These family-friendly events have something to inspire everyone.
- Amanda Bindel, Toca Magazine Writer
Think of a huge science fair, an eclectic craft show and a cutting-edge technologies trade show all packaged up as a fun, family-friendly celebration of creativity and innovation. Now you get the idea of what a Maker Faire is like.
Maker Faires grew out of the maker movement which started formally in 2005 when Dale Dougherty founded Make: magazine. The first Maker Faire was in the Bay Area in 2006, and the flagship faires in the Bay Area and New York drew 260,000 attendees in 2016. This year, you can find more than 150 Maker Faires around the world, including Mini Maker Faires organized locally as independent festivals, as well as featured faires in Austin, Kansas City, Barcelona, Berlin and other cities.
What’s it like?
Maker Faire can be rockets and robots; 3-D printers and circuit boards; lasers and looms; art and science. Many exhibits have hands-on activities for kids (and adults) to try. Large weaving looms in the textiles section invite people to weave a few rows of a collective creation. High-school robotics teams show off their robots and sometimes even let kids handle the controls for a bit. Kids can have some clean, creative fun playing with science and making bubbles by dipping different objects into soap.
There may be demonstrations using Arduino, an open source computing platform, and 3-D printers; both products gained popularity through exhibiting at Maker Faires. Commercial sponsors abound — from big names like Google and Intel to start-ups with innovative ideas and products to show off. Performers show off technical skills and talents, and there are often cool modes of transportation to try out and learn the science behind — like butterfly bicycles, Segway-type creations and other bike-inspired adaptions. Every event is different, depending on the exhibitors, which makes every year and every city a unique experience.
Family-friendly does not mean that we’re trying to design an event for kids only. It’s inter-generational.
While Maker Faire is a family-friendly event, Maker Faire founder Dale Dougherty stresses that it isn’t a “kid” event. “Family-friendly does not mean that we’re trying to design an event for kids only,” he said. “It’s inter-generational. Kids can talk to makers — ‘Hey how did you build that?’ — and adults find that conversation compelling as well.”
Organize your own Maker Faire
For areas without a planned event, Maker Faire has instructions online for organizing one. Those approved for Mini Maker Faires get access to marketing materials, online planning and event promotion.
The Maker Faire traveler program gives interested volunteers the opportunity to help at one of the flagship Maker Faires, in New York or the Bay Area, for free to gather ideas for organizing their own event. That’s totally optional, though, and organizers can connect online to share ideas and get advice. Businesses and non-profits — like schools or organizations — can organize an event to raise money or as a free event.
Maker Faires are a family-friendly events with fun for everyone. If you attend a Maker Faire, full-blown or mini, expect a crowd and plan accordingly.
- You may want to leave strollers behind and wear babies or toddlers.
- A backpack is handy for carrying the many creations kids will make and want to take with them.
- Expect to leave with kids inspired to create and try new things – and probably with a little inspiration for yourself, too.