Saturday, May 18, 2013

Creativity in Many Forms Makes Maker Faire a Success


Last Saturday saw not only perhaps the best weather of the year, but also the second annual Westport Mini Maker Faire, a one-day, family-friendly event that celebrates arts, crafts, engineering, food, music, science and technology projects and the do-it-yourself mindset. It's for resourceful, creative people who like to tinker and love to make things.

The faire featured the following events and activities:

The Nerdy Derby, a Pinewood derby with no rules. People build cars out of wood, paper, foam or whatever is handy. The entire supply of 400 kits were used.

Caine's Arcade, based upon the experience of a young boy in East Los Angeles who builds arcade games out of cardboard boxes. At this weekend's event, children built foosball tables, pool tables, skeeball games and more — all out of cardboard, tape and other donated items. And the kids played with them as much as they would have a professional machine, maybe even more so because they built the games themselves.

A high school student demonstrated his blacksmithing skills. The typical bellows to keep plenty of oxygen to the fire was replaced by an electric leaf blower. Yet, the blacksmith was quite able to pound tools out of red-hot steel.

Two $1,000 grants were given. One to two high school students who had designed and built an underwater propulsion system for SCUBA divers, and the other for a student here in Fairfield county who is working to create a solar oven for impoverished countries. The Awesome Foundation of Connecticut gave out the first grant and the Westport Sunrise Rotary Club, in combination with the Westport and Norwalk Rotary clubs, gave out the second.

3D printers abounded. Not only were there entry-level 3D printers in abundance, but some midrange Stratasys printers were on display in the Great Hall of the Westport Library, while Shapeways (a 3D printing service bureau) representatives demonstrated how items can be output in exotic materials such as stainless steel and porcelain.

While many of the makers emphasized technology, there were a couple of young girls who demonstrated how to make candies on a hot plate. Another maker used old comic books to make art. And still another maker demonstrated the art of violin making.

More than 40 students from Westport schools participated and students from at least five other school districts were showing off what they had made.

Dignitaries that attended the opening ceremonies included Congressman Jim Himes, Westport First Selectman Gordon Joseloff, state Sen. John McKinney, and state Reps. Jonathan Steinberg and Gail Lavielle. They together delivered three proclamations and citations, including Gov. Dannel P. Malloy declaring Saturday as Maker Day in Connecticut and Joseloff declaring Saturday as Maker Day in Westport.

It's gratifying to see the interest in creativity and innovation are alive and well in Connecticut.

Editor's note: Mark Mathias is the founder and co-chairman of the Westport Mini Maker Faire.

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 1 May 2013.

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