Roc the Eclipse Festival is Totally Cool

child viewing eclipse

Dan Schneiderman has been the producer of The Maker Faire Rochester for many years. He worked with Make during covid producing virtual fairs, and then he joined the Rochester Museum and Science Center in New York to develop programming to engage the public in the upcoming eclipse. The result is the three-day Roc the Eclipse Festival, which opens on Saturday. Dan says the event was influenced by Maker Faire and supported by a network of makers in the Rochester area.

DD: Dan, this is your second big eclipse project, right?

DS: I have been at this for a good couple of years. I actually remember starting to talk about the eclipse between a bunch of makers back in 2017. But really this is the big one.

DD: What kind of work are you doing to prepare for it?

DS: It’s been a heavy amount of public outreach over the last year. We did this whole massive ambassador program where we brought in 50 organizations, taught them how to use telescopes, gave them eclipse glasses, taught them how to make their own pinhole viewers and set them off into the community. I counted 108 events in large meetings and presentations last year. Just been going out to the community, spreading the word and doing everything we can to make sure that our entire region and beyond is ready for the eclipse.

DD: Are there viewing parties?

DS: There are so many viewing parties in the Greater Rochester region. I’m actually organizing a big viewing party at the Roc the Eclipse festival at the Rochester Museum and Science Center.

It is very maker influenced. I couldn’t help myself, but I reached out to a lot of the makers out of the Greater Rochester region and asked them – if I give you enough heads up notice, what could you possibly think of? So we have everything from a half-scale lunar lander to an astronaut house, costumes and cosplay. We have a small lunar lander replicator that you get to try out. It’s remote controlled. A lot of people are still excited about that 50th anniversary of the moon landing that took place in 2019 and they have been improving projects. Having a background in Maker Faires and producing Maker Faires has definitely been a massive influence on this.

DD: Do you think the weather’s gonna cooperate in your area with clear skies?

DS: Oddly enough, Rochester actually has one of the best odds out there for the eclipse.

DD: That’s great.

DS: We’ve been watching the weather carefully and we should have pretty good weather on the day of.

DD: When does the Festival start?

DS: Technically, we’re kicking off our Festival on Saturday and just really taking our time with it so that people have a chance to stop by if they want to visit us and then attend other festivals.

For the actual eclipse, the moon starts to go in front of the Sun at 2:07 Eastern Time for us. We hit totality at 3:20 pm and eleven seconds. Totality then lasts for three minutes and 38 seconds, right at the RMSC. When the moon passes away from the Sun at 4:33pm, it is over. It’s not just a three and a half minutes. It’s more like two and a half hours of watching the actual eclipse.

(The duration of the totality as well as the start and end times vary by location. The total eclipse will be seen in Mexico before people in the southern US and then the northeast US before becoming visible in Quebec.)

DD: Why do you think this one seems to have inspired people to travel to view the total eclipse?

DS: The difference with this one is does it hits more cities and a lot more people are closer to this eclipse than they were in 2017. Here in the US, we have a good 20 years to wait until the next total solar eclipse in the continental US. 2017 was only seven years ago. A lot of people still remember it. The eclipse was heavily documented. There’s a bit of fear missing out clearly taking place. There’s definitely some fomo there.

DS: But it’s just we’ve spent the word.

DD: If you’re really last minute, what can you do? Can we create a pinhole viewer or glasses? What can we DIY?

DS: Not only pinhole viewers but there have been people who have taken creative approaches to other viewing methods. Of course, it’s definitely way too late to get the material for glasses now, but for a while, you were able to get the same material for eclipse glasses in rolls. So, for example, we got these giant eclipse glasses that are eight foot long and several that are six foot long that people can just go under and look up they’re fully usable. I’ve seen people do tents with them, which is wild. I know a local robotics team that modified a 10 by 10 tent and cut out chunks out of the tent and put in that material. I’ve seen people get really creative with it with masks. You can really get creative with your pinhole viewers.

DD: Dan, I know you’re really busy and I appreciate you taking time to talk with me today. Best of luck to you and to makers everywhere who will marvel at the total eclipse.

In May 2012, during Maker Faire Bay Area, I recall that a solar eclipse occurred in the afternoon. Shadows from the eclipsse could be seen on the walls and, in the photo below, porta-potties.

Eclipse 2012-05-20
In the shadow of an eclipse (photo by Bill Ward on Flickr)
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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.

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