HP wows young and old at Corvallis Maker Fair (The CO-2017)

By Warren Volkmann, Editor

Two-year-old Ava stood transfixed in front of a plasma screen at The CO·, the fourth annual Corvallis Maker Fair hosted by Oregon State University. She didn’t know it, but Ava was watching a flashy show about 3D printing, a technology that will transform her world as surely as computers changed her parents’ lives.

Oblivious to the 1-ton 3D Jet Fusion printer that HP volunteers had pushed and sweated into place beside the monitor, Ava’s attention was riveted on the HP video. She bounced as cubes scrolled across the screen. She jumped as they turned bright colors – cyan, magenta, and canary yellow. She clapped as they flexed to show elasticity, then sparked to show electrical conductivity.

Neither Ava nor her patient parents understood that one day Ava’s hair ties, her shoes, and even her polka-dotted outfit could be 3D printed.

When the dancing cubes – which HP calls “voxels” – disappeared, Ava was off. She dashed back and forth in front of the giant Jet Fusion printer, then headed out to the exhibition floor to see what else the Maker Fair had in store.

Fourth Maker Fair
This year’s CO·, held April 14-15, marked the fourth year that Oregon State University has hosted the community-wide Maker Fair. The event is spearheaded by Charles Robinson, who is faculty with the College of Liberal Arts and University Outreach and Engagement.

“As a maker group, our mission is to ensure inclusivity,” Charles said. “We espouse the path of R&D breakthroughs becoming commercial products, but we also like art, origami and non-traditional activities inside and outside STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). It’s great to see all these different groups side-by-side. We are glad to see HP here again. HP and OSU are both anchor institutions in the Corvallis community.”

Third year as “The CO·
2017 is the third year that the event has been branded “The CO·” a name  taken from the prefix “co-“ which is the start of words like co-create, cooperate, collaborate, and also Corvallis. The CO· started as a 1-day event, but expanded to two days last year.

Second year for HP

This year was HP’s second appearance at the CO·. Tracy Lang and Larry Mull led a team of about a dozen HP volunteers. Larry spent most of Saturday showing children how to turn tongue depressers, duct tape and rubber bands into ping-pong ball catapults. “That was a kick in the pants,” he said.

Larry joined Tracy on stage to raffle off an HP inkjet printer.

First year for HP 3D printing

HP 3D printing made its first appearance in a big way with the team hauling a 1,800-pound 3D Jet Fusion printer to the event.

HP blue wall

HP’s signature blue exhibits took up the entire west wall of the OSU Memorial Union ballroom, with a virtual reality race car video game, a row of Sprout interactive touch-screen computers, and a table of exotic printed materials.

The car race, running on HP’s high-powered Omen gaming station, was a big hit. All afternoon kids stood in line waiting to put on the VR googles and crash their digital Indy car into a virtual wall. Another VR game let kids walk under dinosaurs. (One sister had to hold up her gyrating little brother.) At the trio of HP Sprout computers, kids played on a virtual piano keyboard, pretended to be disk jockeys, and solved “Spruzzles” – Sprout puzzles.

Print on almost anything

In addition to its 3D Jet Fusion behemoth, HP brought some of its latest inkjet desktop printers and lots of print samples, but not on paper. While the futurists have been chanting “paper is going away,” HP has been learning to print on almost everything else – luxurious fabrics, art canvas, upholstery, vinyl, latex, metal, cardboard, and even coffee foam.

Corinne, a software developer on HP’s local Big Data team showed how HP is thinking way outside the box of paper. An upholsterer who frequently can’t get out-of-print fabric patterns was instantly excited by the potential of printing outdated patterns on new upholstery. HP printing makes short runs – or even a single “run of one” print – not only possible, but also much more affordable than in the past.

HP’s Tracy Lang, who is a volunteer member of the CO· leadership team, said “What excites me most about The CO· is how it exposes people to things that they have never have seen before. Some of HP’s products, like the Jet Fusion 3D printers, will change how things are made, bought and sold. That’s happening right here in Corvallis. HP has great people working on amazing new technology right here. Some of these kids may even come to work at HP one day.”

Perhaps little Ava will return to The CO· someday, wearing 3D printed shoes and shimmering clothes laced with electronics. She might be an OSU student or an HP employee showing off technology that she was inspired to make when she was a little girl after dancing with the voxels.

Exhibitors at The CO● 2017