I’ve been having a bunch of conversations this week, online and off, about the audience of Maker Faire. Those with no kids or those seeking the dangerous or the flame-throwing were feeling out of luck for things to do. Why? The Faire was swarming with kids at every table. Maker Faire is getting increasingly awesome for kids, with more take-away projects this year for kids and an expansion into the new Zone E — a family friendly zone with space to breathe and try the projects. Here are some of the awesome things we did and saw this year.
The kids went on many ride of this bike/carousel hybrid from the Austin Bike Zoo. The big kids rode around the outside while the little kids got plunked down in the middle. The Austin Bike Zoo was also responsible for the beautiful butterfly bikes riding around Maker Faire.
Then we headed over to check out ScrapKins. I’ve had the opportunity to work with ScrapKins creator Brian Yanish since we first discovered ScrapKins at Maker Faire (at Speakaboos we’re doing a ScrapKins pirate adventure, coming soon!) The kids made boats out of milk cartons and straws, and then, in the coolest of cool, raced them down a recycled river into the ScrapKins lagoon. Ozzie could have done it all. day. long.
Nearby we found more friends, from our neighborhood science wonderland, Storefront Science, here in Washington Heights. The gave kids a battery, an LED light, pipe cleaners, and tape. Olive made this fuzzy little light creature.
Still more friends in Zone E were found at Scraptacular, another Washington Heights institution. They showed how to make plarn, long lengths of plastic made from plastic grocery store bags, into weaving masterpieces. You can see how to make plarn in this YouTube video.
Olive was determined to find this year’s Metrocard robot, and lo! We found the whole Metrocard family.
As we were leaving Zone E, we looked over a fence and then discovered the Science Playground, a permanent fixture at the New York Hall of Science. Why didn’t we know about this?! It is one of the coolest playgrounds ever with sound, color, and physics installations, not to mention some good climbing and water play action. It was a great place to avoid the crowds for a while.
Since we’re a family that watches Project Runway together, we’ve seen our share of unconventional challenges. Olive and I stopped in our tracks when we spotted a dress made out of Skittles wrappers. It was one of the many awesome fashions created by The Marymount School of New York.
We drooled over the 3-D printers imagining all that we could do with them, but were particularly interested in Blokify, software that lets you build Minecraft-like structures that you can then send to a 3-D printer to create. The resulting castles and structures were super cool.
The kids were wiped after a day of Saturday exploring, so I headed back on Sunday where I got to see more friends. Kathy Ceceri and I were GeekMoms together, and here she is demoing her solar robot, one of the awesome, accessible projects from her book, Robotics: Discover the Science and Technology of the Future with 20 Projects. Seriously, check this book out. It’s full of low-tech and no-tech projects that really teach the principles of robotics.
Inside the museum I found my friend, Joshua Axelrod, who made the arcade machine of my dreams, Popcade. It’s an accurate reproduction of a Joust cabinet at 50% scale, running MAME, an arcade game generator. There was a kid playing Donkey Kong when I walked up, but when it came time for my turn, we flipped over to Ms. Pac Man where I set (and reportedly kept) the Maker Faire high score. Aw, yeah. If you must have one of these, Josh will build you one for about $2,500. (Holiday note for the Mac Daddy, you can email Josh at email@example.com. Wouldn’t that be a great present?!)
On Sunday I also ran into some girls I know that showed me these awesome Frankenstuffedanimal creations. I totally missed this booth with the kids, but I’m stealing this idea from the two bags full of stuffed animals filling our closet. You probably have the same bags, right? I suggested to Olive that we take parts from all of her favorites to make one big creation, and she’s all for it. Totally doing this.
And, since I was flying solo, I braved the paella line and then took my plate over to watch the Power Racing Series race of souped-up Power Wheels. Check out the video of all the great car creations, including one being driven by a Stormtrooper. I was sorry the kids missed that, too, but there’s only so much you can do in a weekend! Maker Faire needs to be a week long.
Did I mention the paella?
Then, I crashed in the GeekMom/GeekDad booth with my fellow geeks where we got to hang out, play games, meet people, and generally be inspired by the creative atmosphere. I hope Maker Faire can keep up the spark that it has. I know many, me included, are worried about the corporatization of Maker Faire, but by skipping the Microsoft and Disney areas and wandering towards the weird, it was still the Maker Faire I know and love. Hopefully we can continue to self-curate in that way in future Maker Faires.
See you next year!