Why We Make at the Science Factory

Last Friday at the Science Factory, we hosted the second in a new series of no-school-day programs all about robotics. In these programs, kids in grades 3 to 6 have the chance to work in teams to build and program their own LEGO Mindstorms robot that will complete a given mission. Within the constraints of the robotics system itself, kids have an amazingly wide array of possibilities that allow them to make a robot that is truly their own creation.

While we have included building and tinkering activities in many of our lessons before, this series represents our first attempt at building an entire day around “making” something from the ground up. As much as we hope the students are learning from it (more on that later), it has certainly been a learning experience for us. Some kids are LEGO experts, while others have hardly played with them in their lives. Some have a little bit of programming knowledge, but most have none at all. Some are more than willing to jump in and get their hands deep into the Legos, while others are more timid and need encouragement and direction.

Perhaps hardest of all, some kids are comfortable working in teams while others would much rather do all the work themselves. On an intense, complex project such as this one, going it alone is simply not an option. Finding ways to make these kids work together is crucial to the success of the project. I talked to one kid in the middle of the afternoon who was nearly in tears because of frustration with his teammates. He was not the first of our kids to be in this state, nor do I expect that he’ll be the last.

Why go through all of this frustration? Surely there must be easier ways to convey engineering concepts. While there are plenty of ways to give kids the information that will let them pass a test or get an “A” in class (and these are important too!), there is no substitute for diving head-first into a project that will teach all of this information and more in the process of completing the project.

Learning by making is really hard. It’s hard for the students, who might take lots of wrong turns and meet many dead ends before finally finding a solution. It’s hard for the teachers, who must be comfortable being a guide and mentor for a project where the finished product isn’t known ahead of time. But I believe that the lessons learned through making — not just in programming and building concepts, but in cooperation, teamwork, and perseverance — are a payoff well worth the trouble. By the end, that kid on the verge of tears was beaming with pride in his team’s completed robot.

We are hardly the first museum to realize the potential for bringing maker culture into our educational programs. Many large museums are creating innovative exhibits and events around making and building things, including the Exploratorium’s Tinkering Studio and Open Make at the Tech Museum. By hosting the Eugene Mini Maker Faire and bringing other making-oriented programs to our visitors, the Science Factory aims to join these museums as places where children and adults can find their inner maker and learn by doing. We hope you’ll join us, too!

Why We Make

Last year’s keynote speaker at Maker Faire Bay Area was Adam Savage, co-host of Mythbusters. In a lively talk filled with personal stories from his past, Adam explained why he is passionate about making things, and why it is essential that we all participate in a culture of making.

I really enjoyed the way that Adam approached the question of making something truly new versus making “what pop culture feeds you.” I think that we often define “creativity” too narrowly, leading us to put too much value on the products of creating and not enough on the process. The act of making “what you can’t not make” is an extremely valuable learning experience, even if the end product originally came from someone else’s imagination.

Adam Savage and his mythbusting partner Jamie Hyneman will bring their live show to Eugene this March. Tickets are on sale now, and your Mythbusters tour tickets will get you a discount on admission to the Eugene Mini Maker Faire. If you’re excited about Adam and Jamie, we hope you’ll be just as excited to see how our local community is carrying out Adam’s vision of “a generational shift back to making.” And if you’re really inspired by Adam, maybe you’ll consider making something of your own to show off at our faire!

Big news!

We’re thrilled to announce that the 2013 Eugene Mini Maker Faire is ON! The second-annual faire will be held on Saturday, June 15th at the Science Factory. Even though it’s six whole months away, you can still make a commitment to take part in any of the following ways:

We’re looking forward to making this year’s faire even bigger and better than last year’s. There will be much more information available here in the weeks and months ahead, so stay tuned!

Scenes from a Mini Maker Faire

Check out the Science Factory’s Facebook page for additional pictures. Thanks again to the makers and visitors who helped to make our first Mini Maker Faire a success. See you next year!

Thank you!

Huge thanks to all of the makers and visitors who made the inaugural Eugene Maker Faire a success! Special thanks to Brookelynn of MAKE magazine for setting up our live Google Hangout with the good folks at Maker Faire North Carolina. We’ll post some follow-ups next week… after we’ve recovered.

Tomorrow!

The front lawn of the Science Factory is looking awfully quiet this afternoon. But tomorrow, it will be a whole different story! We have rocket launches scheduled for noon and 2PM, and who knows what else will be flying across the lawn all day!

There’s plenty more to see and do tomorrow as well, from electric bicycles to basketball-playing robots, from knitting and crocheting to geometric constructions, from marshmallow shooters to optical illusions, and lots more! We’ll even have a bee counter!

Advance tickets are still available, and if you purchase or register tonight, you’ll be eligible for our prize drawing! If you can’t join us live, we’re doing a Google Hangout with our friends at MAKE Magazine and Maker Faire North Carolina starting at 12 noon. We hope to see you in person or online!

Are you excited yet?

We hope you can join us this Saturday! Tickets are still available in advance through tomorrow evening, and at the door on Saturday. Please make note of some updated parking info, as we’ll be sharing the park with some visitors from Lake Wobegon. The lot may be crowded after 1:00, so your best bet is to arrive early!

In case you need a bit more incentive, here’s a news story on one of our makers, Lance Richards of Steamwork Cycles. We’re very excited to have him here with his bikes! Come by and check them out on Saturday along with the rest of our makers.

Featured Makers: OregonRocketry and Eugene Rocketry

We’re thrilled to have OregonRocketry (OROC) and Eugene Rocketry (EUROC) participate in the Eugene Mini Maker Faire! Since 2002, OROC has invited model rocket builders from all over Oregon to build rockets, participate in launches, and share their rockets with each other and the public. EUROC was recently founded to accommodate rocketry interest in the Eugene area. Both organizations are chapters of the National Association of Rocketry.

The video above shows EUROC’s most recent monthly Launch Party. It looks like they had a great time! If you’d like to join EUROC for their next launch (June 17th, the day after Maker Faire!), check out their website or come meet them at the Maker Faire.

And for something REALLY spectacular… Gary, one of the members of EUROC, recently carried out a high-powered launch at OROC’s launch site in Brothers. Here’s the video… from the rocket’s perspective!

As you can see, these rockets are not just toys… some of them can fly tens of thousands of feet into the air! You’ll get to see some of these rockets up close at the Eugene Mini Maker Faire, and talk to their makers! Get your advance tickets now or join us at the Science Factory on June 16th!

Tickets are now available!

We are now selling online advance tickets to the Eugene Mini Maker Faire! Buy your tickets early and have the chance to win prizes from the Science Factory and MAKE Magazine! If you are a Science Factory member, admission is FREE but we still invite you to register in advance and be eligible for the prize drawing. Tickets will also be available at the door on June 16th.

The Faire is coming up in just ten days! We have updated our list of makers, and in the next few days we’ll be posting more information about what to expect from this talented community of do-it-yourself science and technology enthusiasts.

Maker Faire San Mateo 2012

Maker Faire San Mateo was last weekend on May 19 and 20 and a few of us went down there to take part in all the fun.  ”What exactly is Maker Faire?” you may ask.  It’s difficult to describe Maker Faire to someone who has never been.  Maker Faire is possibly best described as the greatest show and tell on Earth.  There are a lot of creative people out there and they like to make things.  Maker Faire is a place to bring those things and people together so they can show off their work and become inspired.  It doesn’t matter if the work is electronic, artistic, practical, or virtual.  Maker Faire is a fantastic inspiration and motivator to get others to start making.  That is why we are compelled to bring a bit of the Maker Faire flavor to Eugene.  To help illustrate just what Maker Faire is, here are a few photographs we took at last weeks Maker Faire in San Mateo.

Dalek

Dr. Who fan? How about a real life Dalek?

Enormous fire sculpture

Enormous fire sculpture. Attendees can press a button that controls one of three flame throwers.

Gigantic robotic face

Attendees could control this gigantic robotic face using a series of switches.

Face control switches.

Face control switches.

Makerbot replicator

This is the Makerbot replicator. It prints 3D objects from your computer out of plastic!

3D printed robots

These small robots were all mostly printed on the 3D printer.

Musical Tesla coils

These large Tesla coils make musical lightning bolts up to 12 feet long!

Lego city

This is a small city made entirely out of Lego.

Real life Wall-E

Real life Wall-E

Angry garden gnomes

Angry garden gnomes

That is just a tiny fraction of what Maker Faire has to offer.  There are so many incredible things to see that have all been made by regular people.  We are excited to bring a taste of Maker Faire to Eugene so we can see what local residents are making.  Do you have something you want to show off?  Do you know someone who makes really cool stuff?  Sign up for a table and show the world how awesome you are!  If not, never fear.  Just show up to the faire and see what others have done.  You are bound to find some inspiration and walk away with a new outlook on the world around you.