Maker Faires – a great way to spur and teach innovation

Over the weekend, I visited the second annual Twin Cities Mini Maker Faire. I wanted to share some notes on it both to entice folks to come next year (Not that they need more people!) but also because I think they would be just a good fit for smaller towns too.

On a high level, Maker Faires are big hands-on, tryout spaces. The Faire this weekend took place at the State Fair and while it didn’t fill the whole Fair it took over a few buildings and lots of greenspace. People come in and show off their passions. Sometimes that means that Best Buy comes in and lets people tryout their latest maker software, sometimes that means the South Side Battle Train bring in their homemade, human-powered Ferris wheel. So some folks have a corporate reason for being there – other folks are just sharing their passion.

You can see 3D printers, CNC machines, learn how to sew, solder and saw. This year, this faire was pretty kid-focused but there are also battery powered motorcycles and quite a few adult-focused activities. There are a few geeky activities – Arduino and some coding games. But a think a Maker Faire is the place to woo kids who don’t picture themselves as math whizzes. It’s for the kid who fidgets in his/her seat in school.

It’s an opportunity for kids to experience learning as they do and by figuring stuff out to make something happen. I spoke to someone who had a technology curriculum for kids that didn’t focus on coding, it focused on problem solving and creating motivation to learn to code by asking kids to create solutions.

It literally makes them one with the technology – like the very popular human crane video below:

It’s a space where the old school apprenticeships meet technology. We talk about kids being digital natives – and I have three kids who can selfie with the best of them. But what many kids miss is the context to use technology to solve a problem. Maker Faires introduce kids to the idea of solving problems using technology by letting them try out a wide range of technology tools – from hammers to 360 cameras.

And as a bonus idea – we saw an amazing tricked out van (this hippy van) with tools, a 3D printer, a “smile camera” functioning via Arduino – when you smile, it starts recording. It’s the 21st century book mobile!!

This entry was posted in Conferences, economic development, education, MN by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

I have a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. I have been interested or involved in providing access to information through the Internet since 1994, when I worked for Minnesota’s first Internet service provider. I am pleased to be a part of the Blandin on Broadband Team. I also work with MN Coalition on Government Information, Minnesota Rural Partners, and the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

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