Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Ultimate Field Trip for Future Engineers

Our First Maker’s Faire

Maker Faire
Since she was 5, my daughter was saying that she will be a mechanical engineer. We both are engineers by education (I am now a Program Manager), but our work involves many hours in front of computers doing work that is still just barely comprehensible to her. This Sunday we had a unique opportunity to show her what real engineers do by taking her to the “Greatest Show and Tell on Earth” - Bay Area Maker’s Faire.

Who Are Makers?

Makers are defined as a tech-influenced DIY community. My husband is certainly a Maker who equipped our house with X10 system and is able to whip up amazing Lego creations. I am hoping that Smarty inherited some of his talents – she certainly has intense interest in all things that look like “real work” to her. She strongly prefers projects with a glue gun or clay to 2D art, and now she is beginning to develop curiosity about what programming really is and how computers work. Going to the Maker’s Faire was a dream come true for her.

Maker’s Faire Highlights

We spent about 4 hours at the Faire and saw probably only about a third of exhibits. I lost count of how many times Smarty said, What is that? How does it work? Can I try? This is so cool! She was very disappointed to learn that Maker’s Faire comes to our area only once a year but somewhat mollified to learn that Bay Area Maker’s Faire is the biggest in the world. Later we discussed our favorite exhibits.
1. A Lego Robot Solving a Rubic Cube
Both my husband and I were blown away by one of the youngest Makers – a 12 year old boy who designed a Lego Mindstorms Robot that manipulates and solves a Rubic Cube puzzle. Amazing and inspirational.
Lego Rubik Cube Solver
2. 3D Printers
My husband is gently lobbying for a 3D printer for some time. He now received reinforcements from Smarty who was absolutely enchanted by this technology and thrilled to receive a printed plastic paper clamp as a gift. I have to admit that watching 3D printers to create “something from nothing” is quite magical, but I am still not convinced that we need this expensive “toy for adults” at home, at least not until my husband comes up with a project offer that I cannot refuse.
3D Printer
3. Titanoboa
No, this is not an original extinct Titanoboa snake, but it looks very cool in its electro-mechanical version. It can be move and be controlled with a remote controller and it’s really impressive to see.

Find a Maker’s Faire Near You

While Bay Area Maker’s Faire is the largest by far, the Maker movement is growing worldwide and there might be smaller Maker Faires around you. Find your Maker’s Faire and take your children – I guarantee that they will be talking about this trip for a long time!

More Resources for Future Engineers

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Your Turn

Are you raising future makers? What do your children like to tinker with?


Ticia said...

They have a Maker's Faire here in Austin once a year also, but we've never been. We probably should go, because the kids would really enjoy it.

An Almost Unschooling Mom said...

I tried to convince the kids we could make our Lego robot solve our rubic's cubes for us...but they wanted nothing to do with it...guess I'm not raising engineers. What an awesomely fun place to take Smarty though!

min said...

What a great summary and great photos. I took too many and got lazy about posting them.

I would wait on the 3-D printer. My friend owned one several years ago and the price came down a great deal since then. $500-700 for a 3-D printer is not bad but I'm sure it will only get cheaper. Schools will all have them and even some libraries. The material needed can cost $30 for kilo.

In the meantime, look into DIY webpage. Kids can post their own DIY projects.

Lauralee Moss said...

I just looked it up and we missed the one closest to us by two weeks! My kids would love it. I signed up for the newsletter though so we will go next year. Thanks for explaining about this.

OneMommy said...

Oh! Looks like we have one near us coming up in September.... I see a possible field trip in the making!

maryanne @ mama smiles said...

I took Emma to this on Saturday, but we only had a little over an hour. We needed more time!

Oh, and Emma also wants a 3D printer now. Not getting one anytime soon...

Marie-Claude Leroux said...

What a great experience! I will definitely have to look into maker events in our area - thanks for sharing, else I probably wouldn't have checked this out!

Renee Cheatham said...

We were at the Bay Area Maker Faire this year, second year in a row. There is so much stuff to see and explore! Will be back next year!