Best Show-and-Tell in Town

Kalispell Mini Maker Faire and Manufacturing and Technology Expo scheduled for Feb. 23 and 24 at the fairgrounds

By Molly Priddy
Left: Lotion from Kettle Care Organics; Right: SmartLam's facility in Columbia Falls. Beacon file photos.

There are several aspects of humanity that seem to stretch across time, staying the same regardless of the era. One of those characteristics is the drive to figure out how something works — its programming, how it moves, how it smashes, how it cuts.

Luckily, for those who feel this pull to take something apart and put it back together again, there’s the Kalispell Mini Maker Faire, a gathering of local businesses and hobbyists who make products of all sorts, featuring interactive exhibits that highlight how it all works.

“We’ve got a great lineup of people coming,” Megan Glidden of ImagineIF Libraries said.

The Mini Maker Faire takes place Feb. 24 at the Expo Building at the Flathead County Fairgrounds, and this year’s event also includes the Manufacturing and Technology Expo on Feb. 23, presented by ImagineIF, Montana West Economic Development, Kalispell Job Service, and Flathead Valley Community College.

The manufacturing and tech expo will include a presentation from Casey Malmquist of SmartLam CLT manufacturing in Columbia Falls, Glidden said.

Maker faires bring together all types of people who share the joy of learning, building and making. They often feature engineers, artists, scientists, hobbyists, and crafters, all showing how their products work.

Annegret and Klaus Pfeifer, the owners of Kettle Care Organics, will be showing how plants are distilled down to essential oils.

“Our mission at Kettle Care is to make the products as natural as possible,” Annegret Pfeifer said. “We make our own extracts because this way we can control the quality and intensity.”

While extracts and essential oils are different, the Pfeifers wanted to show students and interested adults how the essential oil process works. The only reason they don’t make their own oils is because they don’t have the amount of plants they would need, she said.

“In order to have the amount of essential oils that we need in lavender, we need fields of lavender just for us,” she said. “It takes three to four bushels of lavender to make 1 ounce of essential oil.”

Still, the distillation process is fascinating to many people, she said, and it gives people a better idea of how many manufacturing possibilities there are in this valley.

“We thought that might just be interesting for people to see that there’s a full-line manufacturing company that goes from raw plants to body-care products,” she said.

Other businesses will have exhibits set up, Glidden said, as well as 18 departments from FVCC. One college professor will be making complicated and ever-interesting Rube Goldberg machines, while another will discuss the college’s brewing program, which is providing all the beer for the social event on Friday, Feb. 23.

Montana Code Girls, an organization dedicated to teaching girls and young women how to code on computers, will host another round of Minnow Tank, a play off the popular show “Shark Tank.” During the event, girls who have built apps in the Code Girls course will present their ideas to a panel of three judges, who will give them constructive feedback.

There will also be plenty of robotics exhibits, including those from the Girl Scouts and Full Throttle Robotics. The folks behind Mostly Harmless Arms, which makes toy blasters out of PVC piping, will also be onsite.

It’s an event built for families and students, Glidden said, with hands-on learning and plenty of exhibits to keep kids and parents entertained. The maker faire joined forces with the manufacturing and tech expo last year, drawing more than 2,400 people over two days.

For more information on the Kalispell Mini Maker Faire and the Manufacturing and Technology Expo, visit kalispell.makerfaire.com, call (406) 758-2191, or email [email protected].

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