Wasteworld @ Open Sauce 2023

Sometime this spring—

  • Brett: “Wanna go to San Francisco this July?”
  • Me: “… Sure. What for?”
  • Brett: “To exhibit my toys at this Open Sauce thing.”
  • Me: “… Oof—you’re gonna lug all your stuff across the country?”
  • Brett: “Yep!”
  • Me: “Can’t we find a local maker fair or something?”
  • Brett: “Nope!”
  • Me: “Ok, but I can’t help get it to & from the airport, I’ll be coming from Seattle.”
  • Brett: “Rrrgh! That’s exactly what I needed help for!!”

But cut scene a few months and there we were anyway, surrounded by toys…


A few more photos of Brett’s exhibit additional to those here are in this gallery.

Open Sauce

This was the debut of Open Sauce, which I’m currently describing as a convention for electromechanical play and adjacent hobbies & tool building. A gathering of tinkerers, artistic engineers, and technical artists. That means lots of homemade robots, kinetic art installations, custom video game hardware, DIY electric skateboards, 3D printers, and so on. A lowercase maker fair, as differentiated and genericized from an uppercase Maker Faire, the conventions organized by Make: magazine. The community fabric of this one is largely a loosely associated collection of YouTube personalities and their audience, which is how Brett knew of the event. Nearly every person asked us “So what’s your channel?” and we were like “Naw, we don’ do that, yo.”

I have a few more photos and videos from around the convention in addition to those here, though just a small subset of what was on display, in this gallery.

A view from our booth of maybe 1/3 of the expo hall.

Automated piano and light display.

A platform for moving items or tools around, e.g., in a laboratory or manufacturing.


Through several hundred repetitions, we finally refined our spiel to something like—

Wasteworld is about playing with action figures and vehicles like we imagined them in our heads as kids, not just posing them for display.

All of the vehicles are remote controlled (RC). The bigger ones have animatronics synced to the controls (e.g., steering wheels, superchargers, lights) as well as multiple controllable details (turrets, doors, hitch lifts, etc.) and major secondary modes of play:

  • The Fire Truck has a working flamethrower;
    • Of course it does! Can you show me?
    • Nope, we promised the fire marshal we wouldn’t.
  • The DUME Cannon shoots airsoft pellets;
  • The Launch Box fires actual black powder model rockets;
  • The Drift Wagon plays Nintendo games out of its hatch.
    • But can it play DOOM?
    • Absolutely.
  • The CAT-CAT is… made out of cat hair.
    • Cat hair?
    • Yes, cat hair.
    • How many cats?
    • Three… One’s dead now.

Talking through the secondary play modes.

Just playin’ some Mario Kart in this Datsun.

The action figures are all, well, actionful. They’re articulated so they can hold on to and move with the steering wheels, e-brakes, missile controls, etc. connected to the RC receiver. Further, many of the action figures are animatronic. Built-in servos manipulate the heads to look left and right. Some have first-person view (FPV) video cameras in their heads, so you can use goggles to see what they see. One of them so far has built-in head tracking, so it looks around as you look around, independent of the steering.

Importantly, the action figures are interchangeable and not permanently attached to any vehicles. The animatronic ones plug into the vehicles for power & control signals but otherwise they’re self-contained and can be swapped in & out.

This guy disapproves.

A significant portion of the materials and elements are upcycled components and trash. Vehicles started as hobbyist RC chassis or cheap toys that have been totally rebuilt, and in a few cases are completely scratchbuilt (namely the rocket launcher trailer). Some decorative details, such as skulls, are 3D printed, while many are handmade from scavenged materials—seltzer bottles, gift cards, bits of wood, cabinet paneling, the hundreds and hundreds of individually placed 1mm rhinestones serving as rivets… The figures are mostly made from body blanks with additional 3D printed components such as heads. Clothing, backpacks, belts, etc. are hand stitched from scraps of fabric, straps, rubber bands, and so on. Other accessories are a combination of repurposed toys, sculpted, and 3D printed. Most of the painting has been done with oil paints.

Despite all the detail, it’s all been made to be played with. Anything that falls off was either designed to or should have been. Would you like to try? <holds out controller>

Twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom!


There’s a lot more that can be said and shown, but Brett’s going to have to get his act together and make some good videos of the various features. Just don’t ask him to expound on the lore unless you’re really sure what you’re doing. That is a long, intense ride, and you can’t get off once that train leaves the station.

As far as Open Sauce, I enjoyed the convention as a whole, saw a bunch of interesting displays, and learned a couple things. At one point I had to run to the repair booth to get a charging cable re-soldered and I picked up a bunch of useful tips from the person running it. Our fellow RC enthusiasts in the adjacent tables were cool to hang out with all weekend. I particularly appreciated the art installations, like the unemployed robot street drummer and the storm cloud light & sound show, the latter of which was purpose-built for this event, disassembled at the end, and will never appear again.

On our side, we had a great time hanging out with lots of people and playing with toys. After talking through all of it with several hundred people over the weekend we were pretty cooked. Brett was decidedly stumbling around in a delirium and would only have been talking nonsense even if his voice still worked. But, as my mom said, that’s fine—he doesn’t usually make much sense to begin with.

The man, the myth, the Brett.

I don’t think the exhibit could have gone much better for not just a first outing, but one all the way across the country. Our biggest issue was all the many video transmitters in various projects around the expo hall stomping on our low power signals, and realistically there’s not much that can be done about that. Brett’s got a bunch of repair work to do post-event, but of course the worst damage was incurred by him and I.

It was great to see so many people play with, enjoy, and appreciate all Brett’s work. This was the first time Wasteworld has been shown in public. Locally most friends have no idea Brett’s been building all this. It’s an incredible body of work. The modeling alone is very good, the attention to detail and the scrap building impressive in particular. But it’s all functional in non-trivial ways? And even further, it’s (reasonably) robust enough for kids and whomever to just pick up & play with?? That’s crazy.

There are mores photos and videos from Brett’s Wasteworld exhibit in this gallery and from the convention overall in this gallery. Thanks for reading!



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