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)
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)
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

HRW: Egypt's Trial of Morsi ‘Badly Flawed’

Human Rights Watch says former Egypt leader's detention without charge for more than three weeks after his removal from office violated Egyptian law; government rejects criticism More

Photogallery Lancet Report Calls for Major Investment in Surgery

In its report published by The Lancet, panel of experts says people are dying from conditions easily treated in the operating room such as hernia, appendicitis, obstructed labor, and serious fractures More

Music Industry Under Sway of Digital Revolution

Millions of people in every corner of the Earth now can enjoy a vast variety and quantity of music in a way that has never before been possible More

This forum has been closed.
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.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs

New in Music Alley












Harry Wayne Casey – “KC” of KC and the Sunshine Band – comes to VOA’s Studio 4 to talk with "Border Crossings" host Larry London and perform songs from his new album, “Feeling You! The 60s.”