I had been introduced to the maker movement several years ago as board president of my local public library at a NYLA conference when a young librarian from Fayettville explained to me how they used 3D printers to connect the scientific and farming communities by creating replacement parts for agricultural machines. I was hooked. Since then I have been involved in setting up numerous makerspaces at libraries and schools, but nothing I have seen or done was as wild, crazy, wet and fun as Maker Faire.
Being a Maker means taking what you see around you and transforming it into something more.
The day began in the best way possible, the interactive park at the NY Science museum followed by a performance by the EepyBird Mentos guys. Squished against the barrier that separated us from them my daughters and I listened as Frtiz and Stephen revealed the secrets of their Mentos Experiment explaining how coke interacts with the surface of Mentos creating an explosion that can be guided through different size and shape slots for optimum splash.
We saw lots of amazing things on Saturday that people had built with their hands, spare parts and imagination. My daughters road a kinetic sculpture called Tik Tok The Croc, we listened to a car covered with fish that sang and danced to the Time Warp, there were Ghost Busters armed with Proton Packs, suited men with displays for faces, drone wars, a circus and a giant mousetrap that crushed a car with a metal safe.
But the genius of Maker Faire wasn't in the seeing, it was in the doing, which was nothing less that sheer fun!
Booths stretched out for what seemed like miles and were filled with treasure troves of hands on making materials waiting to be discovered. We tried our hand wiring LED lights and lithium batteries to make glowing pumpkin faces at Maker State. We stopped by Circuit Scribe where we crafted circuits that functioned by drawing designs on a piece of paper. We built and programmed robots to play piano at Play-I and finally landed at OGOBild a company that makes characters that snap together, bendable creatures ideal for stop animation. And since we're doing clay animation at my house right now, this was right up our alley and we scooped up a bundle.
But the best part of the day didn't come from a vendor's booth, it came from a great, big pile of junk!
When I was an artist studying at Parson's School of Design in NYC, my friends and I would frequently comb the streets for boards, circuits and wire that could be transformed into sculptures and 3D art. Now my kids were doing the same thing at Maker Faire! In a Maker Booth piled high with broken computer parts, craft materials old audio tape and glue guns my daughters spent almost an hour making some really cool sculptures. They were on fire with imagination and solving problems of design as they created without models or instructions.
And that’s when it hit me, isn't this what we spend so much time trying to get the children to do?
Saturday my children were scientists, artists and mathematicians. They were jungle gym explorers. They were inventors, thinkers and creators discovering new worlds on their own, yet together with thousands of other children who were doing the same thing.
Sunday, Kayla and Ava wanted to clean out the garage. We filled two boxes with "maker materials" we found as we cleaned. Then we built an animation recording stage against the wall and a building zone right in the center where we began creating giant kinetic scarecrows for a local installation. Next to the B-zone we put an art chest full of scissors, markers, paper and glue and a bookrack filled with all kinds of books for inspiration. In a few weeks I will add some motors and circuits I have in a box in my closet.
I don't know if my daughters will be the next great inventors but I do know that a spark has been lit.
I'm going to do whatever I can to help them grow their ideas and get them onto the world. I owe it to them for no other reason than because I can help. Take the chance with your students this year and help them create. See where their imagination leads you and how you can tie in the concepts you're teaching to some big maker opportunities. One that is coming up that we are participating in is the Imagination Foundation's Global Cardboard Challenge. You might lose some instruction time, but just think of all you will gain. And who knows, a student of yours may become the next great inventor because of a fire you lit in them, and isn't that what teaching is all about? -Laura
Laura Hill shares her expertise in creating maker spaces that integrate technology, art, science and hands on fun! She has shared this knowledge in her role with public libraries, now she brings the same excitement to schools. To find out more contact Laura at firstname.lastname@example.org