This weekend I went to Maker Faire Atlanta. Maker spaces have been on my mind for the last year. I have looked into 3-D printers, laser cutters, Arduinos, sewing machines, jewelry making, stop-motion videos – the list goes on. There is so much to offer, but where to start. No one wants to purchase expensive equipment that will sit untouched. I want to know what will attract people and keep them engaged with the library and each other. So far I have decided on a mobile maker space, but what to add. A grant opportunity is looming so now is the time to strike. I took to the streets to observe what the people wanted.
The first exhibit drew my attention. It was surrounded by a dozen little boys and I soon discovered why. Two homeschool parents and their children had a table full of “Weapons of Miniature Destruction.” Now, I do not condone weapons, but those kids were having a lot of fun with the crossbows, catapults and other “implements of mayhem” made from clothespins, rubber bands and Popsicle sticks. The kids wore safety goggles and aimed beans at a cardboard castle. As I picked up the catapult, I could not help but admire the engineering and the spirit of sharing that led this group to share their talents with other makers. I quickly moved on before I was blinded by a bean.
Next, I saw a librarian helping children sew LED lights into fabric squares. The children and librarian had so much patience. I didn’t even know that kids knew how to sew these days. There were flying machines, screen painting, and a kite making table. A mobile maker space truck soon caught my eye. In front of the truck, were mini-maker trunks set on a table. Taped to each trunk was a maker challenge. Inside the boxes, there were everyday materials such as fabric, paper cups, pipe cleaners and tape. The table was so crowded I had to wait in line to peek over the kids’ shoulders. Moving on, I saw people making Morse code bracelets and trying a Morse code machine, using various keys to find the right lock, terrariums, more LED light stations, and of course lots of 3-D printers. Unfortunately, the only people demonstrating squishy circuits did not show up. I guess I have to make my own.
I was surprised at how popular the no-tech and low-tech stations were with the kids. So what is my take away? I should listen to the many people who have urged hesitant folks like me not to become intimidated or stymied by the big flashy items. Those kids really enjoyed those Popsicle catapults and so did I.