There are few places where DIYbio, robots, and knitting come together under one roof. Thankfully, Maker Faire UK did just that.
For those who are unfamiliar, a Maker Faire is "a festival of invention, creativity and resourcefulness" which brings together people of all ages and backgrounds to celebrate making. While the first official Maker Faire was held in California in in 2006, the model carries forward elements of a diverse collection of events and celebrations - from community fairs to tradeshows to LAN parties.
Over one weekend at the end of April, makers of all ages congregated at the fourth Maker Faire UK in Newcastle to marvel at some exciting projects, learn some new skills, and generally play around. Make Things Do Stuff partners and consortium members were on hand to deliver a range of activities where young people could try digital making.
With four laptops and a Makerbot 3D printer, the Printcraft crew welcomed a constant stream of kids eager to 3D print objects they had designed on Minecraft, an online block-building game. The Mozilla gang was also on hand to help kids hack, create and remix the web using their Webmaker suite of tools. A particularly popular project? Hacking your school's web page using Google's X-Ray Goggles - an online 'looking glass' that allows you to see the code behind any web page and remix it. Meanwhile, Technology Will Save Us helped others make some of their bestselling kits - including the colourful and conductive electro-dough and a petite musical device known as the lumiphone. Friends from Freeformers, Makie Lab and Bare Conductive also joined in the Maker Faire madness to share an app design game, personalized 3D printed dolls, and conductive paint projects.
As a first time Maker Faire attendee, I was not disappointed. Unlike many sector-specific trade shows and conventions, Maker Faires highlight the fascinating intersections and blurring of different kinds of expertise and content. In this regard, Maker Faires act as a sort of 'gateway' into the multifarious maker world: almost every kind of making is present and at your disposal, but it also comes together around a common spirit and set of values. Sitting in the eye of the maker storm, you really begin to appreciate spaces where people can marvel at what humans are capable of creating, but also get their hands on some tools and try making (or breaking) things themselves.
Maker Faire UK may be over, but there's no need to wait until 2014: Elephant & Castle Mini Maker Faire will be taking place on July 6th while Brighton Mini Maker Faire is gearing up for a mad weekend at some point in September.
Equally, while this blog has focused on Maker Faires, they are hardly the only opportunities for people to come together and experience the intrigue and awe around digital making - or maker culture for that matter. Interested? Get in touch with your nearest hackspace, museum or organisations like the Scouts to see if they offer any opportunities for young people to make things. Not having any luck or unsure where to begin? Start by deciding on a project and see where it leads you.
In the coming months we hope that the (not quite launched) Make Things Do Stuff website can provide a common point of entry for these types of experiences. If you have projects and resources you would like to contribute, we would love to hear from you. Drop us a line at email@example.com.