Growing Up at Maker Faire

Maker News
Growing Up at Maker Faire
A group of grade school students playing a piano made out of bananas (and a MaKey MaKey). We start 'em thinking outside the box as early as possible.
A group of grade school students playing a piano made out of bananas (and a MaKey MaKey). We start ’em thinking outside of the box as early as possible.

We talk a lot about the impact of the Maker Movement on society, business, technology, and formal education. In ten years of its overt existence as a self-identified culture, the Maker Movement has certainly grown. And while it’s been growing, so have its children.

If a child was 10 at the first Faire in 2006, s/he is 20 now, a grown-up, someone who has grown up with the ideas and ideals of the Maker Movement as a given. We wanted to know what that has been like for them, so we asked some kids and their parents who’ve been regulars over the past decade. Here’s some of what they had to say.

And we’d love to hear your stories, too. If you’re a young person who’s attended the Faires over the years, or a parent of such a child, please tell us in the comments below what the impact of these events has been and how you think your life has been different as a result.

Jack McCandless (who was 14 when he attended his first event): We walked around for a couple hours and decided to go see the Mousetrap. While waiting for it to start, we happened upon Adam Savage’s keynote speech. It was one of those moments in life where, after you hear it, you never forget the feeling of determination it gave you. That was the kick in the pants that I needed, to push myself to be a better person, socially and mentally, something I needed in high school. After that first event, I was hooked on the feeling of joy and pride that I observed in other people who had made stuff and that I wanted to have that feeling, too.

The DeRose boys, Joseph and Sam, and the rest of the "Viper Team" who created a flight simulator of MFBA 2012. The always do something ambitious and inspired. Look for their Exosuit project this weekend.
The DeRose boys, Joseph and Sam, and the rest of the “Viper Team” who created a flight simulator for MFBA 2012. The DeRose family always does something ambitious and inspired. Look for their Exosuit project this year.

Tony DeRose (parent whose kids have brought many amazing projects to the Faires over the years): We couldn’t have known it at the time, but our life as a family profoundly changed after visiting the first Maker Faire in 2006. We were so inspired by what we saw and the people that we met that we started exhibiting ourselves in 2008 (when Joseph was 10 years old and Sam was 14). That first year was so rewarding that we’ve exhibited every year since then. The boys have literally grown up at Maker Faire. Few places are as comfortable for them because they’ve gotten to know much of the staff, almost like an extended family. As parents, working on these projects together with the kids has been priceless. It is a shared passion that gives us the opportunity to spend long hours together, working through tough technical and creative challenges, all the while learning about one another at a deep level that too few families experience. Through their projects they’ve also learned, and shown thousands of others, that it’s possible to accomplish extraordinary things through curiosity, dedication, and the ability to recover from setbacks. It’s hard to imagine what the DeRose family would be like today without Maker Fare.

Tony wanted to get some quick comments from his son Joseph about what was special to him about Maker Faire. We liked their exchange so much, we decided to post the audio as-is:

Joohee Muromcew (a parent whose four kids — Alex, Mary, Nikita, and Natasha — have been Faire regulars over the past 10 years): Maker Faire has had a profound effect on us as a family — how we learn, how we travel, how we spend our time. The kids have since attended so many engineering and robotics camps, have competed on robotics teams, but more importantly, they have become tinkerers, Makers, problem-solvers, and inventors. They do-it-themselves in so many ways beyond crafts and projects. Our house looks like a junk shop and that’s sort of okay with me. The past two years we’ve had the privilege of bringing several faculty from our school to Maker Faire. To see our children’s science and math teachers open their eyes to Maker Faire was truly a thrill and an honor.

Joey Hudy wows the President and the world with his marshmallow cannon in the White House and his call of "Don't be bored, make something."
Joey Hudy wows the President with his marshmallow cannon in the White House and his call of “Don’t be bored, make something.”

Julie Hudy (parent of Joey Hudy who’s become something of a Maker Movement kid icon, appearing several times at the White House, in the First Lady’s box for the State of the Union address, become fodder for late-nite talk show jokes, and more): I don’t know how much of Joey’s story a lot of people know. He really didn’t fit in at school, was having trouble finding his place in life. He talked a lot about making things, but no one (including myself) understood what he was talking about. He had low self-confidence, and at times didn’t think he was smart or worthy. The Friday night of 2011 MFBA, he was walking around talking to Makers. He would talk talk talk, and when he would finish, I quietly asked the Maker if he knew what Joey was talking about. After awhile I realized that geez, he does know what he’s talking about! He was a different kid after that day at the Faire. He had finally found HIS place. Because of Maker Faire, he will be attending Arizona State University Polytechnic Campus in the fall.

Joey Hudy adds: It has changed my life and my future. It has given me so much confidence to talk to others and to help them.

A very young Super Awesome Sylvia with maker icon Adam Savage.
A very young Super Awesome Sylvia with Maker icon Adam Savage.

Super Awesome Sylvia (now 13, who, like Joey, has traveled far and wide in her role as a kid ambassador for the Maker Movement): Maker Faire is a wonderful and inspiring event, and I always love seeing everyone’s creations. It’s such a great environment, and people are so welcoming and awesome! Maker Faire is what inspired me and allowed me to begin making and being more hands-on. The Faire taught me that soldering wasn’t scary, and as soon as I got home, I soldered my first kit. And Maker Faire basically inspired me to do my show too (Super Awesome Sylvia’a Maker Show). It’s allowed me to understand and to respect certain things, not be afraid of failure, and to open my mind to new concepts.

Christina Todd (Sylvia’s mom): Our children look forward to attending Maker Faire like they look forward to summer, they can hardly wait to see all the different sights, interact with robots or light effects, see giant sculptures and art pieces, meet inventors, wave shyly to R2-D2, and so much more. My children look at the world with a Maker mindset, they are constantly creating and fixing things rather than just wanting something new. I find my son (often) making something to do his work for him from his pencil and paper and whatever he has lying around during homework time, than actually doing homework. Which is good and bad, but he seems to think outside the box which I think is good. I feel that seeing other Makers (of any age) taking a risk for a dream or a (however bizarre) project they believe in is so inspiring. It is inspiring to see that, for Makers of any age, that risk of failure or disapproval is less prevalent in them because of their confidence in themselves.

Christina Todd with her two daughters, Talulah and Sylvia.
Christina Todd with her two daughters, Talulah and Sylvia.

James Todd (Sylvia’s dad, offers a sobering thought about kids and their experience of Maker Faire): Maker Faire simply shows the results of hard work, not always the hard won path to get there, how many failures it took before the physical object you see before you was completed. And you never see the people who were too shy or not driven enough to submit their project on time for the event. Even though I’m sure you could document and clarify to kids the kinds of problem-solving and perseverance that is required to create the kinds of incredible things you see at a Faire, I think perhaps this stuff can’t be told or taught, only learned through experience. Over the years, as my children become more versed in the actual ways of creating what they want with their hands, it will become clear to them exactly how hard all those Makers have worked!

Quin gets hands-on Arduino help from The Man himself, Massimo Banzi.
Quin gets hands-on Arduino help from The Man himself, Massimo Banzi.

Quin Etnyre (who, at 14, now runs his own company, QTechKnow, and even has his own Arduino-compatable microcontroller, the Qduino Mini) Maker Faires have been a huge part of my life. I first saw an ad in the back of Make: for MFBA, and attended my first Faire in 2011. I was 10 years old, and I was blown away by what I saw! I spent the day soldering at many different booths, and then ended up at a lecture by Massimo Banzi, talking about Arduino. I had no idea what he was talking about, but I was hooked! My dad bought me “Intro to Arduino” and an Arduino starter kit, and then I posted my first Instructable beginner Arduino project after two weeks. My business, Qtechknow, is all about Arduino-compatible boards — I love anything Arduino! I am so grateful for Maker Faires — there’s nothing else like them. I feel like there are so many people interested in what I’m interested in, all concentrated in one incredible place. I’ve found my people! It’s such a great opportunity to share with others, and to see what everyone is working on. Now, I really enjoy MakerCon, too. I have met so many great and generous people through my Faire experiences! Happy 10th Anniversary, Maker Faire!

Zolie who has clearly grown up with Maker Faire.
Zolie, who has clearly grown up with Maker Faire.

Kyrsten Mate (one half of the dynamic duo — with Jon Sarriugarte — who’ve brought amazing vehicles and vaudeville stages to nearly ever Faire, their daughter Zolie growing as the events have). I don’t know what is Maker Faire and what is Zolie’s personality! She loves to gather around and see what everyone is doing, and to learn how things work. And she loves other people being around her for that, the idea that learning and exploration is fun as a group.

Valerie Woo (who will be attending Santa Clara University’s Engineering School in the fall): Maker Faire has brought me contentment in guiding me to realize my dream. Although arts and crafts bring a smile to my face, and Tesla Coils make my eyes widen in awe, Maker Faire’s solar panels and wind-powered robots led me to discover my true passion: alternative energy. Alternative energy combines my love for spectacular engineering with the thrill of designing, but its true appeal lies in its purpose. I have come to realize that my dream is working on alternative energy: engineering things that will help the world. Alternative energy will diminish the world’s dependence on limited resources like fossil fuels. This not only benefits the world’s environment, but also helps people without access to fossil fuels. Maker Faire has shown me the wonder and importance of STEM and how it can change the world. It dazzles and inspires me as an outlet for great ideas come to life. It is a place where I can find and share my passion, a place where I follow my dreams, and a place where I am perfectly content.

Schuyler Leger discusses magic and microcontrollers with David Pogue.
Schuyler St. Leger discusses magic and microcontrollers with David Pogue.

Jim St. Leger (father to the brilliant force of nature known as Schuyler St. Leger): We’re big fans of David Pogue from his Nova TV and New York Times work. Schuyler was able to show him his “bug dropper” Intel Galileo project. Afterwards, Schuyler showed David a card trick which caused Pogue to launch into a whole bunch of card and other magic tricks. It was an amazing moment. If there’s one overwhelming message of Maker Faire, it’s “open, friendly, and engaging.” Pretty much without exception EVERYONE is ready, willing, and able to share their project. They share their details, their thinking, their challenges and shortcomings. And perhaps most importantly, they share their excitement and enthusiasm for making.

Discuss this article with the rest of the community on our Discord server!

Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at

View more articles by Gareth Branwyn