This past Saturday, nearly 3,000 attendees ascended upon the North Court of MIT campus for the first-ever MIT Mini Maker Faire.
A celebration of science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM), as well as the fun of making, the faire — part of the Maker Faire series started by the editors at Make magazine — featured 110 exhibitors. More than half of these were MIT affiliates, while the rest were local makers.
Known for its passion for making and support for STEAM, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was a fitting place to organize and host this coming together of creators, technologists, scientists, engineers, and artists.
“At MIT we celebrate the artist, the scholar, and the smith,” said Department of Mechanical Engineering "maker czar," Professor Marty Culpepper, as he surveyed the faire’s high-energy scene. “You’ve got all of that here.”
The faire attracted a diverse array of attendees. Adults and children, beginners and hobbyists, advocates and experts all made their way through booth after booth, under three separate circus tents, then over to the go-kart course and the Clover and Jose Mexican’s food trucks, and finally on to the panel discussions taking place inside the Ray and Maria Stata Center.
Children sat on the edge of their seats in front of the all-day robot tournament as adult audience members cheered on their favorite bots, built and entered into the tournament by MIT and local makers. Attendees stood in awe of the MIT Hobby Shop exhibit, which displayed exquisite craftworks by Hobby Shop members including instructor Brian Chan ’02, SM ’04, PhD ’09 such as a full-size sculpture of the Iron Man suit, handmade musical instruments, and origami. Other artist exhibitors displayed handmade pillows, jewelry, and photography.
Ariel Segall ’04 performed live demonstrations of the old-fashioned art of hand-tooling designs into leather, while Aleks Nowicki, a teacher at the Technology Children’s Center at the Stata Center, demoed the creation of a boat using a lashed bamboo frame and origami as an example of early childhood maker education. In fact, many of the exhibits focused on engaging young children in STEAM activities. These included MIT spinoff oneTesla, which manufactures musical Tesla coil kits; CrayUp, a 3-D crayon that allows you to draw up from a flat surface and make mini sculptures; and BlocksCAD, an easy-to-use 3-D computer aided design (CAD) tool that children as young as 9 years old can use to design and print their own creations.
Of course, no maker faire would be complete without 3-D printers, and several exhibitors showcased their printers or their 3-D printed products. Case in point was MechE alum-founded NVBOTS, which brought its NVPrinter, the first networked, automated 3-D printer. Another exhibitor, Eric Haines, showcased his open-source program for 3-D printing anything you’ve built in Minecraft, and also presented a panel discussion on the subject. Other panel discussion topics, such as barriers to female makers, DIY DNA, sketching circuits, and high-tech cosplay, were also presented throughout the day, while a go-kart track hosted multiple go-kart races.
“What you see here,” said a lead organizer and dual MechE/Engineering Systems Division graduate student Jessica Artiles of the faire’s success, “is that little extra bit of passion that compels us [at MIT] to stay up at night. Thanks, MIT, for being the best place on earth to nurture our inner child and passion for lifelong learning.”
The MIT Maker Faire was organized by MIT students and staff: Charles Guan ’11, Jamison Go, Jessica Artiles ’12, Daniel Meza, Mark Jeunnette ’02, SM ’13, Brian Chan ’02, SM ’04, PhD ’09, Peggy Conant, Seth Seligman, Amy Zhao, Marcel Thomas ’12, SM ’14, John Bolaji, Alissa Mallinson, and Daniel Dorsch ’12.