For the fourth year in a row, I took the train from San Jose to the San Mateo, CA Event Center in mid May where the grandaddy of Maker Faires took place. Over 125,000 people trekked to the show to check out all types of products, maker ideas and related services and to attend various sessions to help kids and adults alike become makers.
The Maker Movement started out small some 12 years ago and had more of a tech focus driven by kids interest in things like robotics, electrical circuitry and making one’s own electronic gadgets such as a PC and creating things like motors to drive all types of devices such as small miniature cars, small trains, robots, etc.
But over time, and thanks to the Maker Magazine and Maker Faires around the world, the Maker movement has gained great steam and its emphasis on getting people to make things spans everything from bee keeping, quilting, and hydroponics to full blown make it yourself electronic kits and tools, 3 D printers, wood and metal etching and shaping tools to creating robots, drones, mechanical engines and much more.
Maker Faire’s have drawn major attention from many companies such as Intel Microsoft, Google, Avnet, Cognizant, Kickstarter, IBM, Oracle and dozens of others. They understand that many of their employees in the future may come from the ranks of kids coming to Maker Faire’s today who catch the bug and could eventually become tomorrow’s scientists, electrical engineers, coders and people who can make things and get things done.
I first wrote about Maker Faires in 2014 where I explained why the Maker Movement is important to America’s Future.
After attending last year’s Maker Faire I wrote about why Maker Faire’s are so important for our kids and stated that “The Maker Faires’ true importance lies in its focus on getting kids interested in making things. Over the last few years, I have written multiple pieces on STEM focusing on how companies around the world are backing STEM-based programs. All of them see how important these disciplines will be in the future. Still more germane to them is the real concern that if we cannot get kids trained in the sciences, we will not have the engineers and scientists to run our companies in the future.”
Although the Maker Faire delights people of all ages who attend the event, the greatest enthusiasm and joy from encountering and inspiring all to create and make things of their own can really be seen on the faces of the kids at the show. As they go from booth to booth and area to area to see all of the exhibits, models and electronic tools and kits that can be used by them to make their own creative dreams come true, their smiling faces and excitement is contagious.
While the show attracts a lot of boys, I also saw many girls at this year’s show and can see a rise in their attendance year upon year as this show strives to be highly inclusive and attract people of all ages, genders, and ethnicities.
At this years show crowds went to see swimming drones, a bunny robot, a robotic giraffe, an all-electric Porsche 911 and the Microsoft coding booth was packed with kids checking out new ways to learn to code. This year’s show also had a VR slant as Microsoft’s booth had a demo of Hololens and HTC had a small tent where all could see how HTC’s VIVE VR goggles worked. Also, Google’s “soldering booth” where kids can learn to solder electronic connections is always a big hit at the Faire. One of the other hottest areas is where they had the Drone races.
What is really interesting about the Maker Faire is that technology is not presented as math and science per se but is shown in highly entertaining ways that channel the underlying role science and technology plays in the creation of all types of products, devices, and related services.
While the Maker Faire itself is fun and educational, its reason to exist is extremely important. For many of these kids, attending the Maker Faire introduces them to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) and in many cases the Arts (STEAM.) These skills and disciplines are important to America’s growth as technology will have a dramatic impact on all types of industries and jobs in our future. Millions of the youth of today will need to have many of these STEM and STEM-related skills in order to get work and become the leaders in our corporations over time and will be next inventors and innovators of the future. For many of them, the Maker Movement and Maker Faire’s could be the catalyst that helps them garner the type of interest in these types of skills and steer them towards an educational path that prepares them for many of the jobs of the future.
The next Flagship Faire is in New York – World Maker Faire, September 23 & 24, 2017 at the New York Hall of Science.
For a list of other Maker Faire’s around the US and the world, check it out here.