Maker Spotlight: Victor Ciccarelli

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Maker Spotlight: Victor Ciccarelli

Is there an interdisciplinary nature to invention through what we know as the Maker Movement? Victor Ciccarelli of STEAM Maker Workshop gives an emphatic, “Yes! Absolutely. At 50 years old, I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up as soon as I stepped foot in my first San Mateo Maker Faire. That was four years ago, and everything just clicked.” As he plotted his personal history, it made sense. As owner and operator of the San Diego STEAM Maker Workshop, he is familiar with the many angles one needs when teaching the art of creation. He described this interdisciplinary concept with his own personal story, just as you would expect an artist would.

Always living a dichotomy, he tells me he wears two hats in life: technologist and artist. This is why he says, the ‘A’ in STEAM is very important to creation.

Life of a Serial Maker

From a young age, Ciccarelli developed an affinity for both art and technology. At 14 he began tinkering at the local RadioShack, and was eventually getting permission to convert the backroom into a photography darkroom. At 18, he went into the military as a combat photographer.

The tinkering paid off since he knew how to use all the new computers, and he eventually made it to the information distribution and analytics teams that ran war rooms during the Gulf. After 12 years of service, he was released as a disabled vet, using his highly developed technology skills to build a data and information management business. He has since sold that. He also has several image compression patents, and has even earned the honor of being a court appointed expert witness – not an easy feat.

Reflecting on his past, he says  “I knew that the 14 year old me never understood why any of my interests mattered. I want other kids to know their interests matter and science matters… it’s an awesome time between fifth and eighth grade – kids don’t event know what they don’t know yet. There is a unique opportunity to expose them to the unknown. We get the kids excited about what they know they didn’t know.” This was the impetus behind the STEAM Maker Workshop.

STEAM Maker Workshop

Victor says, “I don’t have a lot of formal education,” but after talking with him briefly, you get the sense that he is 100 percent passionate about giving students the tools to succeed, and that doesn’t necessarily mean in college. It’s about creating career skills that are sorely needed to bridge the skill gap for today and tomorrow’s workforce. The opportunity for this potential lies in education. That’s why he started the STEAM Maker Workshop. It brings educators together to teach hands-on, project based learning in an interactive and engaging environment for students. The STEAM Maker Workshop is the culmination of that passion for delivering STEAM to students, and helping them exhibit their work at a December festival.

It was only after the Maker Faire that he knew this is where he was destined to be, in Maker Education. His mission was to give other kids the opportunity to find their passion through the confluence of art and technology. The STEAM Workshop is a training ground for teachers who want to understand how to bring Maker Education into the classroom. He currently works with hundreds of schools in the San Diego Region – talk about a huge impact.

VR in the Classroom

Some of his recent eduction projects include development and application of educational virtual reality projects, through a business called 4DSCI. The goal is to make a difference in students lives by creating experiences they might not normally be able to have if it were not for virtual reality. He says, “I was shocked to learn that a high percentage of low income students never travel outside of their home cities….ever. With virtual reality, you don’t need to imagine bringing students to DC on a field trip, or to the battlefield in Antietam. You’re there with virtual reality.” The VR classroom is intended to be a communal and mobile experience –  this experience rolls up to where they are and can create a simulated reality by taking them anywhere in the world. He notes, “The problem with VR right now is that it is a solitary experience, but we’re building it on a bus so it automatically becomes communal and shared.”

Maker Faire San Diego

He and the STEAM Maker Workshop team will exhibit at the annual Maker Faire San Diego in Balboa Park Oct 7-8. With all this talk of art, technology and innovation, I was curious what his plans were for the display at Maker Faire. Thankfully, he indulged us with a teaser. “Since our product is really to get kids excited about science, we are coming out to Maker Faire this year displaying a build-your-own paper wings jetpack and butterfly wings. Kids can decorate the wings and then fly around the Faire. We’ll have a large selection of art supplies available.” Generating excitement by combing art and technology seems quite appropriate for a maker who finds himself in both of those worlds all the time.

Check out the Faire this weekend and see what we’ve got cooked up for you. Who knows what might capture your attention and serve as your next inspiration. Get your tickets here.

We highlight different makers from our broad community to show you the faces and stories behind the projects. Meet all the amazing people featured in Maker Spotlight. Want to nominate someone, maybe even yourself? Send a note with your responses to the bolded prompts above to

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Becky LeBret

Becky is Executive Director of Next Ed Research, an education nonprofit which collaborates with makers, educators, and science aficionados to uncover innovative models in education. She works to create a precision-based learning environment through human-centered design. As a maker she relishes in succulent arrangements, edible gardens, and indulges in the fine art of vermicompost.

View more articles by Becky LeBret


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