This past Saturday, Emily and Sharona attended Maker Faire Detroit, a weekend-long celebration of makers and making put together by The Henry Ford Museum and Maker Media. For two days, the museum’s large parking lot is transformed into a bustling, energetic space full of fun, creativity, and unparalleled enthusiasm for all things DIY. Taking part in a maker faire is an opportunity you won’t want to miss, whether you’re a maker yourself or you’re looking to encourage makerism in a school or library. We hope this post answers some of the questions you may have if you’ve never had the chance to visit one.
What is a maker faire?
Maker faires are places where makers come together to share, demonstrate, celebrate, and even sell their creations. The official Maker Faire website (put together by Maker Media) calls it “the Greatest Show (and Tell) on Earth–a family-friendly festival of invention, creativity and resourcefulness, and a celebration of the Maker movement.”
All kinds of makers attend Maker Faire Detroit, ranging from high school robotics teams to maker summer camps to makerspace members and more. Representatives from Detroit Public Library’s HYPE makerspace set up a robot petting zoo under the same tent as the creators from Mt. Elliot Makerspace (who later put on a parade through the Maker Faire in full costume).
We met makers of all skill levels and interests from groups such as GR Makers, All Hands Active, Maker Works, LVL1, i3 Detroit, Lansing Makers Network, and more. Also in attendance were various hobbyist organizations, such as the Michigan Woodworkers Guild, Mad Sasquatch Rocketry, Ford and Livonia Amateur Radio Clubs, and the Michigan chapter of the 501st costuming group. There was even a craft fair within the Maker Faire made up of individual crafters selected by DIYpsi. Additionally, Maker Faire Detroit holds talks and events–we had a great time listening to the presentation by Dale Dougherty of MAKE Magazine and watching the Power Racing Series.
Makers themselves are not the only ones you can find at Maker Faire Detroit: the event also attracts those interested in providing makers with tools, resources, and services. We had the chance to speak at length with Jason Kridner of Beagleboard.org about the BeagleBone Black, a compact board that can serve as a powerful computer. We also spent time learning from Scott Lakin about 4-H Tech Wizards, a mentorship program through Michigan State University Extension in which makers can help mentor and teach kids to become makers, as well.
We can’t even begin to cover all the interesting and inventive ideas we saw; the Maker Faire this year drew over 400 makers (not including those who came just to enjoy the Faire)! Be sure to check out our pictures to discover even more!
Why should I go to a maker faire (or, how can I convince my work that this is relevant?)
The first reason to go, of course, is that it’s fun!
If you need more reasons or if you need to convince someone that this should totally count as professional development, read on!
Make contacts in the maker community
We’re always saying that makers are already out there in your community, and you should invite them into your school or library. The trouble, of course, is finding out who’s around you. If you don’t already have the contacts, how can you invite them to be part of your event? Solution: Find a local maker faire (or mini maker faire), and talk to the makers displaying projects. Are they from your area? Would they be interested in collaborating on an event? Do they know other local makers who might be interested? A networking opportunity like this is not something to pass up lightly!
Learn about the programs other schools/libraries/groups are running
You can also learn a great deal from other people organizing maker events. Programs like the 4-H Tech Wizards and the Henry Ford Museum’s Discovery Camps are represented at the Faire, not to mention various school classes and clubs, and libraries like Detroit Public Library who have their own makerspaces. A Maker Faire is a wonderful chance to catch these people in one place and learn from what they’re doing.
Get ideas for possible projects
Whether you’re an electrical engineer or someone who’s not sure you consider yourself a maker at all, a Maker Faire will expose you to products and ideas that align with your interests and skills. We saw everything from electric-toothbrush-powered drawing contraptions to homopolar motors to touchscreens you can hook up to your Arduino–and a great deal besides. If you manage to come home without at least one idea you’re itching to try out, I (Emily) will eat my hat!
Learn new skills
In a lot of cases, you don’t just get to admire someone else’s project–you actually get to create your own! Maker Faire Detroit had opportunities ranging from making pom-poms or building marshmallow shooters to attending element14’s workshops introducing you to the BeagleBone Black. You could even learn to spin wool into thread! A Maker Faire is a great chance to try something new. Maybe one of these projects would be perfect for your own future events!
Do you have more reasons for going, or for promoting this as a professional development opportunity? Have you had any great experiences attending a Maker Faire? Share them in the comments!