BBC micro:bit launches at Maker Faire Tokyo


What do a flying tiger, fighting robots, a bonsai tree that does yoga, a 30ft balloon sculpture and a band that plays music on reclaimed electric items have in common?


The answer is that they were all things that could all be seen at this week's Maker Faire event in Tokyo. element14's Jonathan Smith and KC Chung were in attendance for the Japanese launch of the BBC micro:bit, and had an opportunity to experience this unique event up close.


Maker Faire Tokyo 2017 was held at the Big Sight International Exhibition Centre - Japan's leading exhibition and convention space. The annual event attracts thousands of people from across Japan and beyond, including commercial companies, start ups and independent makers, all celebrating the latest developments from the global maker scene.


Japan has long been known for their pioneering work with robotics, and this was on full display at Maker Faire Tokyo. A dedicated robotics area saw robots performing tasks ranging from playing instruments to cutting sausages, to name but two. There was also a very popular 'fighting ring', where spectators cheered on home made robots as they went head to head under the watchful eye of the robot referee - often with hilarious consequences!


There was also a drone racing circuit, where attendees had the opportunity to build and race their own drones over a figure-of-8 shaped course. The ever-popular Raspberry Pi was also at the heart of many events, with Pi projects ranging from a bubble-generating helmet to an LED light curtain controlled by movement.


One of the stars of the show was our very own micro:bit, which was launched on the Saturday with a keynote delivered by Zach Shelby, CEO of the micro:bit foundation and Professor Hauhiro Abe, the father of the Scratch programming language in Japan. Japanese language support on the micro:bit coding platform and a number of micro:bit project demonstrations combined to impress makers, teachers and pupils alike.


It was also exciting to see so many children at the show - with plenty of activities to engage young creative minds. A set of long wooden tracks allowed children to race gravity-pulled cars that they had built themselves, while other exhibitions allowed young visitors to have a go at making their own 'Maker Faire' robot hat,  or to create jewellery using old PCB's. The event also hosted the competitive 'STEM athletics contest', with teams of four from different schools going head to head against the clock with their competing Maker projects.


Commercial companies in attendance ranged from manufacturers to resellers, all demonstrating exciting new products that visitors could try out there and then. One of the unique aspects of Maker Faire events is the makers themselves. A simple table can be transformed into a showcase for immense talent and imagination, often motivated by nothing more than a passion for making and sharing. One of the most popular stands held a group who built a range of flying animals and objects out of paper, wood, a small rechargeable battery and some clever electronics. These beautiful designs weren't for sale or made commercially - the makers were simply proud of what they had achieved.


One maker had invented a robotic Crepe chef, while another had created an electronic Bonsai tree that held yoga poses - why? Because he wanted to! As  MAKE Magazine founder and father of the Maker movement Dale Dougherty explained to element14's Jonathan Smith, makers often just want to solve problems and be creative. This passion for creativity over and above commercial considerations is a large part of why the Maker movement is so unique. Why not find a Maker Faire event near you and join the community?


{gallery} Highlights from Maker Faire Tokyo 2017

Fighting Robots at Maker Faire Tokyo 2017

Fighting Robots at Maker Faire Tokyo

Robot Crepe Machine at Tokyo Maker Faire 2017

A Robot Crepe Maker

A Yoga Bonsai

A Robot Bonsai Tree that Holds Yoga Poses? Why not!

SwitchScience Stand Tokyo Maker Faire

The Switch Science Stand was one of the most popular attractions at this year's Tokyo Maker Faire...

Balloon Maker Robot

A giant balloon Maker Robot was another star attraction at the event.

Tokyo Big Sight Exhibition Centre

The Big Sight International Exhibition Centre was the home of this year's Tokyo Maker Faire

A Remote Controlled Flying Tiger at Maker Faire Tokyo

A remote controlled 'flying tiger'

Maker Faire Founder Dale Dougherty

element14's Jonathan Smith meets Maker Faire founder Dale Dougherty

Japanese Band Tokyo Maker Faire 2017

A Japanese rock group playing on recycled instruments

Electric Motorbike Tokyo 2017

A miniature electric motorcycle

Robot Band Maker Faire Tokyo 2017

Are Robot Bands the future of music?

microbit Tokyo Maker Faire

Zach Shelby, CEO of the micro:bit Foundation, delivers a keynote speech at Maker Faire Tokyo