This past weekend, Washtenaw Community College in Ann Arbor, MI played host to the Ann Arbor Mini Maker Faire, an event put on to showcase a wide variety of exciting projects from makers all throughout the community. The event was free to attend and to participate in, and was staffed by dedicated volunteers. See our previous post, Q&A: The Ann Arbor Mini Maker Faire and Beyond, for more information about what it took to put together this particular Maker Faire, and how you can start your own.
The event was well-attended and the crowd was filled with an infectious energy as attendees explored and discussed the exhibits. At one table, kids put together marshmallow shooters from plastic pipes, while another held a RepRap 3D printer busily constructing a frog. Potted vegetable plants in a small tunneled space sat next to a girl proudly displaying her stop-motion video of guacamole preparation (along with the finished product for tasting!).
On the whole, the event really helped bring together the community of makers in the local area. There were also a few aspects of the Maker Faire that stood out to me as really positive elements of maker culture as a whole, ones that I believe carry through into other groups and spaces of makers.
For one, Maker Faires and maker culture do a lot to encourage cross-generational interactions and learning. Many of the kids displaying their projects had worked together with their parents, learning skills and sharing interests as they went along. The Maker Faire also offered plenty of opportunities for kids to participate in making on the spot; adults at one table helped them put together Minecraft-themed papercraft, while at another, they were shown very carefully the basics of soldering. Throughout the day, I noticed children and adults chatting about and taking part in making together as a team.
Another great benefit of Maker Faires is to help exhibit the real diversity of maker culture. Many people have an image of making as a very high-tech activity involving expensive circuit boards and 3D printers. The Ann Arbor Mini Maker Faire helped demonstrate that these tools are only a small part of the culture as a whole, and that anyone can participate, regardless of budget or technical skills; this event made it clear that all you need is enthusiasm and a willingness to try out new, creative things. View more pictures from the event at our Flickr!