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Fire, hammers and robots: Maker Faire Kansas City takes over Union Station

Game of Fire 'catching fire' at Maker Faire Kansas City

Thousands descended on Union Station for this weekend’s Maker Faire Kansas City. One invention drawing a lot of attention is Game of Fire.
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Thousands descended on Union Station for this weekend’s Maker Faire Kansas City. One invention drawing a lot of attention is Game of Fire.

Two weeks short of turning 8, Logan Anderson already is a Maker Faire Kansas City veteran.

His visit Saturday came three years after his first, and that one was memorable.

"He remembered the remote-control robots, the outdoor play area and the snow cones — he was very excited about that," Logan's mother Devin Foster of Overland Park said as her son played the hottest game at this year's event at Union Station.

Game of Fire, the brainchild of Kathy Cannistra, is a propane-powered game that rewards players with powerful bursts of flame. Cannistra had been involved with Milwaukee's Maker Faire before handing off those duties to invent the game.

It took her a month and a half working full time to get it right.

"I really, really wanted fire art," Cannista said.

Faire tip: If you coordinate with others to hit all four targets at the same time, Game of Fire gives you a special display.

Nearby, faire-goers were shaving ice for their own snow cones by jogging inside a giant hamster wheel.

Others were taking their turn to drive David Gilbert's homemade, remote-controlled mini dozer.

It cost him $800, and he let a 5-year-old drive. Perhaps hard to believe is his claim than anybody can make one, but that's the Maker Faire spirit.

Other events include go-kart competitions, movie science demonstrations and a veggie derby with vehicles made from real vegetables.

Inside, the Maker Faire spirit had hold of all four children from the Steinle clan. Kelly and Eric's four children hammered away on wooden tool boxes to take home with the help of crews from JE Dunn.

"They've all got little tools at home," Kelly Steinle said.

That includes 9-year-old Harrison, 5-year-old Henry, 2-year-old Kate and 4-year-old "Handyman" William.

Mom explained that Harrison, having one brother whose name also started with an H, wanted another, and he wanted the name to be Handyman. It's stuck, but only unofficially.

At another booth inside Union Station, children caught colorful whiffle balls tossed into the air by a machine built by Astromechs Robotics. The Kansas City group originally built the machine for a toy basketball skills competition for the FIRST Tech Challenge last year, said Mina Buchholz, a student at Oak Park High School.

"It really is the perfect outreach robot," Buchholz said.

It may yet see a third role. Perched atop the robot is an artificial intelligence unit from Kansas City-based Mycroft AI. Buchholz said the group is working now to integrate the two to control the robot with voice commands.

The event continues from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Maker Faire tickets are available online and at the door.

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