Maker Media, the O'Reilly Media spinoff that oversees Make magazine and the popular Maker Faire, has hired a new president and chief operating officer who is himself a "maker" at heart.

Greg Brandeau, who was Disney's chief technology officer and has an extensive engineering background, crafted a "cat detector" to help catch a wounded stray that his family wanted to save.

With a motion sensor and camera that sent pictures of the hungry feline to his computer, it's held together with painter's tape and a shoe box and cost about $50 to assemble. It's the type of simple project Brandeau hopes teachers and parents will encourage their children to do, with the help of Maker Media.

"Imagine you want to have a cat detector at every door of your house," Brandeau said. "At a $50 price point, you can imagine kids playing with this stuff and coming up with things that we haven't thought of before."

Brandeau will help the growing Sebastopol company capitalize on opportunities that are emerging as the "maker culture" goes mainstream, said Dale Dougherty, the company's CEO and founder.

"The thing with Greg that I'm really excited about is he comes from a number of creative companies, and in our heart that's what we are," Dougherty said.

Brandeau, an MIT-trained engineer, has held leadership roles at technology companies for more than two decades.

After serving as director of operations at NeXT Computer, he joined Pixar Animation Studios in 1996 and led its effort to develop the technology infrastructure that helped put Pixar on the cutting edge of filmmaking.

He left Pixar in 2001, serving as chief information officer of Perlegen Sciences, but returned in 2004. Following its 2006 sale to Disney, Brandeau became senior vice president of technology for Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios. He was promoted to chief technology officer of Walt Disney Studios in 2009.

"I was lucky to be at Pixar in the early days, and what I'm really good at is taking companies that have really good brands and really good people and helping them grow," Brandeau said.

Dougherty launched Make Magazine in 2005 and held the first Maker Faire in 2006, tapping into a movement of technology tinkerers and do-it-yourself crafters. Last year, the two flagship Maker Faires drew 165,000 people in the Bay Area and New York, and more than 60 community-driven Maker Faires will be held this year around the globe.

The Sebastopol company has grown about 20 percent since it was spun off from O'Reilly Media in January. At that time, the company had annual revenues of more than $15 million and employed 40 full-time staff members, Dougherty said. Since then the company has hired 10 additional staffers in ecommerce and marketing, and it plans to continue hiring, Dougherty said.

The company is backed by venture funding from O'Reilly AlphaTech Partners, Floodgate Partners and Collaborative Fund.

"We believe that Maker Media brings a unique combination of community, content and commerce that is proving to have explosive growth," Floodgate partner Ann Miura-Ko said in a statement. "Greg uniquely understands the challenge of building a global organization that can support this growth with cutting edge innovative products that consumers will love."

Brandeau foresees opportunities to expand further into education and communities that are less often affiliated with technology, like gardening and sewing, he said.