You might be noticing that makers are getting shorter and more wrinkle-free these days. Their ideas and creations, though, are no less inventive or surprising. All children are makers, innately curious and imaginative, naturally inclined to create and build. And these days, it’s starting to show in the number of youth you might trip over at Maker Faire and in schools, museums, and libraries around the nation.
Maker Faire Bay Area showcased an entire building of young makers this year. It engaged families, kids, educators, and makers of all stripes, showing off the diverse array of youth interests and abilities in the numerous projects on display. In the far corner of the Sequoia building, near Lighthouse Community Charter School (a close partner of Maker Ed’s), Castilleja School, and Hillbrook School, the Young Makers program in the Bay Area was packed with people and rife with activity. The 103 projects — made by over 275 young makers and about 100 mentors — exhibited in rotations throughout the Saturday and Sunday event, spilled out into the doorway, onto the sidewalk, and across the way into the grassy areas. The youth-driven projects ranged the spectrum from a carefully motorized book page turner, a beautiful wooden guitar created from modular pieces, a motion-sensed hamster nightlight, a marble Rube Goldberg machine, and a whole group of haunted house projects that integrated arts, mechanical design, and electronic programming… just to name a few!
Every hour or two, there was a shift, a new idea on the chalkboard wall for “what to make next!”, and another ingenious Young Makers project set up to display. Jason and his dad Brian, with the stamina that only Maker Faire veterans know, entertained the crowd with Jason’s Pipe Instrument II, a feat of musicality that used 220 feet of carefully-tuned PVC pipe to play each precise note. Girls from the San Rafael Intel Computer Clubhouse invented a tent, which battled the San Mateo winds, that helps to inspire new ideas. The Techbridge girls made an appearance with 7 projects, including ones that dazzled brilliantly in the darkened Fiesta Hall. Kristan’s Makin’ It club, which engages students in afterschool programs across multiple South Bay cities, brought a whopping 35 projects, including such inventive ones as a crafted lock box, a cupcake oven, a crayon re-melter/re-maker, and Arduino-controlled robots. We had incredible youth makers from Oakland, Richmond, San Jose, Mountain View, San Francisco, San Rafael, and even Sacramento!
Some projects took up the whole sidewalk, and others settled nicely onto tabletops. Many of them moved with the makers themselves, roaming the grounds. If you stopped by on Sunday morning, you might have noticed a lively train of homemade hovercrafts from the Piedmont Makers club. Kurt Fleischer, one of the mentors, commented, “This isn’t just about building things. In addition to the actual construction, they have to do creative brainstorming, choose an ambitious but doable project, surmount roadblocks, organize themselves, and think about how to describe their project to others. At the Maker Faire, they once again took it up another level. The kids fully owned the exhibit. When they saw things weren’t working as well as they’d hoped, they jumped in without hesitation and reconfigured the hovercrafts on the spot. They are Makers!”
In the Young Makers corner, you may have also come across screens displaying “Safe, Smart, & Sweet” video games, made by a group of San Jose middle and high-schoolers, or the Arduino-controlled Cloud Lamp, from veterans Isabella and Silvia, a dual-purpose lamp and thunderstorm & lightning generator. As they put it, this might be the best chance to experience a thunderstorm in the Bay Area! On Saturday afternoon, the Harmonograph had a line of visitors awaiting their chance to make a geometric image. The resulting graphics were gorgeous, and Kyle and Kurtis, along with their parents, patiently explained and showed off their project to excited participants.
The Young Makers program in the Bay Area ran for a shorter, more streamlined season this year, made possible by incredible volunteers in the area. We also partnered with 4 institutions — The Exploratorium, Lighthouse Community Charter School, The Tech Museum of Innovation, and the Lawrence Hall of Science — to help engage more of the community, host monthly meetings and gatherings, and provide more opportunities to learn and make. The results speak for themselves. Many thanks to all of the volunteers, mentors, club managers, and partners for encouraging and facilitating this program! Young Makers is made possible with the generous support of Oracle.