February 20, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

The 4th Annual NYC Maker Faire Welcomes Educators, Kids

2012 World Maker Faire NY. Andrew Kelly, Reuters.

This weekend, thousands of educators, parents, and kids of all ages will join the crowd of DIY enthusiasts flocking to New York City’s 4th annual World Maker Faire New York to see more than 650 makers present original projects celebrating such areas as technology, education, science, arts, crafts, engineering, and sustainability. The family-friendly festival of invention and creativity—what its organizers at Maker Media call “the greatest show (and tell) on earth”—will also be offering a one-day  immersive “How to Make a Maker Space” workshop ahead of the main event.

“There’s a lot of magic and discovery and exploration to be found just walking around each corner, finding what’s there, and engaging in it,” Sherry Huss, vice present of Maker Media, tells School Library Journal ahead of the event. “We encourage people to come with an open mind and see as much as they can see.”

A production of Maker Media’s Make magazine, the NYC faire—September 21 and 22 at the New York Hall of Science (NYSCI) in Flushing Meadows, Queens—is modeled after the group’s original faire, now in its 15th year, the last eight of which were located in the Bay Area.

2012 World Maker Faire NY. Andrew Kelly, Reuters.

NYC attendees this year will have their pick of three zones of activity offering seven different “stages” or presentation areas, both inside the Hall of Science and out, tailored for how-to demonstrations, discussions, hands-on learning workshops, interviews, and play from individual makers—adults, teens, and children—chosen by Maker Media for their creativity, invention, and resourcefulness.

2012 World Maker Faire NY. Andrew Kelly, Reuters.

Activities range from tried and true “making” projects (soldering, model vehicle building, arts and crafts, and science play) for younger children to the exploration of emerging technologies and advanced projects in design, robotics, or sustainability for teens and adults. Attendees can learn the latest in electronics, 3-D printing, and science/engineering activities and their practical applications for sharing with kids and teens, or explore more creative angles with kinetic sculptures, LEDs, and projection art.

2012 World Maker Faire NY. Andrew Kelly, Reuters.

For the first time ever this year, a stage devoted to 3-D printing will debut, featuring 34 sessions on the present and future of digital fabrication, materials, and making, while the stage devoted to electronics will showcase experts and innovators behind all leading micro-controller and robotics platforms. Another stage, devoted to innovation, will offer deeper research and high-level perspectives from best-selling authors, educators, designers, historians, and maker entrepreneurs.

2012 World Maker Faire NY. Andrew Kelly, Reuters.

About 30 percent of exhibits are specifically designed for children, Maker Media’s marketing director, Bridgette Vanderlaan, estimates, including the Young Makers Pavilion, sponsored by information technology provider Cognizant. During the weekend, young makers who participate in Cognizant’s Making the Future after-school and summer programs will conduct workshops, with their instructors, for other children in the pavilion as part of the company’s continuing initiative to provide hands-on learning opportunities that inspire kids in science, technology, engineering, math (STEM), and the arts.

In addition to the two large NYC and Bay Area World Maker Faire events, there are 80 other smaller events—“mini Maker Faires”—being planned and organized for 2013–2013 around the world, Vanderlaan says.

Vanderlaan confirms that in May, about 120,000 people attended the World Maker Faire in the Bay Area (with more than 900 makers present and more than 60,000 projects either offered or completed by attendees), while at least 70,000 attendees are expected this weekend in NYC. Vanderlaan also notes that more than half of Maker Faire’s attendees typically participate in demos and hands-on projects.

2012 World Maker Faire NY. Andrew Kelly, Reuters.

Specifically for educators and other community leaders, Maker Media is offering the “How to Make a Makerspace Workshop” all day Friday, September 20. At press time, Vanderlaan says, there are still a few seats available for this unique, immersive event, which is being co-sponsored by Artisan’s Asylum. The takeaways include creating a business model, the permitting/insurance process, building community, and the challenges of incorporating education into one’s mission.

Tickets for World Maker Faire New York, which range in price from about $10 to $35, can be purchased at the event or online in advance. If you can’t attend in person, you can view the live stream, or follow the event and NYSCI on Twitter. You can tweet about the event via #MakerFaire.

First time at Maker Faire?

David Lang, writer of Makezine.com’s popular “Zero to Maker” column and author of a book on the topic,  Zero to Maker: Learn (Just Enough) to Make (Just About) Anything, has put together a welcome message to first-time attendees, which Maker Media’s Sherry Huss shared with SLJ.

Below are Lang’s observations, in his own words, from his very first visit to a Maker Faire event, plus his top tips for getting the most out of the experience:

Maker Enthusiasm
Behind every interesting project was an equally interesting person or group. It was so refreshing to meet people who made things because they loved them, instead of just trying to sell something. And every question about how something worked found an informed and lucid explanation.

My advice: Make sure to ask lots of questions!

Excited Kids
Unfortunately, Maker Faire is the opposite of my educational experience. Watching the kids light up around the different projects at Maker Faire makes it clear that this experience fills an important gap that many classrooms are missing.

More advice: Encourage your kids to ask lots of questions!

Making Is a Team Sport
My last major insight didn’t happen my first day at the Faire. It came months later, after I finally decided I wanted to get more involved with the maker movement.

I had no idea where, or how, or what I wanted to make—I just knew I wanted more of the creativity and curiosity I had seen at Maker Faire. After a few months of taking classes and meeting more makers, I learned the final lesson:

It has very little to do with DIY, and everything to do with DIT (Do-It-Together). The tools are much easier to learn (and more accessible) than I could have guessed. The online and in-person communities are wildly supportive and informative. And the potential to start something that turns into a fun hobby, a small (or big) business, or an engaging parent-kid project is much closer than you realize. So, my last piece of advice? Get involved.

Karyn M. Peterson About Karyn M. Peterson

Karyn M. Peterson (kpeterson@mediasourceinc.com) is a former News Editor ofSLJ.