An Educator’s Guide to Maker Faire Bay Area

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An Educator’s Guide to Maker Faire Bay Area

A few years ago, Thomas Vander Ark, posted a question on Twitter: “Why can’t school be more like Maker Faire?” The good news is that many have been influenced by Maker Faire and there’s no better place to see just how much impact the maker movement is having on education. Schools are introducing makerspaces and encouraging students to develop the skillsets and mindset of makers.  Not just K-12 schools but community colleges and Universities.  Come see for yourself at Maker Faire Bay Area, May 18-20.

Learning is everywhere at Maker Faire because makers are a learning community. You see it in the young and old, in school and out of school, and you see it in the variety and originality of the maker projects. Whether you are an educator, parent or young maker, there’s plenty of people to learn from at Maker Faire — creatives, scientists, hobbyists, middle schoolers, techies, crafters. Start a conversation with any of them and you’ll learn something, and we hope that it might inspire you to do something you’d like to do.

If you’re an educator or parent, you might look for activities throughout Maker Faire and just watch, as I do, the children at play. I see joy and wonder on their faces. I see them active and engaged, using their hands to make.  If you don’t think they are learning, you need to rethink what learning really is.  Indeed, such direct evidence of learning is what makes us ask the question why school can’t be more like Maker Faire. One of our keynote speakers, Ted Dintersmith, asks these questions in his book, “What School Could Be.”

What to Do at Maker Faire

When you get to Maker Faire, wander around and just see what you find. There’s so much to see and do, and half the fun is being surprised by what you find. However, if you want a plan, here are a few guideposts.

Friday Afternoon Workshops

These workshops are available to Maker Faire attendees on Friday.

Visit the New Learning Lab

The Learning Lab in Fiesta Hall is where you’ll find exhibits from many different schools and educational non-profits. This is the second-largest building at Maker Faire — it was the Dark Room in previous years. (Don’t worry, we still have a dark room but it’s a different building.)  Lighthouse Creativity Lab from Oakland is one of many schools you’ll find showing student work and offering hands-on activities.

In this building, you’ll find the Make: Education stage, organized by MakerEd. Stop by and say hello to the Maker Ed team and hear talks by educators as well students sharing their projects.

Go to the schedule of talks and look for the dropdown box on the STAGE column and select “Make: Education.”

Highlights from Make: Education Stage

You’ll also find find two special hands-on exhibit areas: one called Experiments in Space and another called Community Science. The Experiments in Space area, produced in collaboration with the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) and the Chabot Science and Space Center, will offer demonstrations of the kinds of experiments that students can create and potentially be flown in space. The Community Science area, produce in collaboration with Public Lab, will offer demonstrations of DIY science kits that can be used by students to do actual science in local communities.

Highlights From Center Stage

  • You Got to Have Friends – How Collaboration Can Fuel Your Invention (Saturday, 10:45am)
    Lead engineering teacher and designer of the Qualcomm® Thinkabit Lab™, Saura Naderi built a robot dress and will share lessons learned in collaboration with engineers and a theatrical costume designer.
  • Scratch: Kids, Coding, and Creativity (Saturday, 3:00pm)
    Mitch Resnick leads the Lifelong Kindergarten group at MIT Media Lab, where Scratch was developed, a popular programming environment for children. Resnick’s insights into learning and technology, driven by 30 years of work in these fields with legends such as Seymour Papert, support the learning experiences promoted by maker education. His most recent book is “Lifelong Kindergarten: Cultivating Creativity through Projects, Passion, Peers, and Play.”
  • What School Could Be: Insights and Inspiration From Teachers Across America (Sunday, 2:45pm)
    Ted Dintersmith was the executive producer of the acclaimed documentary,
    “Most Likely to Succeed.” Ted visited all 50 states in a single school year. All across the country, he met teachers in ordinary settings doing extraordinary things, creating innovative classrooms where children learn deeply and joyously as they gain purpose, agency, essential skillsets and mindsets, and real knowledge.
  • Code Meets Craft with Chibitronics (Saturday, 11:30am)
    Jie Qie and K-Fai Steele talk about Chibitronics’ new book and toolkit: Love to Code, which lets children program with sound, build circuits on paper and tell stories with tech.
  • The Dialogues: Conversations about the Nature of the Universe (Sunday, 3:45pm)
    Clifford Johnson, a USC physicist, has produced a series of conversations about science and understanding the universe in the form of a graphic novel. He not only wrote the book but illustrated it as well.

Educational Products

Maker Faire Bay Area has all kinds of educational products that support hands-on learning.  Here are some of those you’ll find at Maker Faire.

  • Nintendo will be on-site offering demos and workshops all weekend for Nintendo Labo, a hands-on construction kit for the Nintendo Switch. With the Toy-Con Piano and the Toy-Con Fishing Rod from the Nintendo Labo Variety Kit, you can build a 13-key piano with working keys and a variety of accessories. Play and record your own music using different octaves, reverb, and sound effects — even cat noises! Then discover how the Piano works, how you can customize it, and how you can even use it to enjoy an aquarium filled with exotic fish by using this Toy-Con in collaboration with the Toy-Con Fishing Rod.
  • Root Robotics is a robot that can climb on vertical walls, such as whiteboards, and draw, erase, scan, bump, play music, and let makers code creatively with an app that goes from a simple graphical language to full text coding. Find Root in the Learning Lab building.
  • Oculus Medium is an immersive creative tool that lets you sculpt, model, and paint digital assets in VR, then export directly to 3D print. With the power of Medium’s versatile toolkit, the potential for creation is boundless.
  • Piper was developed to bring back the tinkering and building that inspired so many generations of inventors and creators. They give kids a way to start their journey into making and engineering, and make it fun.
  • Kuri from Mayfield Robotics is a home robot designed with personality, awareness, and mobility who adds a spark of life to any home. Kuri autonomously navigates to record 5-second videos of unexpected moments around your home.
  • Vaquform has developed the first digital desktop vacuum forming machine.
  • The Jellybox 3D printer is an educational 3D printer that is designed to be a learning experience. This printer is put together… with zip-ties!

There’s a whole lot more at Maker Faire Bay Area, and I know even I don’t get to see it all. See the full schedule for more excellent workshops, talks, and performances throughout Maker Faire and don’t forget to check out the Downloadable Program Guide for more things to discover.

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DALE DOUGHERTY is the leading advocate of the Maker Movement. He founded Make: Magazine 2005, which first used the term “makers” to describe people who enjoyed “hands-on” work and play. He started Maker Faire in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2006, and this event has spread to nearly 200 locations in 40 countries, with over 1.5M attendees annually. He is President of Make:Community, which produces Make: and Maker Faire.

In 2011 Dougherty was honored at the White House as a “Champion of Change” through an initiative that honors Americans who are “doing extraordinary things in their communities to out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world.” At the 2014 White House Maker Faire he was introduced by President Obama as an American innovator making significant contributions to the fields of education and business. He believes that the Maker Movement has the potential to transform the educational experience of students and introduce them to the practice of innovation through play and tinkering.

Dougherty is the author of “Free to Make: How the Maker Movement Is Changing our Jobs, Schools and Minds” with Adriane Conrad. He is co-author of "Maker City: A Practical Guide for Reinventing American Cities" with Peter Hirshberg and Marcia Kadanoff.

View more articles by Dale Dougherty