Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Atlanta Mini Maker Faire: On missing deadlines, failure, and triage

It was around 1am Saturday morning (still Friday night in my mind) on October 26th. In the past 2 days I had gotten around 3 hours of sleep, all of which on the Freeside sofas, and at this point had been awake for close to 20 hours for the second day in a row.

Myself, one of my build partners, and a few Freeside members were making frantic last minute preparations and we got on the subject of major "maker" news outlets. How they paint build projects in a light where everything goes as planned, nothing ever goes wrong, everything is on time and on budget. They ignore the 20 hour days, the wasted build material, the failed 3D print after failed 3D print. They don't cover the tired, bitchy arguments over whose idea is more practical, and they certainly don't cover the cumulative hours lost to "where did I put that thing?".

We were talking about this because, as I sat there trying to finish a new Ultron helmet - you see, the original one that had about 18 hours of work put into it was simply thrown away by a negligent party - I was coming closer to the realization that I did not have enough time or energy to finish it. At the same time, my partner who had been working on the Iron Patriot helmet animatronics for the umpteenth day since the inception of the build had already called it quits and triaged all but the eye lights.

Triage. Battlefield doctors deciding who lives and dies. It's the best term I've found or used when talking about the last minute do-or-die moments finishing a project hours before a deadline. I could teach a five session class on project triage. It's rare for me to declare something dead on the battlefield. The Gravity Gun, which I premiered at Momocon in March 2013, was on the build table a mere 4 hours before I left to go to the event. Last year at Dragon*Con 2012, the War Machine still had paint drying on the car ride to the hotel. I've cut it close but not missed.

 So finally I bring this blog post to AMMF 2013.  The two weeks leading up to the event, I had just about everything with just about every project go wrong. I had nothing completely finished for AMMF. As I mentioned above, the Ultron 5 helmet was straight up thrown away and had to be completely remade from scratch. And then my Ultron model was in a car wreck (he is fine) and couldn't make it to the event at all, so the Ultron costume was just sitting out on display and not worn. Every aspect of the Iron Patriot wasn't working - the leg repairs weren't finished, the shoulder gun still isn't working properly, and the helmet animatronics are only a single step closer to being completed. My Pip-Boy is coming along somewhat well, but definitely behind where it should be as the "simple project" I started it as. The Bionic Arm that I started last month has had more set backs than steps forward, thanks to fickle 3D printing and laser cutting design flaws.

Basically, everything I brought to my table was half finished. The only thing I did manage to finish in time was the laser etched sign for Overworld Designs. Which took all of about 30 minutes to design and etch.

You might think I am upset or bitter about the whole experience, and yeah I am a little disappointed I didn't have more complete things to show off. However, I used the subject to do what the maker news sites don't do - at my booth, I talked to people about problems and failure and missing deadlines. And how that's apart of the process. How it's okay to not always succeed. There were a lot of kids at AMMF and part of my presentation was showing the process from an ugly looking original 3D print, through all of the steps to a completed project. People see a completed piece and can't fathom how they could ever make something like that, so it's important for me to show all of the steps along the way. And part of this is that sometimes things don't go well.

And that's okay.
About Unknown

I am an Atlanta based artist making props, weapons, and armor from my favorite video games and comic books. I am interested in 3D printing, laser cutting, CNC, and all manner of digital fabrication. I am involved in the Atlanta hacker / maker community, doing everything from Arduino art installations to maker education.

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