A big jump
The 2012 season marked a big jump for us, as we moved to a regional model in the Bay Area, with three tremendous partners–the Lawrence Hall of Science, The Tech Museum of Innovation, and The Bay School— hosting 12 fantastic Open Makes this spring, with regional meetings and plussing sessions where our Young Maker members shared their projects in progress. We have over 150 makers exhibiting at least 75 projects this year. We learned a lot from this experiment that we hope to use to continue to grow the network nationally, supporting local partners as they find the promising young makers and inspiring mentors in their own communities. We all want more kids making, and this season showed that with the right regional partners and the power of perseverance and imagination in kids, we can make it happen!
We also grew the program with an affiliated effort in the classroom setting, forming a network of 15 Northern Californian high schools, who either established makerspaces in the 2012-13 school year or shared the expertise they had from running programs in making with those who were new to making in the classroom. By working with schools, we reach many new audiences with kids who have never heard about the maker movement, much less had a chance to build something uniquely their own at the crossroads of art, craft, engineering, science, and technology. Through our work on makerspaces, we estimate that our teachers have delivered making programs to upwards of 700 students.
While I’m really looking forward to seeing how all 75+ young makers projects turned out, plus the projects from the high school makerspaces, there are a few that especially piqued my interest. The South Bay region really blossomed this year, making a really strong showing in the number and ambition of its young makers. It boasted three large and very active clubs producing dozens of great projects.
The Willow Glen Makers
The Willow Glen Makers take on the great tradition of starting with something smaller than a breadbox and scaling it up to human-size. Flow•26 takes the popular puzzle game app Flow Free to life-size: you hop from square to square, working with other players to connect the nodes and light up the tiles. Makers Davis Dunaway, Samantha McGinnis, and Matthew Tung created Flow•26’s interactive platform so that each tile has an Arduino and a load cell to enable LED control and tile-to-tile communication. Another interesting project from the same club comes from fellow members Raymond Cao and Andrew Wu. They created Chubby Ball, a remote-controlled ball that uses motors, gears and weights to move around.
Jason Duckering built an impressively loud Pipe Instrument. It was hard to miss when it made its premiere at Open Make @ The Tech a couple of months ago: you could hear it echoing through the galleries from hundreds of feet away. All this from some PVC, flip-flops and sticks, and a lot of hard work. He even wrote his own customized sheet music for his songs! When we last saw Jason at a Young Makers regional meeting, he was pretty much done with building his project, way ahead of schedule, and he was going to focus on signage to help people understand the physics behind its design.
Now that we’ve been running the program for a few years, new approaches emerge. Visitors to Maker Faire Bay Area 2011 will remember the popular fire-breathing dragon, Saphira, created by the club Central Marin Young Makers. (See a video if you need a refresher!). This year, she rises again! The Silicon Valley Young Makers (Megan Marinchak, Cassandra Marinchak, Peter Coish, Mallory Coish, Felix Nordmark, Jasper Fung, Mark Grivnin, Malik Deslauriers, James Good) adopted this earlier Young Makers project, taking the parts and rebuilding her in all her glory, and making her even more majestic: updating the wings, adding sound, and more. We’re hoping that more and more of these very ambitious projects can move from club to club, continually improved by new teams.
Making in families
The Schertles could probably get the prize for Most Enthusiastic Maker Family of the Year. They put together the Armchair Go Kart Trailer (pictured, top) not only to provide a cushy ride as they pedal through the streets of the South Bay (Rick is its outstanding regional coordinator), but also to spread the word about Young Makers and Maker Faire, serving up some sweet dollops of tasty schwag. And then, after Maker Faire is just a misty memory, Kelly and Micah head south to the Nicaraguan town of San Juan de Oriente this summer with parents Rick and Angie, where they’ll be sharing their love of making with friends as the family leads a science camp in partnership with La Vida Education. Making pervades every waking moment of the Schertle household, it seems!
Speaking of families, over in the East Bay, Kurt and Lena Fleischer (of Water Totter fame, shown at East Bay Mini Maker Faire and Maker Faire Bay Area 2011 with the Young Sparks club) return with mom Nagisa and Lena’s 6-year-old siblings Ella and Toby for Fleischer-Yamamoto Family Projects. Think of it as a prototype for what Kurt and I hope can become a full-fledged program someday: “Maker Families.” They’re bringing Lena’s fairy wings, Ella’s Japanese geta shoes, Toby’s toy truck bridge, Nagisa’s lighted hat and jacket, and an Arduino-based, LED-laden, hedgehog alarm clock.
That last project was by a dad for his nearly-teenage daughter, and his apparent motivation behind it made us smile, just as two other projects did: these were made by older sisters who are members of the Kids Makin’ It club in Los Gatos and Los Altos. The Doom Girls hacked their “little brothers’ favorite toys to make them move so our brothers will get distracted and we can steal their stuff.” Similarly, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Clarke built Anti-Unwanted Guest to lock her two sisters out of her room. She programmed it to require a unique code. I love that sibling rivalry can be applied positively towards making!
Keeping it in the family and heading to the North Bay, sisters Isabella and Silvia Kacic return for their third year exhibiting with Young Makers. They’ve developed a body of work in two interesting niches. Isabella’s Dragon Horse builds off of her earlier projects, a kinetic horse and an animatronic cow jumping over the moon. Silvia, who brought her whimsical Fairy Wall House to Maker Faire last year, revisits interior design with a comfortable, relaxing, secure pod or nest to fit one person.
Home (suh-weet!) home
There are a few projects related to houses in this year’s Young Makers cohort. Ava Baker and Ellora Laskar built their Recycled House of recycled materials: cardboard tubes as support beams, plastic for the insulation, and a papercrete outer layer. While the teeny house they’re bringing this weekend is only big enough for a child to use, they estimate that a full-scale real house would cost less than $100. Chelsea Bartlett and Andrew Wallace of the Terra Linda Young Makers came up with a brilliant use for the ol’ “jellybean” iMac G3. They gutted this obsolete late-90s computer to create their own mini iMansion for Cyber-Dollhouse.
From Fez to Fish
Young Makers, just like older makers, often riff off of favorite toys. Perri Szabo, Braiden Szabo, Griffin Ashburn, Koii Benvenutto, and Bobby Lester have pretty much realized the original vision we heard them propose at the Young Makers East Bay regional meeting back in January. They have built an Arduino-controlled robot in the form of a creepy fez-topped monkey who interacts with random fairgoers, clanging its cymbals together just like the funny wind-up toy, but, once again, scaled up for comic effect. They write, “We are looking to make it scary, but not too scary.” I tremble, not with fear but with excitement, to see how this crazy simian turned out.
Another project inspired by kid culture is Ksenia Medvedev and Sydney Murphy’s Folktails. These mermakers built their own realistic mermaid tails in pursuit of “a childhood wish to swim like fish”. They’ll splash around in our Young Makers area this weekend. Read more about the project on our blog.
The more I read through all our Young Makers projects, the more excited I get for Maker Faire, so I can see how these kids made their whimsical, creative visions a reality. Good thing I only have to wait a little over a day!
Go kart heartbreak
After all that good news, I share a sad report that we received from a mentor at the Lighthouse Community Charter School in Oakland. On Monday morning, someone stole the EV Go Kart, pictured below, from their campus on Hegenberger Road. Fortunately, the team hadn’t installed the components yet because they planned to paint it. To help look for it while the go-kart’s makers had to stay at school to take their California standardized tests, classmates from the EV truck conversion team drove off to the local scrap buyer. As depressing to think that someone sold the blood, sweat, and tears of these young men as scrap metal, the team did not waste time to come up with their Plan B. On Wednesday, the team was completing their inverter panel for their solar re-charging system. They had received an electric scooter without a charger and were promised another. They will spend the next couple of days decorating the scooters with their school’s name. The vehicles will be solar-charged, and they will offer a charge to anyone else at Maker Faire. They may also tackle an EV conversion of a mobile muffin cupcake if the final hours before Maker Faire allow.
I’d like to close with an ardent and enormous thank you especially to our regional coordinators: Kevin Rumon, Miranda Morgan, Sara Bolduc, Molly Reisman, K.O., Yoshi Seaver, and Rick Schertle and our three host sites: Monika Mayer of Lawrence Hall of Science, Bridget Rigby at The Tech Museum of Innovation, and Brad Niven of The Bay School for all their hard work this season.