NASA Langley Celebrates 100 Years of Innovation at Hampton Roads Mini Maker Faire

Maker News
NASA Langley Celebrates 100 Years of Innovation at Hampton Roads Mini Maker Faire

Hampton, Virginia, is home to the oldest NASA/NACA field center, NASA Langley Research Center. Established in 1917 by decree of President Woodrow Wilson, just 14 years after the Wright brothers’ historic flight, NASA Langley, which was named after aviation pioneer Samuel Pierpont Langley, is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. And what better way to commemorate a center known for so much innovation than by hosting the Hampton Roads Mini Maker Faire, collectively organized by folks from NASA Langley, the City of Hampton, and 757 Makerspace. The Faire takes place for one day only, this Saturday, May 6, at the Hampton Roads Convention Center, and is free to attend.

We spoke with NASA Langley’s Nancy Holloway, one of the co-organizers, to learn more. Holloway has been with NASA for 35 years, is currently the head of the Fabrication Technology Development Branch, is responsible for establishing the innovation fabrication “iFab” and personal fabrication “pFab” labs, and holds six U.S. patents related to sensors and advanced materials technologies. Inspiring!

1. How will the 100th anniversary of NASA Langley be reflected at the Faire?
In many forms including:

Welcoming Ceremony: We have a special “Welcoming Ceremony” that features Ed Healy, NASA Langley Engineering Director/Leadership; Donnie Tuck, the Mayor of the City of Hampton; and Beau Turner, producer of the Faire and owner of the 757 Makerspace. Healy and Mayor Tuck will share in their remarks comments about NASA Langley and the Centennial. They’ll discuss how making has been a part of the past, present, and future of NASA Langley Research Center and the Hampton Roads community.

Layout: The layout of the event is such that the makers are placed into groups of planetary clusters.

Center Stage: Throughout the day, NASA images and short videos will be played on the large center stage monitor in between talks/presentations.

Centennial Trailer: We’ll have the NASA Centennial trailer at the event. Visitors can walk through the inside and learn about the past, present, and future of Langley Research Center. We’ll even have an employee in an astronaut outfit walking around and taking photos and selfies with participants. We’ll also have a special photo booth called “Postcards from Space,” where people can take a photo with a special space background and print out a card. We’ll also have a large blow-up astronaut in the lobby of the Convention Center, along with large banners including a Langley Centennial and NASA banner. NASA banner flags will adorn the the outside area.

Langley Centennial Bags: Participants will receive a NASA Langley Centennial bag to keep the items they make while at the Faire.

And of course, NASA makers. Here are a few:

NASA Makers

Mars Habitat in VR
The Advanced Concepts Laboratory, NASA Langley’s digital studio, has worked with NASA engineers to create a Mars habitat in VR. You are able to walk around inside of the habitat and interact with objects. You get to be the first astronaut living on Mars!

Stratospheric Aerosol Gas Experiment (SAGE) III Virtual Reality Demo
SAGE III is a laser science instrument built and tested at NASA Langley and launched this past February 2017. It’s now attached to the International Space Station and is taking data of Earth’s atmosphere. In celebration of the successful launch of SAGE III’s instrument payload, users get to experience this state-of-the-art instrument in 3D virtual reality using the Oculus Rift Development Kit 2.

Game-Changing Robonaut R2 and Sphero Robotic Challenge Course
Learn what NASA is doing in the field of robotics and meet the agency’s first humanoid robot R2. Visitors will interact with and drive Sphero robots around an obstacle course. Visitors will also learn what NASA is doing in the field of robotics and meet the agency’s first humanoid robot Robonaut 2, or R2.

Mars Village Playscape
Children can make a number of NASA-related creations from recycled materials, including building a Mars Village from cardboard and recycled materials, fabricating Mars rovers from cardboard and powering them with balloons, creating NASA jetpacks from recycled plastic bottles and duct tape, and making astronaut helmets from card stock.

Vertical Wind Tunnel for Maker Experiments
Come check out an interactive exhibit where makers of all ages can use common materials to create their own model of a spacecraft to land on another planet and then test what they build in a vertical wind tunnel.

Electron Beam Freeform Fabrication (EBF3)
NASA Langley’s large-scale metal “3D printing” process, Electron Beam Freeform Fabrication, is being developed to build rocket nozzles, aircraft parts, wind tunnel models, and manufacture parts in space! See how these parts are made!

2. What effect does the presence of NASA Langley have on the maker community in Hampton Roads?
NASA Langley’s participation in the Hampton Roads Maker Faire has done much to communicate to the Hampton Roads community the Maker Movement. Through communications on the Center and in the local community, there are makers everywhere; however, many people we talk to unfortunately have never heard of a “Maker Faire” or the term “maker,” though they are one. Through these communications, many are excited to come and experience the Faire. A local Hampton TV channel and newspaper, Daily Press, is interested in covering the event.

We have several maker groups and workspaces in the community, from the 757 Makerspace and Studios in Norfolk, to the Northside Makers, to the College of William and Mary Small Hall, all are examples of makerspaces. NASA Langley is in the process of standing up an SOA makerspace called Lark Works (a play on the word LaRC for Langley Research Center). It will have a bird, the lark, as the logo, as a nod to Langley’s aeronautical and “flight” research, which has been going on since 1917.

3. What can folks expect at the Hampton Roads Mini Maker Faire?
Mars virtual reality, NASA robots, drones, vertical wind tunnel, steampunk airship, telescopes, electronics, bee and chicken keepers, maker educators, child makers, FIRST robotics teams, bio-hacking, startups, stop-motion film making, electronics, a cooking demonstration by an award-winning executive chef, learning about locks as mechanical puzzles, a large chaos machine, wood turners, ukulele makers, a Star Wars troupe, air-powered rockets, as well as a Cosplay and Steampunk Costume Contest.

4. How many maker exhibits will there be?
60+ makers, a dozen talks/presentation on two stages (center stage and a ground-level demo stage) on a variety of making topics, as well as participants coming for the Cosplay and Steampunk Costume Contest. The participants typically make their outfits and are makers at heart. There will be robotics demonstrations, Splendid Teapot Racing, Chrysler Museum glass blowers, blacksmiths, neon bending, and telescopes. The winners of the contest will receive special prizes that incorporate the Langley Centennial logo. This will be a once-in-a-lifetime prize, as we won’t have another 100th anniversary ever.

5. Is there anything in particular that you feel uniquely defines the Hampton Roads maker community?
Hampton Roads has a slogan, “First from the Sea, First to the Stars.” This encompasses the history of the area with some of the first English settlers who landed in the area (i.e. Jamestown, Cape Henry in Virginia Beach, and Hampton), to large shipbuilding industries, and of course aeronautical and space research. In addition to the NASA Langley Research Center, (originally called the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory), we also have Langley Air Force Base right next door to the Center.

Some of NASA Langley’s wind tunnels are on the Air Force Base and still very active. The original astronauts all trained at Langley! The astronauts practiced their moon walks at Langley. (Pictured above is an astronaut practicing a moon walk, attached to the large gantry system, at Langley. Rumor has it when Neil Armstrong was asked how it was to walk on the moon, he replied, “It was just like it was at Langley.”) Almost every airplane that ever flew or is currently flying — be it general aviation, commercial, military, stealthy/classified — has Langley technology in it. All of the “greats” of aeronautics have visited and/or tested at Langley, including Orville Wright of the Wright Brothers, Amelia Earhart, Howard Hughes, Rockwell, Northrup, Grumman, McDonnel, Douglas, and the list goes on.

We have one of the largest shipbuilding industries in the United States (Huntington Ingalls Newport News Shipyard) and the largest naval base on the east coast, the Norfolk Naval Shipyard. The movie Hidden Figures showcased three women from NASA Langley Research Center during the space program. We have a new Computation Facility that is slated to open this summer and is named after Katheryn Johnson, one of the women featured in the movie and book by Margot Shetterly. Katheryn is still alive, is 98 years old, and will hopefully make it to 99 in August and continue on. She was wheeled out onto the stage at the recent Oscars ceremony, where she received a standing ovation. NASA Langley is known as the “mother” Center from where the other NASA Centers were born. Many of the NASA Langley specialists left this Center to stand up Centers at other locations (Texas, Florida, California) in the United States.

Wide Variety of Hampton Roads Makers

Aside from the NASA presence, there will be a wide array of projects and presentations, representing all the flavors of the local maker community. Here are just a handful of them. See the full list online.

Tidewater Turners of Virginia
Tidewater Turners will demonstrate the art of wood turning. Members will display a variety of turned objects including bowls, platters, pens, vases, and bottle stoppers, all turned in local and exotic woods.

Vulture Culture
Discover the world of scavenging, bones, and furs with a local Vulture who can often be found on the sides of roads and in the woods more often than anywhere else. Learn, touch, create, and take home a part of nature with you.

Making Movies with Raspberry Pi
Make a stop-motion/live action movie with the Raspberry Pi, Lego mini figures, and our homemade movie sets. Brought to you by Digital Visions, the concept is designed to teach leadership, character, teamwork, and STEM!

Steampunk Splendid Teapot Racing
Splendid Teapot Racing is a steampunk sport that began in New Zealand. It’s an obstacle course of jumps, ramps, and several delicately balanced breakable china teacups and saucers. You race a decorated RC car/truck/tank with a teapot on it.

Designing and Making Analog Audio Equipment
Scott Dorsey of Kludge Audio offers an introduction to basic audio design theory from the standpoint of someone who has to actually construct and use the devices designed. What actual parameters make a difference in the performance of a final product? Audience discussion encouraged.

In Plasmic, you’re placed in a vast open virtual space, with only your hands being visible in the form of controllers. By squeezing the controllers, you can create tiny, differently colored objects called “plasmids” to interact with.

BioLogik Labs
BioLogik is a community bio-hacker space focused on synthetic biology, education, art, citizen science, and science literacy. We promote DIYbio, citizen science, and biohacking.

Glass & Wire Sculpture
Artist and engineer Nathanael Miller will be demonstrating the processes of making slumped glass and wire sculptures.

Augmented Reality Sandbox
Matthew Mahlin’s augmented reality sandbox allows users to create topography models by shaping real sand, which is then augmented in real time by an elevation color map, topographic contour lines, and simulated water.

For all the information you need to join the fun, head to the Hampton Roads Mini Maker Faire site. Though the event is free to attend, you do need to register in advance.

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I'm a word nerd who loves to geek out on how emerging technology affects the lexicon. I was an editor on the first 40 volumes of MAKE, and I love shining light on the incredible makers in our community. In particular, covering art is my passion — after all, art is the first thing most of us ever made. When not fawning over perfect word choices, I can be found on the nearest mountain, looking for untouched powder fields and ideal alpine lakes.

Contact me at or via @snowgoli.

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