As a mom, I’m always looking to inject a little education into our family outings. That’s why I was excited to hear that Maker Faire was coming the grounds of the New York Hall of Science in NYC. The event touts itself as an all-ages gathering, but it is the perfect mesh of learning and fun for kids.
Imagine an amusement park but instead of expensive rides and cotton candy, there are exhibits and demonstrations whose impact stays with your child well past a two minute roller coaster. And your kids love it.
What exactly is a Maker Faire?
Maker Faire is like a convention of tinkerers from Pixie Hollow but instead of pixie dust, they use intelligence, math, creativity and science.
Maker Faire is a gathering of curious people who enjoy learning and who love sharing what they can do. Exhibitors consist of tech enthusiasts, crafters, educators, engineers, science clubs, authors, artists, students, and commercial exhibitors. They all have one thing in common: they are makers.
“Do we have to go?”
As the mom of a tween, I know that in our world of passive entertainment, being inspired to actually make something is important. That doesn’t mean inspiration is easy.
I’m not going to mislead you into thinking that your children will jump for joy when you tell them you are taking them to Maker Faire. We got, “What is it?” and “Do we have to go for very long?”
When we arrived, the day started out with mild amusement in a talking robot. Next, a piqued interest in Intel chips used to scratch records on a turntable.
But it wasn’t until we hit the virtual reality area that mom was truly redeemed. Here visitors were encouraged to sit down and try their hand at computer programming or don a virtual reality headset that can be used with a smartphone.
At the Faire, visitors can expect to see many 3D printers in action. We met a young company that was very near to creating metal parts with a 3D printer that could be a real game changer. However, it wasn’t until we saw a reproduction of a castle that looked like Hogwarts castle that its potential was realized by our daughter.
Maker Faire is designed to be forward-looking, showcasing makers who are exploring new forms and new technologies. But it’s not just for the technical fields. Maker Faire features innovation and experimentation in science, engineering, art, performance and craft.
The exhibits range from the highly technological to the simple but brilliantly creative. We met a teenager who had repurposed old PVC pipes to create bow and arrow sets. He had one that looked like something Katniss Everdeen would love.
Although the future and advanced technology is a big fascination, the most popular demonstration for our daughter and her parents (and based on the crowd, everyone else too) was one on lock picking sponsored by TOOOL (The Open Organization of Lockpickers). Who knew?
Sitting at packed tables attempting to pick locks, for a few moments, we were all Spy Kids or one of Charlie’s Angels, depending on your generation!
History of Maker Faire
It started with a magazine geared toward a tech-influenced DIY community. Published by Maker Media, the magazine quickly gained a following and soon the concept became identified as the Maker Movement.
The Movement had traction because many amateur makers had a hard time finding places other than the Internet to share what they do. The first Maker Faire launched successfully in San Francisco in 2006 and now they are happening all over the world. Check out the shows scheduled across the U.S. for 2017.
The Maker Faire is not only good for encouraging inspiration and curiosity; it’s also a great place for kids to start thinking about college and a career.
We met a young woman who was a student in the Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) at New York University, something I’ve never heard of. The program is for artists to use technology to create art. The student’s piece was a hologram of her recently departed dog that could move and respond to commands. Although a conceptual art piece, we joked with her that it could be commercially viable as a futuristic taxidermy for people who’ve lost beloved pets. I know I’d buy one.
We also learned about innovative products especially for parents. We saw this baby monitoring product that monitors a baby’s vitals and then relays the information back to the child’s doctor. For babies who have health issues that are difficult to diagnose, a product like this could mean faster and more accurate diagnosis.
NY Hall of Science
While there we also checked out the exhibits at the New York Hall of Science A family favorite, it’s one of the smartest museums in the city. Apart from the exhibits, it also has one of the best playgrounds I’ve ever seen.
We snuck in a few minutes to see their current exhibit, Connected Worlds. This interactive experience is designed to bring awareness about the world’s changing environments and global warming. This also happens to be a subject that our daughter is learning in science class this year. The glowing high tech exhibit features the jungle, desert, wetlands, mountain valley, reservoir, and plains. It is also a calming place to take a rest!
After your kids are interacting with a community of creative, smart and curious people all day, all you can hope is that some of their pixie dust rubs off on them.