World Maker Faire 2011: Kids Take Things Apart in the Interest of Building Curiosity and Learning


Photo by the New York Hall of Science.

9.22.11 | If there was ever any question of the future growth of the maker movement, last weekend’s second annual World Maker Faire in New York extinguished them as quickly as a fire-breathing dragon.

The two-day festival, held at the New York Hall of Science, drew thousands of participants interested in a do-it-yourself ethos and pushing the boundaries of creativity and learning.

From making life more comfortable (and interesting) with open-source chairs and 3-D design tools to the prowess of dragons and the mystery of electronics, the World Maker Faire featured an abundance of talent and grit.

Mitch Altman, one of the forefathers of the DIY movement, told ABC News that the creativity of Maker Faire participants could have real implications for economic sustainability.

“Do-it-yourself people have the ability, now more than ever, to make their projects go from a mere idea to a reality,” said Altman. “Regardless of what you love doing, you can find creative ways of starting a business with that, and hopefully make a living with that, and then hire people in your community that will help create localized economy that grows.”

Articles like the ABC News report by Mark Monroy also point to the increased popularity and respect for geeks who build things. (What’s this about a RadioShack comeback? hmmm.)

Our friends at Global Kids were invited to coordinate the Young Makers Tent. The Hive Learning Network NYC, whose members include Global Kids, DreamYard, THE POINT, WNYC’s Radio Rookies, Museum for African Art, Mouse Squad and Cooper-Hewitt, offered competitive design challenges, a scavenger hunt, and the Hive Hype Squad, which reported live via Twitter (#hivebuzz) and produced podcasts and mini-documentaries. View all the young makers who took part.

“One of our Network’s core beliefs is that greater learning opportunities exist for youth when they transform from consumers to producers, and there’s no better place to see this in action than The Maker Faire,” said Chris Lawrence, director of Hive Learning Network NYC.

Building, creating and producing were the key themes behind all activities, including the scavenger hunt, writes Hawa Lee at the Radio Rookies blog.

Andrea Lee Torres, a graduate Radio Rookie reporter, shares what she learned:

After documenting teenagers showcasing their inventions at the New York Maker Faire 2011, I saw myself as another youth maker – a label I have never considered myself to own. By interviewing the people involved, I learned that I “invent” creative audio pieces. My work has put in public domain and is received by a number of people. As a Rookie Graduate, I have received feedback about how adults have learned from my story. And today, many adults have felt the same way from the teenagers who have produced great visual technology.

Usually, I thought adults would not take teenagers seriously. However, the point of the Maker Faire was to appreciate and support all inventors with the same respect and regard. It has truly been an incredible day!

It was made all the more incredible for these young participants when the Young Makers Tent won the Make Magazine Editors Choice Award (congrats!). Check out more coverage on, and blogs by Maker Faire Daily, New York Hall of Science, and the Hall’s terrific Flickr set

During the month of October, community-produced Maker Faires are scheduled to take place in Fort Wayne, Ind., Phoenix, East Bay (Oakland) and Pittsburgh. Visit to learn more.

For additional stories on the maker movement, take a look at Spotlight’s index, including how to bring the maker spirit into the classroom, the the possibilities sparked by the 3-D printer MakerBot, and a story on how makers are rebuilding Detroit.

Plus: Kelly Maguire of NYC Resistor and Sean Auriti of Alpha One Labs were on the radio program Science Friday last week discussing hackerspaces, “organizations that provide space, tools, and like-minded colleagues for unusual do it yourself projects.” 

I recently learned about Pumping Station: One, a hackerspace in Chicago where kids age 13 and up are welcome to participate (younger is OK if they’re with a supervising adult). And, with any luck, my neighborhood might some day be home to another hackerspace.


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