Why Hands-On Activities Are So Important (Plus a Few to Try at Maker Faire)

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Why Hands-On Activities Are So Important (Plus a Few to Try at Maker Faire)

I’ve been to many Maker Faires. Not only is it part of my job (one of the best parts!), I actually attended them long before I was an employee of Make:. During the trip to my first Maker Faire (I believe it was Kansas City), I had no idea how much I would love it. I had been to more craft fairs, science fairs, and conferences than I cared to think about. After I walked through the first few rows of excited makers, I got it. It wasn’t just the passion of people who make their own stuff. You will find that at art fairs as well. What really stood out to me, and captured my attention was the prevalence of hands-on activities.

There are a few reasons that hands-on activities are important.

You learn more

I never really understood how a watch keeps time ’til I assembled a simple over-sized plastic model recently at Maker Faire Austin. Sure, I’ve had it explained to me and I’ve probably even watched a youtube videos, but actually assembling the pieces cemented the concept in my mind. I now fully understand what happens when you wind a pocket watch!

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You try new things

I never imagined that I would be interested in fiber arts. I had passed by booths with knit wares for sale at other festivals many times and only spared passing glances. However, When I sat down at a spinning wheel and saw how to create the texture, color and weight of the yarn, I gained a new appreciation. Now, I always stop for a moment and see if I can identify characteristics of the fibers used.

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You identify with the maker

some things just look so much simpler than they are. You look and possibly scoff at the maker’s pride in their creation, but when you try it, you may find that it is more difficult than you imagined. This and many other hidden aspects of the final results are revealed to you when you participate in a hands-on activity. Give things a try and you may find a new appreciation for what the maker has accomplished.

Get Hands-On with Maker Faire!

The Bay Area Maker Faire is this weekend and we’ll have tons of hands-on activities. Let me just outline a few of my favorites.


Learn to solder

Everyone should learn how to solder. There’s a big tent with soldering stations, helpful people, and cool little LED lit boards to learn on. Not only do you gain a skill, you end up with a cool little LED badge. I’ve found that taking away the hurdle of learning to solder really opens up people’s eyes to playing with circuits.


Pepsi Bevlab

This one was an absolute surprise to me. I didn’t expect to see so much learning happening as I walked in. What I witnessed were kids learning about different states and particle density and loving it!


The Coding Clubhouse

Code is so hard to comprehend until you see it in action. Being able to actually change code and see the results in a VR headset or on a screen is incredibly powerful in getting people excited about programming.



Possibly the largest clothing swap in the world, the Swap-O-Rama-Rama site at Maker Faire promises a good time for all types of textile lovers. Clean out your closet, bring a bag of clothes, and learn how to upcycle your threads into something new. Swap-O-Rama-Rama will include presentations, workshops, a sewing machine lab, silk screening, a textile talk lounge, and more!

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I get ridiculously excited seeing people make things. I just want to revel in the creativity I see in makers. My favorite thing in the world is sharing a maker's story. email me at caleb (at) make.co or You can find me on tiktok, talking about my animals at TikTok

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