Emma Willard School in Troy, NY is staging a Mini Maker Faire, the first of four events celebrating the school’s 200th anniversary. This all-girl school is collaborating with Tech Valley Center of Gravity, a local makerspace, to bring the event to life. Scheduled for October 12, they are rapidly coming to the end of a journey.
As I approached them to talk about their experience, I focused on the three things that most consume me about San Diego Mini Maker Faire: exhibitors, attendance and funding. Especially with a first-time Maker Faire, there’s no track record to leverage. Makers aren’t as easily found to exhibit. The local community has not yet been sensitized to what a Maker Faire stands for and doesn’t know to turn out for the awesome event. Worst of all, nobody is easily convinced to fund something which is unproven in the local market. Overcoming these is no minor challenge.
When it came to exhibitors it was natural to turn first to the school community. The two young ladies I interviewed from the school both planned on exhibiting as did their friends. Reaching out to other schools was a natural way to grow the exhibitor community but it was connecting with their local Troy makerspace that really upped the numbers. With 35 exhibitors they’ve now easily surpassed their goal.
Getting the word out to attract prospective exhibitors and sell tickets meant mailing lists and word of mouth. Three weeks out from the event they’re making good progress by tapping school communities, art groups, and again the makerspace community. Regarding funding they’ve had contributions from a school Bicentennial Celebration fund and a few private parties but thankfully their event isn’t too costly.
It’s a brave and commendable ambition these girls have undertaken. The first year is hard and they’ve risen to the challenge in a smart way, by leveraging their local makerspace. Their ambition is for 2013 to be the inaugural year of a recurring Maker Faire. With hard work and the help of friends it seems their off to a good start in realizing their dream.