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

Multimedia Obama Defends Immigration Action

Obama says with his executive action on immigration, enforcement resources will be focused on 'felons, not families; criminals, not children' More

US-Led Airstrikes in Syria Kill Over 900: Monitoring Group

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the toll includes more than 50 civilians, five of them women and eight of them children More

Report: Obama Broadens US Combat Role in Afghanistan

The New York Times says resident Barack Obama has signed a classified order extending the role of US troops in Afghanistan for another year 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.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Soul Lounge

Avery Sunshine is known for her irresistible combination of soul, jazz and gospel influences. She’s traveled the world entertaining audiences with her powerful voice, inspiring lyrics and infectious spirit. She joins host Shawna Renee on "The Soul Lounge" to perform and share the stories behind her new album, "The Sun Room."