96Boards Maker Faire Bay Area Breakdown!

Robert Wolff

Before diving into this blog, I wanted to first provide everyone with a little note/disclaimer. This is a breakdown of my overall experience at the Maker Faire Bay Area (some planning and my time at the event). When reading through this blog, please keep the following in mind:

1) This is the second Part 2/2 in a Maker Faire Blog series. Please see Part 1 here. 1) Linaro / 96Boards and Partners were Maker Faire “Coppersmith Sponsors”. 2) I am employed by and attended the Maker Faire on behalf of Linaro / 96Boards. 3) I will write about professional and personal anecdotes / experiences in this blog. 4) This is not a review, this is a fun blog to summarize my experience (personal and on behalf of 96Boards). I will not be ranking or rating any aspects of Maker Faire.

Let’s begin…

This whole thing started with an idea to unite a group of 96Boards partners and create the ultimate Maker Faire (Bay Area) floor space. After running this by several parties within Linaro, we quickly kicked things into gear and began approaching partners to see who might be interested.

Since as far back as I can remember, 96Boards has always loved being a part of any partner activities. Partners have counted on representatives from our team to help out with events such as conventions and conferences as well as hackathons all around the world. The 96Boards team will answer the call to arms and sends out a representative. Our overarching goal is usually to evangelize a wide variety of partner technologies (mostly related to 96Boards), this could include (but is not limited to) helping tend a booth, showcasing demos, giving technical talks and/or showcases, hosting workshops and even offering technical assistance at hackathons (academic and professional). This is/was our M.O. until just recently! Maker Faire marks our first attempt to flip things around with our partners. For this event, we decided to join forces under the 96Boards name, and the turnout was amazing!

I must admit, this was my first experience in attempting to plan something so involved (and to be honest, I only played a very small part). Had it not been for the Linaro Marketing team, Events team and Website Team, and of course all of our partners who’s joint knowledge / experience helped this idea come to life, I would have been completely lost.

A special thanks to everyone at Linaro who helped in any way (big or small), and all of our supporting partners who took part in the event (Arm, Arrow Electronics, and Qualcomm).

Please continue reading for an overall breakdown on many aspects of the event (as experienced by me) and information on each co-sponsor of the 96Boards booth!

Maker Faire as a Whole

Maker Faire was amazing! Granted, it was raining the entire weekend, but I like the rain. Also, since our booth was in Zone 2 (which is indoors), it did not affect us too much. In fact, the indoor areas seemed more packed than usual! The rain most likely pushed people inside, all the indoor zones filled up nicely.

Rewind, let’s start from the beginning, May 16th (booth setup day)… I got dropped off by my Uber on the wrong side of the park sigh, it was raining, and I had a large suitcase, a rolling pelican case and my backpack (all filled with electronics!). As I approached what I thought was the entrance of the park, I was quickly stopped by security and asked for my credentials. Unfortunately, I hadn’t made it to the check in area yet, so I had nothing. The security on site were not only super nice but very accommodating, a ray of light! Instead of making me walk upwards of 0.5 - 1 mile around the park to the entrance (in the rain with all my stuff), they requested a golf cart for me :-) it was awesome. Pretty much got a sneak peak of the entire park while everyone was setting up, at golf cart speeds. I took plenty of mental notes on where I wanted to go during booth downtimes. Finally, I arrived at the room with all my things (somewhat dry) and began to set up. Folks from Arm and Arrow were already there, we would soon be joined by Qualcomm and our Linaro event manager. Several hours later, we were all set up! Time to relax.

Day 1 of Maker Faire! Day 1 is kind of a short day, starting late and running on through the afternoon. Either way, entering the park as a sponsor is kind of great. Not only do you get early access (even if it is to set up the booth and begin working…), you also get to see some things from the event side. When I entered the grounds, I had to walk by the main entrance, SO MANY PEOPLE piled together waiting for the gates to open. Unfortunately, I was in a hurry and was unable to to take a picture. Either way, I quickly made it to our zone and began to set up my section of the booth (and almost more importantly my Solar Demo). I don’t think I have mentioned the swag yet (or the theme)… This year, we went with an “Asian Market Theme”, and while the theme might not have been so noticeable to people who walked by, we really did our best to reiterate this with our swag. We were handing out little take out boxes filled with food shaped erasers (strange but surprisingly cute).

We had THOUSANDS of these things!

Take-out SWAG Pyramid!

We ran our demos all day (read more about the booth and each partners’ demos in the sections below) and the booth space was crowded. As I mentioned above, it was a rainy day, this clearly drove A LOT of traffic inside. To be honest, in the previous years, I had never seen such shoulder to shoulder action as people made their way through the zone. Our booth was popping off with people exploring the floor space, asking questions about the various demos, and then spending a good amount of time observing and playing with the 96Boards wall. Even though it was a short day, it still felt long considering all the conversations and running around that we did. Eventually, when the zones closed, it was time for PAELLA! Every year, Gerard from “Gerard’s Paella” gives out what seems like hundreds of pounds of Paella to all the people at the park. All of the people at the booth made our way to the main area to hang out with a bunch of makers and chat about the days to come.

Day 2 of Maker Faire! This was a full day.


The entire faire ground is broken up into “Zones”, this is very nice for those who either want to try to see everything or those who must focus fire their time. As you can imagine, there are a lot of things going on all weekend, and the grounds are big! From gigantic robots, submarines and airplanes to workshops, keynotes, there was pretty much something for everyone.

Instead of trying to completely explain what every zone had, I will just provide this map for you to check out

Food :-P

Beyond the booth, partner, and technical overview of the event, I thought it would be interesting to talk about a few bonus items. After all, when you spend 10+ hours on your feet, speaking with visitors and exploring the faire grounds, food and other amenities become slightly more important… Food everywhere! There was food everywhere, and there were all kind of it!

If you are familiar with American style fair food, you will know what I mean when. Corn dogs, pizzas, HUGE turkey legs, bacon wrapped hot dogs, funnel cakes, ice cream, fruit bowls, greek food, kebabs and more!

Honestly, I was too busy at the booth to try all the food I wanted to try… Either way, I did get to enjoy quite a bit of eating. Of course, there was plenty of coffee all over the place as well.

For sponsors, there was a section with beer, water, sodas and light snacks. This was nice for when we were in a hurry to quickly grab something to drink (without lines) and get back to the booth quickly. Enough to tide you over, but not enough to satisfy the craving for everything else that was out there.

96Boards Collaboration Booth!

As mentioned in the header / introduction of this blog, the 96Boards booth was a collaboration booth! This means, in our 200 sq foot floor space, we fit demos from Arm (on behalf of the Arm Innovators program), Arrow Electronics, and Qualcomm. Of course, 96Boards also had a little section where we put the 96Board Pallet wall (filled with 96Boards) and my personal demo, the Mobile Self-sustainable Arm Developer Station. Below, you will find a brief description of the different sections put together by each partner.

Arm (Arm Innovators)

This was a call to Arms (pun intended)! Arm was everywhere and in almost every section of the booth. From the Qualcomm and Arrow demos featuring the latest and greatest Qualcomm and NXP developer boards, to Matrix Labs with their great little robotic arm demo featuring the Raspberry Pi and the Matrix Creator Pi Hat. Not to mention, an entire pallet wall laced with 10+ 96Boards ranging from maker boards to high end AI-ML development platforms, all Arm based of course!

For this event, in fact, it was the Arm Innovators Program which participated at the booth. The Innovators Program did a great job in supporting the entire event with us, and it was great to see my various industry colleagues all in one place. It is always a pleasure to showcase such amazing technology together.

So let’s talk about the Arm Innovators section of the booth…

Arm was represented (not only by everything else at the booth) but by Matrix Labs, one of the Arm Innovators. Matrix Labs is known for some pretty cool tech, which I would encourage everyone to go check out on their site. The things that I am most familiar with (and what seemed to be their main showcase at the faire) are both the Matrix Creator and the Matrix Voice.

Using these devices, paired with A Raspberry Pi, they built a voice controlled robotic arm! Pretty awesome right? Now, not only were people able to see this voice controlled arm (which was one of the features), but they were also able to play with it through a new UI, which was added recently, according to the representatives who were there showcasing the project. This UI allowed people at the faire to play with a X,Y,Z point on a plane to control the robotic arm to move it around and attempt to pick stuff up. It was actually very fun to try but not as easy as you would think to control.

The demo was a lot of fun, and we are very grateful for Arm to include Matrix Labs as part of our arsenal at the booth!

Arrow Electronics

Arrow Electronics also had a big presence at the booth. Pretty much every demo at the booth contained tech offered through Arrow. Every board on the 96Boards pallet wall, all the boards in the Qualcomm Demos, the board in the Solar Demo, the Raspberry Pi from the Matrix Labs demo, and last but not least, Arrow also hosted a demo of their own featuring the new NXP based AI-ML extended 96Boards.

As mentioned, Arrow’s demo (Which was pretty much front and center) was based on the new AI-ML board featuring the i.MX8 chipset. This demo might have seemed very similar to other face recognition / crowd counting demos, but it was actually much different. This demo tracked motion and depth to create a density map. The density map would then be used to predict the amount of people in crowd. This in itself is interesting, but there was something else to be noted which made this demo very unique. Sometimes, objects would be accidentally taken into account during the prediction (like a tree in the distance). In the cases where this happens, the algorithm (over time) pick this up and learns. As a crowd moves around, possibly in and out of an area, the algo will learn that the same type of movement is not happening with the tree in the distance and thus it will adjust its prediction to improve over time!

This is a great example of the use of AI-ML in a project! Especially when you look at how it takes an application that has been already been so many times and changed to maximize the hardware and software at play.

A big thank you you Arrow for taking the time to not only co-sponsor this event, but also for taking the time to showcase this demo and help in the evangelization of our great ecosystem.


Qualcomm had several demos on site, all of which were pretty fun to interact with…

Demo one was a DragonBoard 410c with a USB webcam and a bit red button! The DragonBoard 410c was running some facial recognition software and the camera was just running non-stop detecting faces as people walked by. This wasn’t the main part of the demo that had people stopping to check it out, the demo was tied to a sweepstakes! If you stopped by to interact with this demo, you could tap the big red button, it would take a picture of you, and then you would fill out the the necessary information to enter the contest. Over the course of the event, we would announce 15 winners of a nice little 96Boards package. Each winner would receive the following items:

The other demo which was hosted by Qualcomm was using the DragonBoard 820c. Now, while this demo did not maximize the potential of such a powerful developer board, it was still a hit attraction as a lot of people had fun playing with it! The board was running a basic Debian image with an old school game Burger Time running on it. People huddled around the game trying to beat eachother scores. And while I do not think anyone got past the 3rd level, it was still fun to try. Even the booth sponsors got in on the action as we tried our best to hold on to the record.

A very special thanks to Qualcomm for being a part of the booth this year! They were a welcome sight to long time Maker Faire attendees as people from all ages were able to enjoy their presence at the booth.


Now is your chance! Join the 96Boards Discord Server!

Stay tuned for our Maker Faire Summary Blog! Incoming, next week!

comments powered by Disqus

Other Posts