Yesterday I went to the Maker Faire in San Mateo. I got to go to the one in New York a couple of years ago and enjoyed the MacGyver-esque vibe walking around with really nice people dressed like Lord Humungus’ minions.
I originally wasn’t going to go to this one since I’d only get to visit for a couple of hours, but I’ve been feeling intellectually malnourished lately and thought I'd counter that sensation by peering at the talents of others.
My plan was to bring my homemade cargo bike which, at 79 and 15/16” long, would have fit right in at Maker Faire but also drawn a lot of scrutiny by the Caltrain conductor. In the end I brought South Norwalk - which was good because it was standing room only on the train from Mountain View to Hillsdale.
The first five minutes at Maker Faire was worth the admissions price. The list of things that create awe and provide inspiration is a long one. In the first five minutes I saw power tool drag racing, pedal and electric powered cupcakes milling about, and a guy being pulled on a chariot by a robot (which I posted yesterday).
I was also drawn to the Frankentrikes booth.
It was there I met a talented artist named Segue, who created Frankentrikes years ago. We chatted about MIG vs. TIG welding and related topics while I learned her backstory: Based in Oakland, she has made several electric assist trikes as custom builds but now wants to move Frankentrikes to a business model that would put more people on these things.
I got to ride her original creation which reminded me of the rickshaws I’ve seen in India and in Singapore. She claimed it can carry 500 pounds in the cargo hold and the way it was made told me she wasn’t lying.
The canopy gave me shade, the electric assist (powered by a twist throttle) gave me power, and the trike was surprisingly maneuverable without feeling cumbersome. It felt like she finished making it ten minutes before I walked up.
It made me wonder about how much technology has evolved since then - but how little we have evolved. Think about it for a minute: flip phones were common when Segue set down her welding mask when this first trike was completed but anyone seen with a flip phone now is stared at and puzzled over.
And yet we drive on highways designed seventy or more years ago in vehicles that rely on a technology first created well over a century ago and think to ourselves: “Oh, I think we can stick with this. I need a 3,300 pound vehicle that has a 150 s.f. footprint to pick up my 85-pound child and I won’t connect any dots between my kid’s asthma inhaler and the stuff that comes out of my SUV’s tailpipe.”
Frankentrikes has an Indiegogo campaign so Segue can employ engineers and pay for other things to grow her company. The campaign ends on May 26th, which is this Thursday. Save for an unexpected asteroid or the like, that day will come and go like any other, but we have a chance to make that day bring us closer to a world where people - especially those in cities - can more easily choose ‘not car’ when it comes to everyday travel.
So I urge you to donate to the Frankentrikes Indiegogo campaign and get your friends to do the same. If that laughing chewbacca mask lady can get 1.5 million+ hits on YouTube, this campaign can raise $49,000.
I thank Segue and the others I met at Maker Faire for doing their part to inspire makers of all ages. If there is a Maker Faire near you, I hope you can go. If you see a Frankentrikes cycle on the road, I hope you decided to be one of the backers who put it there. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding.