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

South Korea Divided on Response to North’s Cyber Attack

In past five years, officials in Seoul have accused Pyongyang of hacking into banks, government websites, causing chaos and inflicting millions of dollars in damages More

Video Calm Amid Fear in Daily Life in S. Sudan’s Bentiu

Residents have been trying to regain some sense of normalcy, but planning for the future remains uncertain as fear of attacks looms More

2015 Could Be Watershed for Syria Conflict

Republican control of US Senate in January could lead to more aggressive policy against IS militants in Syria - and against regime of Bashar al-Assad 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.
Ugandan Doctors Aid Victims of Sudan's Civil Wari
X
Adam Bailes
December 22, 2014 3:45 PM
In Sudan's state of South Kordofan, the number of amputees as result of civil war is in the thousands, but few have access to sufficient medical help. Adam Bailes recently visited the area and says a small team of Ugandan doctors has been providing remote help, producing new prosthetic limbs for those in need.
Video

Video Ugandan Doctors Aid Victims of Sudan's Civil War

In Sudan's state of South Kordofan, the number of amputees as result of civil war is in the thousands, but few have access to sufficient medical help. Adam Bailes recently visited the area and says a small team of Ugandan doctors has been providing remote help, producing new prosthetic limbs for those in need.
Video

Video Jane Monheit Christmas Special

Chanteuse Jane Monheit sings the holiday classic “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and explains why it’s her favorite song of the season.
Video

Video Calm Amid Fear in Daily Life in S. Sudan’s Town of Bentiu

Six months ago, Bentiu was a ghost town. The capital of northern Unity State, near South Sudan’s important oil fields, had changed hands several times in fighting between government forces and rebels. Calm returned in November and since then, residents of Bentiu have been trying to regain some sense of normalcy. Bentiu’s market has reopened there are plans to start school again. But fears of new attacks hang heavy, as Benno Muchler reports from Bentiu.
Video

Video US Business Groups Press for Greater Access to Cuba

President Barack Obama's decision to do all he can to ease restrictions on U.S. trade, travel and financial activities with Cuba has drawn criticism from some conservatives and Republicans. People who bring tourists to the island and farmers who want to sell more food to Cuba, however, think they can do a lot more business with Cuba. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.

All About America

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Soul Lounge

"Soul Lounge" host Shawna Renee catches up with soul singer and songwriter Russell Taylor to hear what he’s been up to since winning the VH1 "You Oughta Know" title in 2013. She also convinces him to share a few songs from his album "War of Hearts."