Lighthouse @ Maker Faire 2015

Maker Faire came and went. It took months of planning—an entire year, for those of us who began thinking about it at the close of last year’s faire (which does not include me)—scheduling, rescheduling, last minute panics, and many headaches. But it came together really nicely in the end.

How would you describe Maker Faire?

“Umm…fun. I don’t know. What’s a word for when there’s a lot going on? Like, things going on all the time.” – Jocelyn, senior

“It was like a convention of things people made, I guess, that they thought were useful or cool.” –Kyle, sophomore

This is Maker Faire:

Well, that’s a teeny, tiny sampling of Maker Faire, anyway—where for one whole weekend, the weird, the brilliant, the artsy, the craftsy, the technological, the genius, the ingenious, the creative, the scientific, and the “whoaaa” come together for a giant extravaganza/barbecue.

For the fifth year in a row, students and teachers represented the Creativity Lab at Maker Faire with their own interactive making sessions and project displays. This year, we had roughly thirty students—grades sixth through twelfth (and one kindergartner, for good measure)—helping with our booth over three full days.

Our goal was both to show off the hard work and creativity that our students have put into their making projects over the past several months, as well as get new makers engaged in the fun themselves. From 10:00 am–6:00 pm, our students got to be the teachers as they helped participants of all ages join us in making marble mazes, cardboard hands, buttons, and circuits:

I shot that video before the gates were opened and the flood poured in. Rest assured, we had thousands of attendees stop by to make with us throughout the weekend.

What was your favorite part of Maker Faire?

“Looking at the LED exhibits. The tree that lights up every time you spoke to it. It would change colors depending on your sound.” – Norma, senior

“Seeing people walking around with their projects, and being proud of it. They all seemed so happy about what they made, and that was cool.” –Jocelyn, senior

“Everything.” —Tova, kindergarten

Many big-name companies have showings at Maker Faire, and even independent artists will sometimes shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars on a giant display. They can be exciting, (they certainly drew in large crowds and captivated the interests of our students), but we try to go the opposite approach. With just cardboard and straws, we had crowds all day, and I think it goes to show that people are just as interested in resourcefulness and creativity as they are explosive and expensive.

Take our marble maze, for example:

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Our 7th graders helped to put this one on. Participants could build their own piece of the maze out of popsicle sticks and cardboard, then tie it onto the wall. It takes some fiddling to get the pieces to line up just right, so that the marble exits from one piece into the other (we had marbles flying all over the place), but that’s making for you, and the challenge involved and persistence required is what makes it so much fun. We had some pretty innovative and unique pieces added to our marble maze. It’s hard to see the marbles actually going through the maze (they’re small, and the quality of the filming ain’t so great), but the video below will at least give you some idea of what we built:

And here’s something cool and unexpected:

We’d intended all along to let participants have a go at making their own hands as one of our activities. (You may recall my post on this project just a few weeks back.) But, before we even got around to setting this activity up, passersby who saw our display of hands got excited enough over the project that our marble machine station naturally turned into a hand-making station all by itself. Hand-making was probably one of the biggest hits of our entire booth (and I’ll just go ahead and be bold enough to say it was one of the biggest hits of the entire Maker Faire).

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We also had a huge turnout with our circuit blocks, and a long line at our button machine. I’m half-convinced that next year we should just bring ten button machines to Maker Faire, and leave it at that.

Did anything at Maker Faire inspire you?

“I saw this—I don’t know what it was, a giraffe or a cow, but it had LEDs lights around it and sound. I guess it inspired me to think that I can do more than just staying small with my LED creations. There are a lot of things you can do with LEDs rather than just small things.” –Norma, senior

“I saw a lot of 3D printed stuff and a lot of stuff that you wouldn’t normally think about, like a guy riding a huge pencil-bike that actually worked—like, it actually had lead. So that was inspirational, to kinda think outside the box.” —Jocelyn, senior

“No.” –JC, sophomore

Frankly, our high school students in the making elective struggled to get their projects done in time for Maker Faire this year, which caused more than a little anxiety. We used it as an opportunity to let visitors of our booth see the making in progress. One group finally finished their rocking chair at Maker Faire (and got some praise from other nearby makers), and our guys working on the Van de Graaff generator put in some extra work at the Faire, too. So it worked out, and the lesson to take away from this is 1) make your students get their projects done earlier, and 2) when they inevitably don’t, use it to your advantage.

I feel like I’ve done a lot of typing, when my computer is stuffed with pictures from Maker Faire, which is probably more interesting to all of you (if not, I take that as a huge compliment). And if each one of those pictures equals a thousand words…well, that’s a lot of words, so I’ll let them do their job.

Enjoy!

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Oh, yeah, one more thing! Several of our students participated in a Q&A on their experiences with making. Here’s the video:

 

About

David is the documentarian and professional development coordinator for the Creativity Lab. In 2014, he received a BA in creative writing from Louisiana State University, with focuses on short fiction and screenwriting. In partnering with New Orleans-based independent film company, Asymptote Pictures, his work has been featured in film festivals across the country. He likes his espresso maker, and vegetarian tacos.