World Maker Faire NY is taking place on September 25 and 26 at the New York Hall of Science in Queens. We’re really excited to be hosting our first-ever large-scale East Coast Faire and as part of the countdown, we’re showcasing some of the amazing makers who will be present. Today, we chat with Dr. Ben Dubin-Thaler, founder of the BioBus project, a high-tech science lab on wheels that brings hands-on science education to schools. The bus itself is a modded 1974 San Francisco transit bus that is now almost completely carbon-neutral.
1. Tell us about the project(s) you’re bringing to Maker Faire.
The BioBus, in collaboration with DIYbio, will be showing people that you can do hardcore science and be green at the same time! Outside the bus we’ll be showing off our new green roof and other green tech and making a new waste grease collection system, while inside the bus you’ll get to make pictures and videos of cells on our research microscopes, as well as isolate DNA.
2. How did you hear about Maker Faire and why did you decide to participate?
The Madagascar Institute has been a long-time friend of the BioBus, and I can’t wait to see what they’ve cooked up for the Faire!
3. Tell us about yourself. How did you get started making things and who are your inspirations?
The BioBus was inspired by the amazing touring vehicles made by folks at the SPAZ collective in the San Francisco Bay Area. That, plus something called the Physics Van at the University of Illinois.
4. Is your project strictly a hobby or a budding business? Does it relate to your day job?
Running the BioBus has been my job ever since I got my Ph.D. in Biology. We spend most of our time visiting schools and science festivals giving students hands-on science classes, and if anyone out there would like a visit from the BioBus, go to biobus.org/visit. We make almost everything ourselves, so the BioBus is a low-cost field trip that comes to you.
Dr. Ben on the BioBus with student Ixe.
5. What new idea (in or outside of your field) has excited you most recently?
I’m getting excited about the number of low-cost digital microscopes becoming available. Some of them can even turn your phone into a powerful microscope!
6. What is your motto?
Driving Science Education
7. What advice would you give to the young makers out there just getting started?
Used buses are very cheap!
8. What do you love most about NYC?
NYC is about the people. On one hand, we drive this crazy bus around the city and barely get a second look. In South Dakota, you pull into a town and everyone is out on their porch, jaw to the ground. But New Yorkers have been incredibly supportive of the BioBus, donating their time, money and equipment, and bringing us into their communities. I also love driving a bus in NYC. That’s a lot of fun, once you get used to it. It’s kind of a childhood dream.