Yesterday we headed up to the wonderful Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester to attend our first Maker Faire. What is a Maker Faire I hear you ask? Well, I think the official website makes a pretty good job of summing it up:
Part science fair, part county fair, and part something entirely new, Maker Faire is an all-ages gathering of tech enthusiasts, crafters, educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers, science clubs, authors, artists, students, and commercial exhibitors. All of these “makers” come to Maker Faire to show what they have made and to share what they have learned. (Source: Maker Faire website)
I didn’t know what to expect of our first Faire, but thought it ought to be a fun family day out. So we bundled the kids into the car and set off into the unknown.
We loved it! As soon as we walked through the door there were things to see, but more than that – things to touch, things to do, and people keen to talk about what they were doing and how they were doing it. The first thing we saw was a new board game being launched later this month which aims to build kids maths skills, whilst allowing players of all ages and different mathematical abilities to play together. From there we moved onto the display from Hackspace Manchester which included this giant Etch-a-sketch:
and a life-sized version of the Operation game I remember from my youth:
We spent five or six hours working our way from stand to stand. Seeing stuff, touching stuff, trying stuff. The kids met a robot. The geekson wasn’t convinced, and this was the closest he would get to it:
Whereas the geekdaughter was more confident, and happily stood next to it to have her photo taken:
All of us spent a while playing with these great table top arcade systems based on the Raspberry Pi – apparently the UK’s first official Kickstarter project. The geekdaddy confessed to me he’d wanted to invest but we hadn’t had the cash available at the time.
Given that this could replace the full sized replica arcade machine cabinet that the geekdaddy built some years ago now, which is taking up valuable space in our spare room at the moment, I might let him get one depending on how much they cost after the initial Kickstarter-funded systems ship, which should be this month.
It was great for the kids to be able to do science. Science stuff that was very familiar to the geekdaddy and I, but that they hadn’t seen before. A simple Van def Graaf generator gave them the chance to make lightening:
The geekdaughter had a go at making a giant bitmap icon – it’s a flower:
But the highlight of the whole day for both the geekdaddy and me was when the geekdaughter wanted to have a go at making her own flashing LED badge – £3 bought you all the components you needed and there was a long table manned by volunteers who would tell you how to solder it all together. Yes, my five year old did her first soldering:
The BBC Research and Development team were there as well, which gave us the chance to tell them to their faces how much we love and use iPlayer. They were demonstrating some new technology which enables the programming of apps through your television, by using a TV remote to control a little knitted dalek:
Having never been to a Maker Faire of any kind before, I had no idea whether this one would be suitable for a five year old and a three year old. Although the geekson did get a little bored from time to time there was still plenty for him to do, and both kids really enjoyed it. As I said to the geekdaddy as we left, this kind of thing is just going to get more and more fun for us all as they get older.
The geekdaddy’s verdict was emphatic – we have to come back to the next one!
I’m going to be keeping an eye on the Manchester Mini Maker Faire website, hoping that they’ll announce dates for next year soon. In addition they also advised me via Twitter that I might also enjoy the Manchester Science Festival which is taking place at MOSI from 24th October to 2nd November this year. I’ve put the dates for that in our calendar and hope we can make it!