The area’s second Mini Maker Faire held at Monticello High School Saturday was more than just bells and whistles – it was a showcase of a movement hitting public school systems and the larger community.
The Maker Revolution, a project-based movement focused on hands-on learning, strives to bring the power of production back to individuals.
“It’s a renaissance of making things and creating things,” said Steve Hunter, organizer of the Mini Maker Faire. “People have discovered that rather than being consumers they can actually be creators.”
“With the advent of YouTube and the Internet, with sources of how to make different things and with prototype machines and design software, people have discovered, ‘Hey, I can make things myself,’” Hunter added.
The Maker Revolution has been growing since 2000, Hunter said, with interest initially sparked by Make Magazine. However, communities have since taken it upon themselves to independently organize their own Maker Faires.
Monticello High School hosted its first Mini Maker Faire last year, and it was ranked number six out of 100 in attendee satisfaction by the Maker Education Initiative, a national nonprofit organization that aims to encourage creativity within the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields.
This year’s event hosted approximately 200 people with 42 maker tables. Albemarle County students, engineering students from the University of Virginia, and adult residents from Charlottesville and out-of-state were all present. Tables varied from demonstrating 3D printers and remote-controlled robots to jewelry design and hand-painted speakers.
The faire also presented nine lectures concerning creativity in engineering, horticulture and biology spheres, in addition to featuring a Wearable Art Fashion Show which displayed designs from upcycled clothing and theater costumes.
“The momentum behind this movement is to make students think ‘I can create, I can make something,’” Hunter said. “And more importantly, they can involve the principles they’ve learned not only in the STEM areas, but also in the arts, and apply what they’ve learned.”
Cora Burkey, an eighth grader from Burley Middle School, demonstrated one of Burley’s four 3D printers.
“We use this program called 123Design, and then transfer what we make to the flash drive and plug it into the 3D printer,” she explained. “My teacher had us make 3D business cards, so we did that in class.”
Another product at the faire designed to inspire student creativity is the Chaos Toy, a Rube-Goldberg style construction project featuring movable parts and elements of design. Craig Trader, a resident of Sterling, exhibited the toy while explaining that such a machine is advantageous for all ages.
“The young kids are obsessed with moving marbles,” Trader said. “When they get a little older, they want to move track. Then even older kids in high school want to make that track do something and are more aware of the design element.”
Not all maker tables involved computers and robots, however – some leaned more toward creativity within the arts.
Charlottesville resident Taylor Moore showcased his new business MaNcessories, which creates and sells blades and tails of neckties separately to allow for personal customization.
“The problem with most neckties now is they don’t showcase the design of the knot. With this product, not only can you pick the fabric and color combinations that suit you, but the design of a more sophisticated knot can actually be seen. And for the price of two ties, you actually have four combinations to choose from.”
Hunter stressed that while the maker revolution has a focus on students and creativity within school systems, that creativity should extend through adulthood.
“You have to inspire creativity and keep the curiosity alive, learning and memorizing facts isn’t enough and adults should be involved as well,” Hunter said. “Curiosity shouldn’t stop once you leave school.”