Education Highlights at the Portland, Oregon Mini Maker Faire

September 18,2012, by Steve Davee

This past weekend, the Oregon Museum of Science & Industry (OMSI) hosted Portland’s first Mini Maker Faire.  I was fortunate to participate as a Maker, and to be able to observe and document some of the excitement surrounding an impressive variety of educational experiences. To explore the Faire, I hopped on my skateboard (the perfect platform for speedy and efficient Maker Faire documentation), and set out on a mission to follow wherever the greatest concentrations of kids Making, and engaging with Makers, brought me.

The following is a small sample of some of the many highlights of the Faire:

Note: all photo credits are mine (Steve Davee) unless otherwise indicated.

PDX Young Makers

Maker Ed recently featured a post by Marie Bjerede, founder of the PDX Young Makers club,  and super-supportive Maker-parent. Marie kindly shared her experience at the Faire with me:

“We had so much fun sharing the light-up cards activity with young makers of all ages.  Not only were they creative in their artistic designs, but they ended up doing lots of problem-solving with how to lay out the conductive tape to get power to lots of LED lights, how to deal with lights that had different resistances, and just plain old debugging of short or open circuits.  At the end of they day, the kids had figured out for themselves that tech materials such as LED’s and batteries were not intimidating or difficult, but  just more raw material for them to use to create what they could imagine.”

 Marie also shared with me when I asked, that in her estimate, the club went through enough materials for about 400 LED pop-up cards over the weekend. Thanks Marie!

 Top two photos by Marie Bjerede

WeMake PDX 

In a popular and active exhibit, WeMake PDX provided materials and paint for the collaborative creation of unique and artistic bird houses.  They were kind enough to share these pictures with me, a bit about their Faire experience, and their valuable cause to support art and music education:

The WeMake volunteers had such a great time interacting with the kids over the course of the weekend. We were able to watch their creative minds at work while they painted and constructed the birdhouses. We even had a few children stop by our booth at the end of the day and they were thrilled to see how the pieces of wood they had painted were used in the birdhouse.

After talking with the kids and parents who stopped by our booth, we learned many of them had either music or art—but not both at their schools, while others didn’t have any creative programs at all. It made us realize how important raising money during our auction really is.

 Our auction takes place on October 12th at Union/Pine and more info can be found here: Its free and everyone is welcome! The funds raised from the auction will go to All Hands Raised, First Octave – a grant which funds arts and music education in Portland and Multnomah’s under-served schools.

Photos provided by WeMake PDX

FIRST Robotics and First Tech Challenge

FIRST had a strong and diverse presence across the full range of their programs. These robots were a popular inspiration. Not only could Faire-goers watch them in action, they could even drive many of them. Considering the complexity and sometimes finicky nature of these machines, it’s a great testament to the dedication, patience and skills of FIRST participants that they kept these competition robots alive, running and accessible.

Milwaukie Robotics: Lego Robots

In their spare time this First Lego League team, the CHAI NINJAS,  created their own incredibly complex contraption to move around LEGO soccer balls. This work in progress was a mesmerizing thing to watch, and a fantastic extension of creativity beyond their regular competition.


OMSI Maker Lab

In addition to organizing and running the Faire, OMSI staff provided opportunities to learn how to solder, create pixel art, take apart electronic devices, create spin art, and generally tinker and play with a large variety of tools and materials. Many, many thanks to OMSI for all of the incredible hard work they put into making this Faire possible.

Intel’s “Start Making!” Space

Intel had a large presence of dedicated employees and a packed tent filled with Makers and Faire-goers of all ages.

Intel’s Jay Melican, a team captain in the Interaction and Experience research group at Intel labs, and the head of Intel’s efforts in maker education, kindly shared this:

Intel  hosted an activity area at Portland’s first Mini Maker Faire with the theme “Start Making!” It encouraged beginner Makers of all ages to start thinking about how to build creative and unique musical instruments using cardboard, graphite pencils, copper tape, conductive paints, and a simple electronics innovation kit called MaKey MaKey.

Alongside Intel’s Start Making! activity space were a small group of Intel Makers — Intel employees (and their families) who have personal projects and hobbies and who consider themselves Makers.  This area showcased the creative things that Intel employees get up to in their spare time, at home in their garages and workshops.

Intel is a sponsor of the Maker Education Initiative

ADX and CoLab Tinkering

For my CoLab Tinkering contribution to the Faire, Art Design Portland provided Matt Beechan, and I with space and wood shop access to support building a bike trailer “Mobile Tinkering Workshop.” We stocked it with a variety of tools to represent the many possibilities of a portable tinkering station. We provided simple materials: paper, tape, straws and streamers, to invite exploration and experimentation with two bike-pump powered compressed air launchers.

Our goal was to avoid giving any explicate instructions or directions, with the hope of inspiring greater and more open-ended possibilities.  We even avoided the word “rocket, ” although it was understandably the most common model for making.  Children of all ages launched creations of all kinds throughout the weekend. Many returned continually with new designs and variations.

Matt, ADX and I owe a great deal of inspiration for getting this bike trailer mobile workshop finished to the Spark Truck‘s recent visit to ADX. Thanks, Spark Truck!

 Mobile Tinkering Workshop Photos by Steve Davee,  Matt Beechan, and Stephen James (who also volunteered)

Many thanks to all that made Portland’s Mini Maker Faire such a great success, and such an educational inspiration. I can’t wait until next year!




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2 responses to “Education Highlights at the Portland, Oregon Mini Maker Faire”

  1. Gary Donahue Avatar

    Looks like Portland is off to an excellent start…the bike trailer “Mobile Tinkering Workshop” idea totally rocks!

    1. Steve Davee Avatar
      Steve Davee

      Why thanks, Gary! It’s a pretty simple box on wheels. We’ll be sharing more about its construction and what we learn from the design in the future.

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