Team Habitable: Young Makers Janavi, Pearl, and Hana, together with their mentor Yoshi, created this mod of an Ikea table that doubles as a reconfigurable hamster habitat.
People learn in many different ways, but many learn best by building things.
Building toys such as Lego bricks offer powerful and open-ended experiences for younger children. Unfortunately, as shop classes have closed over the past few decades, there remains very little infrastructure to nurture older kids wanting to expand beyond construction kits.
The Young Makers Program is intended to create such an infrastructure. The idea is to create a community that brings together like-minded young people, adult mentors, and fabrication facilities. The role of the mentors is to help Young Makers find a project vision if they don’t already have one, and then to help them realize that vision. Along the way, mentors will expose the underlying math, science, and engineering principles behind the projects, teach tool usage and safety, and collectively, members and mentors will create a collaborative culture of creativity, innovation, and experimentation. Maker Faire will become the deadline, and offer a stage for the resulting projects to be exhibited and explained. Monthly meetings will be used to build the kind of collaborative culture we feel is crucial to this program. Namely, an open-ended culture that encourages cross-disciplinary projects that meld math, science, and art, and a culture that teaches the importance of trial and error as a means to success.
The Young Makers Program is different in several ways from other activities such as robotics competitions and science fairs. In particular, there are no winners and losers, and the projects are cross-disciplinary and youth-driven. And, just like Maker Faire, anything that’s “cool” is fair game.
Last year, we ran a small pilot version of the program with 18 Young Makers and a handful of mentors. The projects they took to the Faire blew our socks off. These included furniture that doubles as a hamster habitat, a fire breathing dragon, and a mobile spy camera.
You can find out more about the program, projects from last year, and how to participate in this year’s program by visiting our website:
Bio: Tony DeRose is lead of the Research Group at Pixar Animation Studios. He and his family are avid makers and have exhibited at Maker Faire the past three years.