This week’s guest post comes from Sofia Gutierrez, a student at the University of Michigan School of Information, and details her experience putting together a maker event called the North Quad MakerFest. Be sure to check out the link at the bottom of the post for more information on the next MakerFest coming in April!
This past December, a fellow student and I, along with our dedicated faculty advisor, organized the North Quad MakerFest at the University of Michigan: a one-day event for students, faculty, and staff to tinker, create, and explore. It was a wondrous and challenging opportunity. The Maker Movement, an inclusive DIY culture that promotes creativity in the arts and technology, inspired the experience, and resources from the Michigan Makers organization and a grant from the North Quad Community helped us execute the event.
My motive for participating in the organization of the North Quad MakerFest was a little selfish. Many of my classmates at the University of Michigan School of Information (UMSI) seemed to be constantly talking about technology that was unfamiliar to me, and I needed a safe environment to learn what it was all about. It felt like everyone but I had an Arduino and spent their spare time building robots. For my Networked Computing course our professor provided instructions for installing the course software on multiple platforms, Mac, PC, and Raspberry Pi. Raspberry Pi? The only raspberry pie I knew about came with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. If I didn’t know about these gadgets then maybe there were other students at UMich who didn’t know about them either, but wanted to learn.
We scheduled the North Quad MakerFest for the weekend after fall classes ended and before exams began. We recruited experts in the fields of 3D printing, programming, knitting, circuits, and crafts. It was difficult to recruit workshop leaders because many people were very busy around the end of the semester. I was nervous that even if we found all these experts, what if no participants showed up? But the generosity and spirit of the Maker Movement prevailed. Subscribers of the Maker Movement philosophy are typically excited to teach others and have an empowering “can-do” attitude.
The North Quad MakerFest was held from 12–4 pm at the University of Michigan and had great attendance. There were workstations where you could learn to knit, run programs on Arduinos, use a 3D printer, create your own design to 3D print, explore snap and squishy circuits, decorate cookies and just play with Legos. We ordered sandwiches from Zingermans and provided beverages. The atmosphere was relaxed and fun. We made mistakes and achieved successes and experienced what it was like to discover and to enjoy learning in a different context after the rigors of fall semester. We tinkered because we were curious, not because we were being graded. We laughed at our mistakes and were elated at our simple successes. I worked with another student to program an Arduino to change the pitch output from a speaker in relation to amount of light received by a photocell. It was awesome and something I never thought I’d be able to do.
Given the chance I’d do it all over again. And this time I’d tell even more people about it, because anyone can be a maker. Luckily I do have that chance. My collaborators and I will be hosting a winter semester North Quad MakerFest on April 26 from 1–4 pm.We hope you’ll join us.
Have you put together a similar event? Want to know something about the upcoming MakerFest? Leave a comment below or get in touch with us on Twitter!
Image Credit: North Quad at the University of Michigan