of people. Yes, Chevy had the Volt on display. And nobody cared. There was a plethora of bizarre Steampunk carriages, all human-powered. And there was Eco-Knievel. I first encountered Eco-Knievel at the Commonwealth Club the Thursday before the faire. He was on a panel discussion on “Injecting Macho Into the Environmental Movement” along with the following luminaries:

Mark Barden, Partner, Eatbigfish
Jit Bhattacharya, CEO, Mission Motor Company
Saul Griffith, Co-founder, Squid Labs,, Makani Power; Inventor; Author
Jason Mark, Editor, Earth Island Journal; Co-manager, Alemany Farm
Chris Lindland, Founder, – Moderator

The podcast should be available soon.  It was a good discussion, because regardless of gender, “eco” needs to be more sexy. More Tesla, less Prius, please. But then, I guess I could say the same for gas cars. As you can see in the video, the Betabrand disco pants were REALLY distracting. Eco should’ve been wearing them, then I wouldn’t have missed his first jump.

Do It for the Children

Although the original faire in San Mateo is getting too crowded for my tastes, it remains an excellent place to instill children with a passion for creation. It’s teeming with wonderful examples of how science and math can be fun and wild. Luckily they now open on Friday strictly for students and educators (or so I heard…). But why wait till the next faire? Forget the scouts, sign your kids up as Young Makers! My brother’s kids are playing with toys made by this homemade 3-D printer. Not as fancy as the one they had at CRP, but still very cool.

Nothing Beats a Tesla

Except perhaps a My Little Soldering Pony. Despite feeling quite jaded elsewhere, there’s one thing that never fails to fill me with wonder and delight. And that’s a Tesla coil. Even better TWO Tesla coils! But even better than that, they’re alighting on a Faraday cage filled with children! Oh, and just when you thought it couldn’t possibly be any better…. the Tesla coils are playing music. And not just any music, but the Doctor Who theme song. We were all in Nerd Heaven. You can try to replicate the experience here, but it’s not the same. So next year, I may skip it and compete in the Red Bull Soapbox Races instead. But rather than help start a Maker Faire Los Angeles, I’d like to go to Maker Faire Africa. That seems much more exciting. Though perhaps not as exciting as watching parents let their children dangle beneath massive boulders.

Susanna Schick

Susanna is passionate about anything fast and electric. As long as it's only got two wheels. She covers electric motorcycle racing events, test rides electric motorcycles, and interviews industry leaders. Occasionally she deigns to cover automobile events in Los Angeles for us as well. However, she dreams of a day when Los Angeles' streets resemble the two-wheeled paradise she discovered living in Barcelona and will not rest until she's converted the masses to two-wheeled bliss.