As engineers, we are noted for our ability to develop new technologically sophisticated products, but not necessarily for being good at, or even interested in, predicting how they may be misused. More
1 Nov 2014
The Fifth Annual World Maker Faire was held this year at the site of the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs in Flushing, Corona Park, N.Y. I attended as part of a group sponsored by the IEEE.
The Maker Faire is a concept of Dale Dougherty, who is also the publisher of the DIY magazine, MAKE. The first Maker Faire was held in 2006, and 100 were held worldwide in 2013. Today, most are independently organized by communities, museums, and libraries, and licensed by Maker Faire. Each event is a carnival-like demonstration of innovation and creativity by participants of all ages and at all levels of complexity, and often helps inspire hands-on STEM programs in local school systems. Participants can be individuals, groups, or associations.
This year’s two-day World Maker Faire was held at the New York Hall of Science (built as part of the 1964 World’s Fair) and on the grounds of the adjoining Space Park, with some 600 exhibitor/makers participating. Intel, Radio Shack, LEGO, Disney, Texas Instruments, Toyota, Ford, Microsoft, and Meccano were among the more than thirty corporate sponsors.
I found it impossible to visit all of the exhibits and events that I hoped to see. Here are just a few.
Among several speakers during the event were Herb Deutsch, co-inventor of the Moog Synthesizer; James Adam, director of engineering at Raspberry Pi; and David Miller, NASA’s chief technologist. I sat in on a session led by Chris Peterson, assistant director of admissions at MIT, who described a new program at MIT in which students seeking admittance are invited to submit a report on a “maker” project they have undertaken and completed. Whereas fewer than 8 percent of those applying to MIT are accepted, in the case of those submitting maker reports, over 11 percent are accepted. Peterson reported with some disappointment that only 15 percent of the maker project reports were submitted by females, although the percentage of female students at MIT is far greater.
As closing time neared, I hurried to view the power race track, a life-size mousetrap, a game of drones, the circus warehouse, and robot row. I vowed to plan my agenda more carefully next year!
Meanwhile, if you attended this Maker Faire (or others) as a participant-maker or as a visitor, your comments are welcome.