Grade 1 teacher Sarah Dawe and Technology Integration and Computer support specialist Dan Riles made the trek earlier this fall to New York City’s Hall of Science for the annual Maker Faire. There they experienced the unbridled creativity of hundreds of people in the Maker Movement and did everything from read temporary poetry written in sand by a drawbot to ride a hoverboard.
Sponsored by Make Magazine, Dan describes the Faire as “a huge gathering of enthusiasts, vendors, and creators who enjoy creating new things often from the everyday materials around us. Big names like Intel, Maker related businsses like Sparkfun, and individuals all share their ideas, sell their products, and generally contribute to the vital world-wide community of makers,” Dan explains. There are hundreds of Faires worldwide, but New York is the pinnacle, he adds.
Sarah became interested in the Faire after “visiting and touring the MIT Lifelong Kindergarten in Cambridge and becoming interested in its philosophy of developing technologies that engage children in creative learning experiences,” Sarah says. “One of my favorite nooks in my classroom is our Maker Space, which we call the Imagination Lab. The children are introduced to the design process as they generate ideas, create blueprints, and build prototypes that can solve real life problems. I knew that the Maker Faire was filled with hands-on exhibits, current materials and incredible resources so I wanted to go and get inspired by some new ideas that I could bring back and share with the community.
Once there, the two were amazed by the innovation on display. “I loved the individual projects that showed what a person or small group can do when they devote time to an idea. There was a group showcasing their cardboard pinball machines and an individual with a solar powered, bicycle mounted sewing machine that he used to create custom patches while you waited. I also loved the hands-on projects such as solding LEDs on copper tape and creating arm bands out of thermoplastic,” Dan says. Sarah adds “We saw flame producing organs, battling drones, 3D printed chess sets, power tool drag racing, kinetic sculptures and so much more. The Maker Faire was such a great reminder that technology crosses over into almost every domain.”
“We also got to learn some new technical skills as we went to soldering workshops, made greeting cards with built in circuits, created illuminated foam puppets and melted Worbla, a thermo-plastic modeling material, into cuff bracelets,” Sarah says.
“I have learned that a lot of magic can happen with some simple materials: batteries, leds and copper tape! Dan and I have already used some of the technology we saw at Maker Faire as we helped the First Graders install led lights in the sea creature sculptures that they made for our One School One Book, Water Rolls, Water Rises,” Sarah says. “Next, Dan is going to work with the kids on constructing kinetic sculptures inspired by our field trip to the Peabody Essex Museum's Strandbeest exhibit. I am also excited to build a Meccanoid personal robot with the kids out of reusable strips, plates, angle girders, wheels, axles and gears. It is capable of responding to verbal instructions and mirroring movements.”
Both Dan and Sarah said that attending with a colleague helped them get the most out of the experience. “It was wonderful to attend with a colleague so we could bounce around ideas and brainstorm curricular possibilities,” Sarah said, and Dan added, that he liked, “attending with a colleague and all of the synergy that happens when multiple people attend the same event together.”