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The Maker Faire is a celebration of invention and creativity where inventions and crafts are showcased under one roof.
Recently we visited the Maker Faire Newcastle. When I was a child we entertained ourselves by making things. We made jewellery from plants, puppets from cardboard boxes and even got busy with a soldering iron making simple electronic projects.
In the early eighties computers were starting to come into homes and we started learning how to program them. It was great fun and we learnt a lot as well. These days it would be easy to think that the spirit of innovation and invention was dead. Children seem to spend more time in front of screens than actually trying to create things themselves.
The Maker Faire contradicts this opinion and shows that the spirit of innovation is alive and well. Recently the Marker Faire took place at the Centre for Life in Newcastle and my son and I went along to find out what was happening. We had visited the Maker Faire a few years ago and really enjoyed the day. We were looking forward to finding out what new innovations would be on display.
What is the Maker Faire?
Walking into a Maker Faire can be confusing, a throng of people, daleks, bunting and robots. A mixture of a craft show and a laboratory the Maker Faire is a gleeful display of innovation. Participants have made the contraptions on display and want to show them off to others. When you visit a table the person demonstrating the robot will have built it themselves and will be more than happy to tell you how they did it. New technology is used to great effect in these projects. 3D printers have a myriad of uses and a raspberry pi, a small affordable easily programmable computer, is bring programming to a new generation. The Maker Faire is a celebration of making stuff and the passion that goes into the invention. There is a buzz in the atmosphere and you will have the chance to try your hand at making things and trying things out yourself.
The Maker Faire started in 2006 in the Bay Area in the US and has since become a world wide phenomenon. The Maker Faire Newcastle started in 2009 and was the first one in the UK. Since then more Maker Faire’s have been held across the UK with Newcastle being the main event. The Centre for Life is a great venue for the Maker Faire. We often visit the Centre for Life for their exhibits, most recently we enjoyed Game On which was a lovely celebration of video games past and present.
What we found at the Maker Faire
The question really should be what didn’t we find? There was something different around every corner. If you are a Sci-Fi fan you would have been interested to see how the masks were made for a range of movies, we recognised Davros from Dr Who but how many more of these do you recognise? We even bumped into a dalek and narrowly escaped being assimilated by the Borg.
Where else but at the Maker Faire would you find an amateur space program? The Copenhagen Suborbitals are building and flying their own rockets. They are planning to launch a man into space. Their next mission, the Nexø I rocket is planned to launch this summer and is another step towards this journey.
Technology Wishing Well is the brain child of Think Physics, an outreach project based in Northumbria University. They have created an electronic spirograph using lights on a turntable and a raspberry pi and raspberry pi camera. Each of the lights can be sped up or slowed down changing the pattern on the screen.
My son was fascinated by this model of Newcastle. It was like a helter skelter with plastic penguins going down the track all around Newcastle and back again. Can you spot the Tyne Bridge, the Swing Bridge and the Angel of the North?
It was amazing the range of uses 3D printers had been put to. From making small sculptures to parts for robots, they were busy printing in several areas around the Maker Faire. They are coming down in price now and soon it will be an option to have one in the home. It really is amazing what can be made using them.
There were plenty of robots on display as well, from small robots roaming underfoot to larger ones. All with different uses, some useful, some whimsical but all fascinating.
Some of the projects were really interesting. Wondering what to do with an old bicycle? Why not turn it into a drawing machine like these guys have done.
All though the Maker Faire were plenty of chances to get hands on and try out the different projects. There were plenty of children at the fair and they were really getting involved and hands on. Even more impressive some of the makers were children who showed great enthusiasm for their projects.
Outside it was all about the bubbles. Large bubbles, small bubbles being made by the young and the old, all having fun. There were also some drones here that you could fly if you felt brave. I knew the chances were high that I would crash it if I tried so I just watched them flying around.
There was such a lot to see at the Maker Faire and my son and I both really enjoyed the day. It is lovely to see people with such enthusiasm for making things and great that young people are being given the chance to see that it is possible to make things yourself. We will be looking forward to the Maker Faire Newcastle coming back next year.
Have you been to a Maker Fayre? What did you think?