Oracle Helps Maker Clubs Crop Up, Flourish in the South Bay

From a soldering unicorn to a scale model of the log ride in Santa Cruz, Young Makers from the South Bay wowed us at Maker Faire Bay Area. Jason Duckering, pictured bottom left, drew a crowd with his PVC Pipe Instrument both mornings of Maker Faire, at an Open Make, and as a Featured Maker during DIY Music week in this summer’s Maker Camp on Google+

After years of quiet activity in the heart of Silicon Valley, Young Makers was thrilled to see a dramatic expansion to the South Bay this year. Between three very active and creative megaclubs meeting more frequently and more effectively than most other clubs we’ve seen, and four fabulous regional meetings and Open Make events at The Tech Museum of Innovation (The Tech), Young Makers programming in spring 2013 inspired 90 South Bay youth to become Makers and exhibit the fruits of their months of work at Maker Faire Bay Area 2013 in May.

The team behind the life-sized build of Flow*26, inspired by its popularity at Maker Faire Bay Area, will take their project to World Maker Faire New York, September 21-22.

This year, Young Makers became an integral part of the programs and services offered by the Maker Education Initiative (Maker Ed), a new non-profit founded to accelerate the maker movement into informal and formal education. The mission of Maker Ed is to create more opportunities for young people to develop confidence, creativity, and interest in science, technology, engineering, math, art, and learning as a whole through making.

Maker Ed could not have expanded Young Makers to the South Bay this year without the tremendous financial backing of Oracle. Safra Catz, Oracle President, Chief Financial Officer stated, “the technology industry is critical to global progress and prosperity, and Oracle’s corporate citizenship initiatives are grounded in our technology leadership. We are committed to using our resources to increase opportunity, protect the environment, advance education, and enrich community life.”

The Young Makers behind Saphira 2 adopted this fire-breathing dragon from a North Bay Young Makers club for further development. For 2013, the group added a robotic base and sound and updated many of the control systems to use Raspberry Pi and Arduino.

Weekly videoconferences offered training and support to our 12 regional coordinators and hosts. Rick Schertle also worked with our partner organization Hacker Scouts to get a guild started at TechShop San Jose. Managers organized clubs in Los Gatos, Los Altos, Menlo Park, Mountain View, and Willow Glen. We formed new partnerships with schools and science and technology rich institutions like The Tech.

Kristan Hutchison, a multi-club manager, innovated on the model and her outreach. Kristan needed projects that would go in and out of her car and work in 90 minutes or less–definitely a challenge! Kristan also makes an extra effort to reach out to kids aged 8 to 13 years old. “At that age,” she shared, “girls are still highly involved in math and science, and their natural creativity finds new outlets as they’re exposed to electronics, woodworking and metalworking. I guess I’m a little like a dealer… exposing them young to get them hooked for life.” She believes that even age 11 is too late for some. Two of her clubs’ girls, comprising Team Folktails, made a splash with their wearable, swimmable mermaid tails in May at Bay Area Maker Faire as an exhibit and onstage with the Young Makers presentation as well as earlier in their process when they appeared in the Meet the Makers panel at The Tech’s March Open Make.

Kristan reflected on her experience:

Bravely or foolishly, I became an itinerant Young Maker mentor last spring, bringing tools and supplies to student groups in five locations each week, including three Los Altos elementary schools and homeschool groups in San Jose. Enough months have passed that the exhaustion is forgotten, and I’m left with wonderful memories of elementary-school-aged children learning to use power tools, testing materials, soldering and breadboarding … all in an effort to bring their own visions to reality, from a robot that collects trash to electronic pranks to a house built completely from recycled objects. Parents told me the experience was “life-changing” for their children, who have continued to talk and think about their projects all summer.

Rick Schertle took the lead in organizing the region. He’s a teacher who dabbles in being a star Maker on the side (including making two popular Maker Shed kits!). He shared that this season “was a huge boost to the Young Makers community in the South Bay. The Open Makes injected some awesome energy into our clubs especially meeting at the Tech Museum’s inspiring new Tech Studio.” Rick also appreciated moderating Meet the Makers panels at the Open Make meetings which gave young people a chance to interact directly with leaders in the Maker movement, like 3DRobotics’ Chris Anderson, Sifteo’s Dave Merrill, MaKey MaKey’s Jay Silver, and FitBit’s Shelten Yuen. Rick plans to open the Washington Maker Worskshop (WMW) in San Jose less than a mile from The Tech. He believes that makerspaces in under-served neighborhoods like this one, which he strategically located across the street from Washington Elementary School, hold great promise for expanding the movement in the South Bay and beyond.

Young Makers provided technical support and assistance to identify makers and inform program components for four Open Makes. The Tech documented all their Open Make sessions (robots, flight, wearable tech, music) highlighting the tools, techniques, and ingenuity of local Makers on varied themes that drew great crowds of our Young Makers members and potential future participants. In each month’s regional meeting and plussing session, club members working on projects for Maker Faire convened to share their ideas, progress, challenges, and next steps with other participants. Gordon Good, who mentored in the South Bay, appreciated these meetings: “Seeing the successes and challenges each team faced was good for our Young Makers. [The] kids were tremendous in solving problems. Friday night was melted power connectors and corrupted Raspberry Pi filesystems, and on Saturday morning [of Maker Faire] we were up and running.”

Willow Glen Makers club manager Lendy Dunaway identified a succinct list of three things he likes best about Young Makers: “It is not competitive. We have no rules. There’s no cheating — just teaching!” In 2014, we expect another fantastic season of this non-competitive, rule-free, teaching-friendly spirit as Young Makers continues to grow, having an impact on the lives of hundreds more young people, thanks to the generous support of corporate partners, donors, and volunteers.