2014 Mini Maker Faire a swinging success
CAMDEN — You know what’s a refreshing change to see? Kids getting their hands on technology that doesn’t involve a cellphone, iPad or a videogame.
This year’s Midcoast Mini Maker Faire had more than 20 tables, exhibits and hands-on activities involving robots, LEGOs® and funky art creations for kids and adults. The scene resembled a homegrown version of the Museum of Science in Boston. Despite a sweltering humid day, hundreds of adults and kids roamed the Camden Amphitheatre, checking out the unusual displays.
One of the biggest hits of the Faire was the solar Merry Go Round invented by Arthur Haines (see accompanying video). Haines said he’d always wanted to invent a carnival ride and with a few canvas lawn chairs, a metal structure and a couple of small solar panels, he had everything he needed to make it happen.
“I have been designing this for a long time, but we put it together in a week,” he said. Going full speed, this ride packed some serious punch. Kids had to be paired with kids and adults with adults so the weight imbalances wouldn’t topple the ride as Haines chose various songs from his iPad to accompany the Merry Go Round.
On the lawn, a Photo Booth by Darling’s allowed people to dress up in costume and play with the controls inside while on the other side of the lawn, kids were taught how to make enormous bubbles that swarmed around the Amphitheatre, and burst in the faces of people not looking.
Inside the tent, some of the popular activities from last year were back, such as the cardboard robot making clinic taught by Jared Paradee, (a.k.a. Robot Overlord) and CMCA ArtLab, which allowed kids to choose from a wide buffet of LEGOs®, trinkets and an electric drill to make sculptural key chains and pendants.
“My son donated his LEGO® collection for this,” said Marcie Bronstein, an educator at ArtLab.
Techgeeks were in their element as the students of the Regional School Union 13 Lego Robotics Team and The Rockland RoboGeeks showcased some of their LEGO® robotic creations. One was a robot that could be programmed to push a soda can into a recycling bin. (But can they program it to clean up their rooms?)
New exhibits and activities that capitalized on people’s sensory intuition, creativity and imagination included modular origami making by Eva Szillery, who obtained her doctorate in mathematics in Hungary at the prestigious Eotvos Lorand University. She invented fantastical ball-shaped origami models as a way to teach kids mathematic principles.
So many of the exhibits inspired simple projects that can be done at home using household products. Jason Philbrook led a Cynotype hands-on workshop using a simple, 19th century photo process that uses good old sunshine to make a photogram and print negatives. Kids got to coat their papers, make a design, expose it to sunlight for a few minutes, rinse it, then walk away with a blueprint of their design. On the other side of the the tent, Meghan Boyle led her Funky Fermentation demonstration on how to make sauerkraut, using cabbage, sea salt and a basic jar with a lid.
“The microorganisms in the air will simply ferment it,” she said. “I was never really good at canning, so this is much simpler.” Now everybody can be all Martha Stewart when making a Reuben sandwich.
Surprisingly this year, with all the focus on technology, there was an equal focus on art and literary workshops at the Faire. Nancy Tyndall, a puppeteer from Montville, created The Wee Museum of Maine, featuring little books replete with clues and riddles about Maine that kids had to guess in order to open the books in her display. The Farnworth Art Museum’s Ilustrated Six Word Memoir workshop, led by personal historian Meghan Vigeant and artist Alexis Immarino, was equally as popular with people of all ages.
The workshop was inspired by Ernest Hemingway said Vigeant. “It all came from a challenge to Hemingway to write a six-word novel and his was: ‘For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn.’ So, we created this workshop giving people all the tools they need to tell a six-word story about themselves.”
Several tables over, author Dena Davis was working on a Little Free Library, a small, mailbox-like structure that houses free books. There are nearly 15,000 Little Free Libraries across the country, but only about a dozen in Maine.
There were many more exhibitors than we could even cover, but what a creative free for all! Check back for a photo gallery, which tells more of the story and features more exhibitors — coming soon. To find out more about the Midcoast Mini Maker Faire, visit midcoastmakerfaire.com.
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org