Dan Krull stood in Kansas City’s Union Station on Saturday, holding a 6-foot-long eastern diamondback rattler snake skin, trying to capture interest amid a chaos of creativity.
It wasn’t easy. He and his business partners had one of 350 “maker” exhibits packed in and around the station’s Grand Hall at the city’s fifth annual Maker Faire.
Construction workers, musical instrument makers, 3-D printer makers and robot designers competed Saturday for attention in a massive display of inventiveness, surrounded by games, rides and food sellers.
The event, expected to attract more than the 16,000 visitors who attended last year, continues from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
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At a relatively quiet table near the entrance to Science City, Krull’s colleagues, owner/inventor Mark Tovar and his nephew Raymond Hadlock, showed how their company, Eden Bio-Creations, is turning shedded snake skins into cell phone cases.
“We have a patented polymerization process that uses shed, not skin,” Tovar said. “We get snake skins that are already shed — things that would just be thrown away — and, 100 percent cruelty-free, we turn them into conversation-starting product.”
Tovar, of Parkville, said he’s always been fascinated by snakes. Almost by accident, he said, he discovered how to make the shedded skins durable and usable for such products as cell phone and computer cases, golf club handles and billfolds. A 6-foot snake skin easily makes 10 cell phone cases, he said.
Overland Park resident Eric Miller and his 11-year-old son, Gage, stopped to compare an untouched snake skin with the chemically treated product that magnifies the skin’s pattern.
“I like it,” Miller said. “It’s taking something that’s normally thrown away and repurposing it. I like finding new uses for old things in a sustainable way.”
Tovar’s company so far gets shedded snake skins donated by Lakeside Nature Center in Kansas City, the Sternberg Museum of Natural History in Hays, Kan., and the Kentucky Reptile Zoo. He plans to return 5 percent of profits to the donor institutions and would like to expand his shedded skin donor list to members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
Like many of the Maker Faire inventors, he hopes his company will grow, partly by getting more shedded skin donations from major zoos and partly by expanding his product line. To date, $50 cell phone cases are his only product to market.
Union Station spokesman Michael Tritt said this year’s Maker Faire offered a wider variety of attractions than previous years. For the first time, it expanded to the station’s lower, or B, level. Also, admission to Maker Faire includes free access to all of the Science City exhibits, he noted.
Maker Faires, held in several cities around the country, are promoted by Make magazine. The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is the founding sponsor in Kansas City. Dozens of other corporate and nonprofit sponsors, including the city’s Neighborhood Tourist Development Fund, are helping with the event.
One corporate sponsor, JE Dunn Construction, had employees manning an area in the Grand Hall where visitors could try their hands at operating construction tools. Elsewhere in the hall, other companies and solo inventors let visitors try out their products or watch demonstrations.
“The lines formed early,” Tritt said. “This has turned out to be a great family event.”
Eric Miller agreed.
“We come every year,” Miller said. “I’m a bit of a computer nerd, and I’m inspired by the creativity.”