News / Arts & Entertainment

New York 'Maker Faire' Lures Scientists, Artists

Ground Zero at the New York Maker Faire, which was held at the New York Hall of Science, on the grounds of the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair (VOA/A. Phillips)
Ground Zero at the New York Maker Faire, which was held at the New York Hall of Science, on the grounds of the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair (VOA/A. Phillips)
Adam Phillips
Whether it is knitting a sweater, painting a picture, designing a computer program or fashioning a new artificial heart valve, the desire to make stuff seems to be a hardwired human trait.  The spirit of making in all its forms is what the “Maker Faire" celebration, held every year in scores of locations worldwide, is all about.  

With its hectares of colorful demonstration tables, hands-on exhibits, science-based games, performance stages and ad hoc “play islands,” the Maker Faire in Queens is equal parts festival, open air university and makeshift community, albeit one with a decidedly scientific bent.  

Genevieve Beatty, 11, her sister Camille, 13, and her father Robert stand proudly next to a robot model of the Mars Lander, about a meter-and-a-half high, that Genevieve says they built themselves.

Genevieve Beatty, 11, stands in front of the Mars model robot she made with her sister Camille and her father, Robert. (VOA/A. Phillips)Genevieve Beatty, 11, stands in front of the Mars model robot she made with her sister Camille and her father, Robert. (VOA/A. Phillips)
x
Genevieve Beatty, 11, stands in front of the Mars model robot she made with her sister Camille and her father, Robert. (VOA/A. Phillips)
Genevieve Beatty, 11, stands in front of the Mars model robot she made with her sister Camille and her father, Robert. (VOA/A. Phillips)
"Most of the ones that we built roll, like they have wheels, and some crawl and a few fly.  It is just fun to work with my dad and my sister," she said. "I do all the inside, the electronics and soldering and stuff like that."
 
Genevieve’s father Robert notes that his other daughter, Camille, had a natural interest in mechanical things.  She would take apart household appliances to understand how they worked.  The three began assembling items with transistors and LED lights.  Before long, the two girls asked to build a robot.
   
“... And that was pretty scary, but I thought okay if we really do a lot of research we will be able to figure out how to do it," said Beatty. "So we just started learning on YouTube and various website and trying to construct a little robot.""

In two years, the family has made nearly 35 robots, including several that were commissioned by science museums.  But the main point, says Beatty is fun, family and education.
    
“I often do not know the subject of what we are trying to learn, but we learn it together, or I teach it to them and they do all the work," he said. "And that way they stay super engaged.  As soon as I take over and try to do it myself, that is boring, and they go off and do something else.  The key is to get them to do the work themselves.”

Hobby machinist, Dave Seff, likes to do his making strictly solo.  His “plasma cutting torch” cuts a piece of steel about 13 millimeters thick into a sign for his business.
 
“I can take a jpeg, any kind of image from Photoshop, as long as it is a black and white high contrast image, and I can take a silhouette from that, I have a piece of software that can then turn that into coordinates that tells the machine where to go in space to turn on and off the torch to actually cut each one of these little pieces out,” he said.

Three-dimensional printing was one of the most popular areas of this year’s Maker Faire.  At one booth, a young designer named Todd Blatt sold uniquely shaped day-glo jewelry he made with software, nylon powder and know how.

A display of three-dimensional “printed jewelry” on display. (VOA/ A. Phillips)A display of three-dimensional “printed jewelry” on display. (VOA/ A. Phillips)
x
A display of three-dimensional “printed jewelry” on display. (VOA/ A. Phillips)
A display of three-dimensional “printed jewelry” on display. (VOA/ A. Phillips)
“I focused on designs that could not be made with traditional manufacturing methods," he said. "So I have things that are linked together with no seams and metal pieces that are [three-dimensionally] printed in shapes that you could not make molds out of.  So it is really exciting to make these things that could not exist otherwise.”
 
Blatt’s process seems straightforward if not simple.  He draws the object he wants in using computer software, and sends it to a three-dimensional printer, that melts nylon powder with a laser and “grows” the physical object one ultra-thin layer at a time.
 
“You can make products or you can make jewelry and movie prop replicas and clothing accessories - anything you want,” he said.

Not everyone here is high-tech.  At a table manned by the Brooklyn-based “Fixer’s Collective,” Vincent Lai has just shown people how to repair a toaster and rewire a lamp, and is on to a vintage HP computer tablet with a cracked screen.

“And we feel very comfortable being here because we also believe that fixing and repair is a strong part of the making process," he said.  "Because as you create, and as you shape, and as you whittle and scrape, you are going to run into roadblocks.  And that is where your fixing skills need to come into play.  So we want to emphasize that part of the making process.  Spiritually speaking, a lot of people have been drifting away from ‘hands on.’  We want to bring that ‘handedness’ back ...”

There are too many offerings to savor at the Maker Faire, hundreds of delights - from rocketry to crochet, ham radio and bio-tech.  One thing is clear, the spirit of making, in all its all-too-human variety, is alive and well here and at scores of other Maker Faires worldwide.

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs

New in Music Alley

Border Crossings: Nnekai
|| 0:00:00
...  
🔇
X
August 26, 2015 2:42 PM
Nigerian singer, songwriter Nneka sits down with Border Crossings host Larry London to perform songs from her latest CD, "My Fairy Tales" and to talk about her inspirations and influences.

Nigerian singer, songwriter Nneka sits down with Border Crossings host Larry London to perform songs from her latest CD, "My Fairy Tales" and to talk about her inspirations and influences.