When Thomas Hudson contacted me just prior to last year’s Mini Maker Faire, I thought that our lineup of makers was already more or less complete. Little did I know that what we really needed to round out our program was a bee counter.
A bee counter? Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like. Or maybe a “bee turnstile” would be more appropriate. Put simply, the device is an entrance/exit to a beehive that uses an array of sensors to keep track of the number of bees entering and exiting the hive. Given the proliferation of urban beekeepers in Portland and concerns about declining honeybee populations, it’s no surprise that there would be inherent interest in such a project.
Tom is no stranger to the maker movement. He tells me that he attended his first Bay Area Maker Faire in 2007, and was instantly hooked. With such a wide array of projects, it seemed that “everyone was at play… a curious type of play that was electrifying.” After that experience, Tom became a member of DorkbotPDX and began contributing his projects to Instructables.
Eugene was Tom’s first opportunity to show off his honeybee counter at a Mini Maker Faire. Tom reports that he had a great time in Eugene, loved seeing the diversity of maker projects, and was especially pleased to help bring the fun of Maker Faire to an audience that was largely unfamiliar with it.
After exhibiting at our Faire last June, Tom went on to other Pacific Northwest minis over the summer, including Vancouver Island and Portland. By that time, he had connected with some of the people who would be most interested in his project: beekeepers! In Portland, member of the Willamette Valley Beekeepers Association provided an observational hive (with 40,000 bees!) to which Tom could attach his counter.
Eugene and Portland were preludes to Tom’s next big event: The World Maker Faire in New York! With over 50,000 visitors passing through to see the exhibits, Tom felt “completely drained and exhilarated at the same time. People spent time with me one on one out of all the chaos to impress on me their ideas and in the end it was another extremely positive experience.” He even had the chance to converse with a big name in the computer world: Stephen Wolfram, designer of Mathematica. Tom also talked to people in the fields of education and marketing, as well as other beekeeping experts. Such an exchange of ideas among people from such diverse fields is something that you only find at Maker Faire!
Tom has continued working with apiary experts at Oregon State University to improve his design and market it to potential customers. He is also working on other projects, such as an LED strip bike light. He has also become involved in education, offering classes in Arduino in and around Portland.
I’m genuinely thrilled that Tom’s bee counter project seems to be off and running, and I’m especially glad that the Eugene Mini Maker Faire could serve as a stepping stone to his success. Tom’s project embodies the ideals of Maker Faire in so many ways: a simple and elegant solution to a real-world problem, the chance to network with amateur and professional experts to improve the solution, and an eagerness to share the results with others to come up with even better designs.
If you have a project that captures some of the same elements of the maker spirit, I hope you’ll join us for this year’s Eugene Mini Maker Faire! Maker applications are still being accepted. See you on June 15th!