Do-it-yourselfers, technogeeks, tinkerers, artists, crafters, product and furniture designers, these so-called hackers are united only by their perspective: to not accept something as is.

Winnie Lam was thinking about food when she made her Chocolate Sundae Toppings footstool, fashioned from a few bags of cotton pompoms hot-glued to an Ikea stool. “It came from staring into a bowl of ice cream one day,” said Ms. Lam, 31, who lives in Mountain View, Calif., and is a product manager at Google. “I’m a chocolate lover, but I’d rather look at it than eat it.”

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