Maker Ed Goes to Washington: A Multi-Perspective Look at the White House Maker Faire

On Wednesday, June 18th, 2014, several members of the Maker Ed team were in Washington D.C. to attend the first-ever White House Maker Faire. In this post, each shares his/her own account of and reflections from the day:

Lisa Regalla, Interim Executive Director

The most powerful thing about the White House Maker Faire to me was the energy in the room. You could feel it. It was contagious. Makers from around the country who normally meet in jeans and sneakers were surprised when they still recognized each other in suits and heels. The beautiful thing was that, amidst the glitz and glamour, the “inner maker” in all of us still shone through. We were the same family, just invited to a much larger house.

I think the energy sprung up from not only being in the White House but also the excitement (and trepidation) of what comes next. Makers who were once tinkering in their garage were now shaking hands with Bill Nye, Dean Kamen and will.i.am. Where do we go from here?

Over the next few months, Maker Ed is embarking on a journey to shape our organization into the best possible support system for an amazing community of maker educators. I’m excited to connect, form genuine collaborations and lead Maker Ed towards a path that achieves our vision: Every Child a Maker. Like all things worth trying, there is risk and uncertainty. But the White House Maker Faire made me feel hopeful that no matter what the future holds, the maker community will embrace change, welcome new members into the community, and maintain true to the spirit of sharing and support that I love so dearly.

Rachel Alper, Director of Strategic Alliances 

Suited up and ready to go, I felt truly honored to be attending the 1st EVER White House Maker Faire. I spent my time in the security line anticipating connecting with many of the amazing people who help to support the important work happening at Maker Ed. I immediately saw some familiar faces, with Maker Ed Board Member Kipp Bradford joining me in line in his practically neon yellow shirt, a true maker dressed in business professional attire.

Pictured (from Left to Right): Rachel Alper, Matthew Tung, Andrew Ke, Davis Dunaway, Samantha McGinnis, Lendy Dunaway

Maker Ed’s Rachel Alper with Young Makers Matthew Tung, Andrew Ke, Davis Dunaway, Samantha McGinnis, and their mentor & Willow Glen Makers club leader Lendy Dunaway

The most important thing I did in relation to the Faire was help coordinate a team of Young Makers to attend the Faire as “honorary makers,” thanks to the generous support of Disney. This was a group of four impressive 9th and 10th graders from the San Francisco Bay Area. While we did not arrive at the event together, I was fortunate to be sitting right in front of them in the room where we were waiting to listen to the President’s remarks. As we waited for the President to make his way through the exhibits, the students explained how doing a Rube Goldberg project in school inspired them and how they self identified as makers. Listening to their experiences, I realized this is what it is all about: young people embracing making and changing their own lives.

Digital Harbor Foundation’s Student Leader Darius McCoy and Executive Director Andrew Coy

Once inside the Faire, I was thrilled to see Maker Ed VISTA and Maker Corps partner Digital Harbor Foundation’s (DHF) exhibit. DHF student leader 16-year-old Darius McCoy displayed his 3D printed custom iPhone cases produced and sold by Frozen Lava, the company that he co-founded.

Taking the Metro home at the end of this incredible day, I had a moment to reflect and read President Obama’s National Day of Making Proclamation where he writes, “I am committed to helping Americans of all ages bring their ideas to life.” Maker Ed is committed to this work too. The White House Maker Faire was a giant step towards Maker Ed’s vision of “Every Child a Maker.” Lifted by the energy of the day, I know Maker Ed is ready to embrace the next chapter of this work.

Jeremy Mitchell,  Maker VISTA Leader

On Wednesday, June 11 I received a phone call from our Interim Executive Director, Lisa Regalla.  I didn’t find anything unusual about receiving the call, considering it was the day for our regular bi-weekly VISTA group meetings.  However, this conversation turned out to be the start of a life-changing experience.  She began to explain that the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) would like one of the Maker Ed VISTAs to attend the 1st White House Maker Faire as an AmeriCorps VISTA representative.  In utter disbelief, she told me that she had selected me to go, and suddenly I could feel the breezes of the whirlwind experience begin to transpire.

Maker Ed's Jeremy Mitchell and the Director of AmeriCorps VISTA, D. Paul Monteiro (left) and the Deputy Chief of Staff for CNCS, John Kelly (right)

Maker Ed’s Jeremy Mitchell and the Director of AmeriCorps VISTA, D. Paul Monteiro (left) and the Deputy Chief of Staff for CNCS, John Kelly (right)

I must admit that  the reality of what I was about to experience did not set in until after arriving at the CNCS headquarters, where I was greeted by the Chief of External Affairs for CNCS, Ted Miller, who then introduced me to John Kelly, the Deputy Chief of Staff for CNCS.  Following a swift and detailed briefing of the days events, John guided me from CNCS headquarters to the line for the White Houses security check point.  While awaiting judgment of our worthiness for White House access, we were joined by D. Paul Monteiro, the newly selected Director of  AmeriCorps VISTA.  After being cleared, Paul and John decided it would be a better use of time if we went to see some of the Eisenhower building portion of the White House instead of anxiously waiting the President’s arrival in a crowded room.

Initially I thought I wouldn’t get to see much considering the intensity of White House Security.  Little did I know,  Paul was a former member of the White House Staff, and his connections live beyond the hallways of the White House.  As a result of his relationships,  I was granted access to several restricted areas.  The most exclusive and exciting are was visiting the Vice President’s office and sitting at the desk.

After the president’s remarks, we were escorted to the West Wing to the Maker Faire exhibits.  It was very rewarding to see the youth projects because they are the population we serve; it was especially rewarding to see one of our new national VISTA sites, the Digital Harbor Foundation in Baltimore, MD, who were showcasing custom, 3D printed cases for mobile devices.

Jeremy and will.i.am

Jeremy and will.i.am

Although I did not get the opportunity to meet the President, there were so many other awesome  people I had the opportunity to meet.  One of these awesome people was Bill Nye the Science Guy, a favorite childhood TV star.  But I would have to say that the highlight of my day was meeting super producer and Pop Star will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas.  As a maker of music and having taught youth music, it was very empowering and inspiring to see an such a big icon in the entertainment industry spend his time talking with a youth exhibitor, providing words of encouragement, and showing a genuine interest in seeing them become who they aspire to be in the future.

 

 

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