You’re always guaranteed a memorable experience at any of the Maker Faires around the globe, each with it’s own cornucopia of handmade wonders and hands-on workshops. And behind the scenes of each Faire is a dedicated team of organizers who hustle hard to orchestrate all the moving pieces, just to inspire, educate, and delight the community at large. This weekend, two maker communities on the East Coast are celebrating their sixth annual Maker Faire. Both on Earth Day, April 22, North Carolina’s Maker Faire Burlington will be held at Holly Hill Mall and Connecticut’s Maker Faire Westport takes place at The Westport Library. Both Faires have grown each year and had a profound effect on their respective communities.
Maker Faire Burlington
Presented by Alamance Makers Guild, the first Burlington Mini Maker Faire in 2012 had 25 exhibits and drew 1,200 attendees. By contrast, last year’s Faire featured 100 exhibits and brought in a crowd of 4,700 people. We spoke with lead organizer Bennett Harris, who has himself exhibited at 30 Maker Faires around the country, at times alongside other members of their production team. Last summer, they even organized an exhibit titled “Burlington NC, Maker Community” at the National Maker Faire in D.C., with 20 representatives of all facets of the community, winning five Editor’s Choice blue ribbons. Harris shares:
We’ve grown to be the largest Maker Faire in North Carolina and are now the longest running. We’ve also done a lot of work to help nearby Faires start up or operate, including the Greensboro Mini Maker Faire, Charlotte Mini Maker Faire, Maker Faire NC in Raleigh (when it was still in operation), the Martinsville VA Mini Maker Faire, the Kingsport TN Mini Maker Faire. We’re currently working with the town of Chapel Hill NC as they explore the possibility of starting a Mini Maker Faire.
This year our Faire is on Earth Day and our theme is “Make to Grow.” We’re highlighting exhibits related to sustainability, green energy, beekeeping, farming, and things that reflect the heritage of our area as a textiles community while at the same time bridging the gap to 21st century STEM skills and new technologies.
Our mayor and city council are declaring Saturday, April 22nd, as “Maker Day” in the city of Burlington and issuing a proclamation asking all Burlington citizens to get involved with the Maker Movement through our event.
We’re leveraging the Maker Movement to rebuild an area that was decimated by the textiles industry leaving in the 80s, further removed in the 90s with NAFTA, and then hurt badly by the 2008 recession. The Maker Movement is something we’re leveraging heavily to improve STEM education here, to launch new entrepreneurs, and to regain a sense of pride in our community. The more times, the more ways that our story is told the better!
Here are just three of the many projects at Maker Faire Burlington this Saturday. Check out a full list on the site.
Hatton Cross Steampunk
Founded by artist Dave Lee, Hatton Cross Steampunk is a collective of makers, artists, authors, entertainers, and fashion aficionados who aim to promote promote the art of steampunk, Victorian etiquette, and a passion for fabrication, design, science, and engineering.
Elliot Inman presents his Musical Circuits, simple oscillators, a musical pencil, and a variety of Arduino-powered musical circuits for making music and experimenting with sound.
Maker Pipe is a simple, easy-to use system of connectors that pairs with inexpensive electrical conduit you can find at any hardware store, creating a building platform with endless possibilities (like this bike cart).
Maker Faire Westport
Presented by Remarkable STEAM in partnership with The Westport Library, the first Maker Faire Westport in 2012 was expected to draw 500–800 people, but when 2,200 showed up, the organizers knew the community had spoken. In their sixth year, they’re planning on a record 10,000 attendees this Saturday. Lead organizer Mark Mathias shared with us the transformations that have happened because of the Faire:
The Westport Library has been our partner since year one. Making has transformed the library and our community. After the first year, we raised more money than we spent, so we bought a 3D printer for the library. It was the first 3D printer in a library in Connecticut. Not long after that, our library director removed nine stacks of books from the main hall of the library to build a makerspace — the first in a library in Connecticut. Our Library now has year-round — almost daily — activities based on making.
The library is undergoing a $20 million renovation, and it will include a 24-hour-access makerspace. That’s just the library. In our schools, parents started demanding STEM/STEAM curriculum. (Note: I’m on our Board of Education, and it wasn’t even me who proposed the STEM/STEAM curriculum.)
Furthermore, we’re finding that businesses are growing because of the facilities available, such as the library and other makerspaces. Communities are developing to help people build businesses, and even local businesses such as after-school STEM/STEAM providers are growing because of interest from the community. The bottom line is that we’re causing cultural, educational, and economic change.
Here are just three of the many projects at Maker Faire Westport this Saturday. Check out a full list on the site.
Extreme Costumes’ Hulkbuster
Thomas DePetrillo of Extreme Costumes spent 1,600 hours making this 9-foot-tall costume for New York Comic Con.
Will Ware designed this chord-oriented MIDI controller for “people too clumsy to play a guitar.”