Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Westport "Maker Faire" a Showcase of Creativity

Many people — more than 2,000 by last count — attended last Saturday's Westport Mini Maker Faire. Produced by CLASP Homes as part of its 30th anniversary in partnership with the Westport Public Library, this was the first official Maker Faire event in Connecticut.

Intended as a celebration of creativity and innovation, the tent on Jesup Green, along the Saugatuck River and inside the Westport Library brimmed to overflowing with 60-plus "makers" who were showing what they make.

Some of the highlights of the fair included 3-D printers that will create in front of your eyes something that you have designed on your computer. There were also robots that could autonomously operate or be remotely driven by others to perform tasks, including shooting basketballs, much to the wild cheers of the crowds.

While there was much that was high-tech, there were many decidedly low-tech makers there, including a group of Cub Scouts, who were following the growth of an apple seed through its ending up as applesauce in a grocery store; the Green Village Initiative, showing how to make a raised-bed garden; a group creating paper flowers, one person who builds wooden canoes and more.

There were even people wandering around showing and teaching magic and an appearance by Gumby.

Two events included attendee participation: the Battle of the Homemade Bands and the Rube Goldberg Experiment. Both allowed a showcase of creativity for people who wanted to demonstrate their known and unknown talents.

Beyond what was shown, the Maker Faire brought together people from different backgrounds, experiences and ages. Specifically, the robotics area included five groups from five different towns and cities in Connecticut. These are high school students who worked together on their robotics projects, showing off what they had built and building friendships.

While there were plenty of "makers" at the fair, what was wonderful to see was the inspiration that was given to those in attendance. We repeatedly heard children saying that next year, they wanted to have something to show at the fair, or that they wanted to build something like what they had seen or that they wanted to try something that looked fun.

Look for more events that continue the fair's energy and excitement.

While this fair has the Westport name on it, it is clear that the reach is far beyond our town, that creativity and innovation knows no bounds and is alive and well in our community and country.

Mark Mathias, a 30-plus year veteran of information technology and a resident of Westport, Connecticut, was named by Computerworld magazine to their inaugural list of “Premier 100 IT Leaders.” This column was originally published in the Westport News on Wednesday 2 May 2012.

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