Thinking big at Maker Faire

'The thing I think I care about most is that the maker movement has the potential to transform education and the way kids learn.'

Dale Dougherty, Founder and CEO of Maker Media, is talking at the home of all Maker Faires, the Bay Area Maker Faire. This is the 11th year of this mother of all Show and Tells that has fostered the growth of over 190 maker faires world-wide. The faire has always been about community and nurturing the next generation of makers, and it's hard not to agree with Dougherty when he talks about maker as 'creating a grass roots movement in education.'

'I don't mean just schools,' he says, 'I mean the kinds of experiential learning opportunities that tend to be at the root of kids getting into science and technology: to be able to solder, play with blinky lights, to look at the world around them, engage and learn to do things, build a robot or learn to weld.'

This year, Maker Faire opened a day early for educators, with 4,300 students and educators from Bay Area schools spending a comparatively calm Friday afternoon at the San Mateo site, doing hands-on making and meeting makers.

Among them was Aiden, a 2nd grader from Marin and student from the rafiakids class that I run. He's a wonderful kid and has turned the class into his own show and tell, bringing inventions he creates between the weekly classes to show other students. So it was no surprise when Aiden's mom told me that eight-year-old Aiden was taking a solar-powered plane he'd built to the big Maker Faire.

With Dougherty's words in mind, I took the opportunity to interview him. What he said is so to-the-point, I'm publishing it here on the rafiakids website. Well done, Aiden. As Mr Dougherty says 'Makers are an untapped source of innovation... [with] skills that allow them to change the future, not just think or dream about it, but change it.'

Below is the interview with Aiden:

Young maker and solar-powered plane inventor Aiden, aged 8

Young maker and solar-powered plane inventor Aiden, aged 8

What is Maker Faire?

'The Makers Faire is a faire that people go to so that they can share their inventions. Basically, you'll see whack-a-doodle stuff like flying cars, a bike you don't have to pedal, a giant glowing cat car, telescopes made from a 3d printer, a life size Jeep made from a 3D printer (that works), a fire dragon.   It’s a place where people can come together and present what they have made.  Definitely really exciting.'

How did it feel to see all these inventors, all these Makers in one spot?

'Everyone was having a good time building stuff. I like that feeling when people come together to make stuff. That makes me feel happy.'

What was the coolest or biggest invention you saw?

'I loved the four-wheel bike. Loved the design. Loved how it was powered.  Loved the ride! I also really like the solar car. It was covered with solar panels and could go up to 75 MPH.'

Learning to solder at MakerFaire

Learning to solder at MakerFaire

You got to bring something to the Maker Faire. What was it?

'I designed and built a solar plane. It has a big propeller and is powered by one solar panel.  The body of the plane is made out of Styrofoam board.
While we were at the Faire we got to see a car that was powered by solar panels.  The panels are all over the car. It was cool to see how small my airplane compared to the car. The car had hundreds of solar panels. My plane had one.
The solar panels they used on the car were way different in weight and shape. They were way thinner. The solar panel I used was thick and heavy. It made me think that if I want more power for my plane that maybe I should use more panels or just a lighter one. 
I wonder if I make this change to my plane if my propeller will spin faster.'

 

Claire Comins is the Founder of rafiakids maker and coding classes, offering fun projects for kids aged 5-12 in schools, makerspaces and for homeschoolers. Contact her via rafiakids@gmail.com or @clairecomins @rafiakids on twitter.

Claire with community makerspace manager Sara Bolduc, set for a session helping kids of all ages make mini led monsters. CEC makerspace is a community makerspace in Novato, Marin, California

Claire with community makerspace manager Sara Bolduc, set for a session helping kids of all ages make mini led monsters. CEC makerspace is a community makerspace in Novato, Marin, California