How-To: Make an Interactive Exhibit for Maker Faire

How-To: Make an Interactive Exhibit for Maker Faire

Nina Arens, museum specialist, wrote up this piece for the Mini Maker Faire Seattle blog, and I wanted you all to see it! -Willow

Designing a booth for Maker Faire may seem like an intimidating project. Festivals like these attract a broad demographic, a lot of questions, and all sorts of people with different interests and objectives. Combine it with the fact that visitors hardly ever linger at an exhibit longer than eight minutes, and it may feel downright impossible.

But don’t panic! You are a maker! You CAN make a fun, interactive exhibit!

Whether you’re a multimedia artist, a laboratory scientist, a basement tinkerer, or a vendor, every made object can have an interactive element. It may not seem apparent right away, but no matter how complex, all ideas are a built on simple foundations.

Design Take-Home Projects from Complex Ideas

Imagining just how a visitor could take home a piece of your display can be difficult. Especially if your project is a long process. Or requires special tools. Or an attention span. Here are some ideas to help you do it with a little creativity.

Protein Chains with beads and pipe-cleaners

I wanted to convey how a cell makes its proteins to 4th grade girls at Bailey-Gatzert Elementary. Obviously, I couldn’t bring them to my lab, or have them visualize something. And certainly they wouldn’t sit still for a lecture. Instead, I adapted a beading activity to simulate the biological process in similar ways. At my booth, girls worked to thread and fold “pipe-cleaner proteins” using the letters in their names as a recipe.

Give kids a printout to take home.

It was an adaptable project that was personable, quick, and had multiple points for entry. The girls had a blast! They built a pipe-cleaner protein for me that I still own.

Another great example I’ve seen is a virtual chemistry activity in Scotland during Edinburgh’s 2011 Science Festival. Unable to bring visitors directly into their organic lab, they simulated building a molecule. At their station, kids could digitally built a 3D ball-and-stick molecule, print it, and then view it through 3D glasses. Very cool! I printed a sodium acetate for myself.

She also goes into perfect science vs imperfect science, tools and materials, and not forgetting the little ones. You can read the rest at Mini Maker Faire Seattle blog. She wraps up with:

If you’re not sure about how you’re going to create a booth for Maker Faire, don’t fret. There are many possibilities out there. And if you’re local, you know your community best. You’ll see. By the time you’re done, you’ll find the next best thing about being a maker is teaching others how they can be makers, too.

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

Willow Brugh has been an active participant in the hacker and makerspace community since 2008, giving her purpose towards distributed systems, engaged citizenship, and mutual aid. With heavy involvement in Maker Faire, Random Hacks of Kindness, and the SpaceApps Challenge, Willow’s main skill is “getting out of the way.” She loves seeing how ideals which thrive online, such as transparency and collaboration, manifest in these spaces and events. Willow has also been known to give candy to individuals from more traditional approaches to entice them towards these different models of engagement.

View more articles by Willow Brugh
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