In the wake of Boston Mini Maker Faire 2017, the maker momentum keeps rolling here at the Boston Children’s Museum. This summer and fall, we connected our visitors to a number of makers through a brand new program: The Tech Kitchen.

The Tech Kitchen brings together families and local Innovators (makers, technology companies, start-ups, entrepreneurs, inventors, start-ups, local universities, etc.). Innovators are invited, free of charge, to share their prototypes, newest products, or favorite technologies in The Tech Kitchen with some of the over 500,000 adults and children who visit the Museum each year. Museum visitors to the Tech Kitchen get the chance to meet local thought leaders, and gain access to technologies they likely have only heard of. And the Museum is thrilled to be the connector, providing a space where innovation and inspiration meet.

Over the past few months, innovators have worked with our visitors to prototype video games, electronic equipment, state-of-the-art building blocks, and Unruly Splats—just to name a few highlights. We invite any tech-inclined makers to apply for spots in the Tech Kitchen through our online application. Happy making!

 

In October, local innovators from Unruly Studios came to prototype their active STEAM game, Unruly Splats, in the Tech Kitchen. Photo by Alissa Daniels.

We owe a super-mega-ginormous (belated) thank you to all the people who made the 2017 Boston Mini Maker Faire a success! To anyone who attended, sponsored, worked or volunteered at Maker Faire: we cannot thank you enough for joining us to make something wonderful last month.

We hosted 105 Makers who brought their robots, 3D printers, handmade creations, and so much more to share with our visitors. We saw kids learn to solder, watched a Lego robot solve a Rubik’s cube, and laughed out loud at awesome collaborative improv comedy. We tinkered, and drummed, and built, and battled.

We hope that our Maker Faire inspired you to try something new and that you carry the spirit of discovery with you after the Faire. To stay connected with all things Boston Mini Maker Faire, follow us on Twitter. If you’re a Maker, we encourage you to check out the Tech Kitchen at the Boston Children’s Museum and apply for a space!

Thank you from all of us,

The 2017 Boston Mini Maker Faire Team

From the outside, it looks like an ordinary day at Boston Children’s Museum.  Families and local working folks are having lunch, kids are chasing the pigeons, people are texting friends to make plans for tonight.  Inside the museum, kids and families enjoy the exhibits—blowing bubbles, exploring the Japanese House,  creating art.  But if you were to take a peek behind the secret doors, you’d spy a very different  scene. Boston Mini Maker Faire 2017 is just a few days away, and everyone on the Boston Children’s Museum staff is getting ready.

In one room, the Production Team looks over the site plan.  They’re putting the finishing touches on the map and figuring out exactly where each Maker is going to go.  Some Makers need to be inside and some need to be outside; some need a lot of space; some need electricity; some need access to a water faucet.   The team is also working on placement of food trucks, water fountains, dining tables and Port-a-Potties.  It’s a lot to manage.

In another room, staff are stringing together lanyards.  Every Maker will get one.  Nearby, other staff are sorting out the materials needed for the Museum’s own booth at the Faire: the Nerdy Derby, the Human Paint Roller, and Scribblebots.  Upstairs, people are sorting the materials that have been gathered for the Take Something booth, where visitors will be able to pick up all kind of materials and gadgets to take home for their own maker projects! In other places, ticket sales are coming in, emails are being sent, phone calls are being made.

The staff managers are figuring out a schedule for Sunday.   Staff will need to cover the Admissions table and the Information Tent (and the Info Desk inside), as well as assist Makers pack in and out, help visitors find their way around,  reunite families who have gotten disconnected from each other, check tickets, as well as staff usual Museum exhibits. In addition, the staff will be joined by about 40 volunteers. Scheduling all those people into all those locations is a gargantuan task.  The staff managers are sure to drink a lot of coffee while they work it all out.

The Facilities Team is making sure we have all the tents, tables, chairs, signs, stanchions and everything else we’ll need on site on Sunday. With nearly 100 Makers coming, it’s important that we make sure they all have what they need to have a successful day. There’s a Plan B in case of bad weather.  We’ve been monitoring the forecast closely for the last week,  fingers crossed.  As of right now, it’s looking pretty good.

Behind the scenes at Boston Children’s Museum is abuzz with all kinds of activity to make sure this Sunday’s Maker Faire will be a grand success.   It will all be worth it when the crowds arrive on Sunday morning discover the joy of creating, innovating, inventing and….Making! You can still buy tickets here!  We can’t wait to see you!

Big things are coming from the #MakerGeneration. We are proud to host so many accomplished young makers at Boston Mini Maker Faire 2017! Check out this article about #BosMakerFaire17 published by Make: 12 Young Makers to Watch at Boston Mini Maker Faire.

Earlier this month, we hosted our second Mini Maker Weekend, “Project FUNway: Make it Work!” This weekend of STEAM-centered programming focused on self-expression, creation, and experimentation through fashion design.

We set up our Maker Workshop in the Common, where kids and families completed different making challenges. Using vegetables and tempera paint, makers created their own textiles and patterns. We also busted out our sewing machine for mini makers (with the help of grown-ups) to snip, sew, and tie their own up-cycled t-shirts. Young and old designers alike practiced their needlework on two giant burlap collaborative sewing boards. Visitors enjoyed sketching outfit designs at our camouflage station where we challenged them to create a look that would blend into an outdoor scene. To accessorize their looks, some visitors participated in a paper bead making workshop in our Studio space.

However the most beloved activity of the weekend wasn’t anything that involved needles, machines, sketchbooks, or even vegetables. Our “Dress to Express” dress-up corner truly stole the show. From toddlers to teens, our mini makers relished the chance to assemble a ‘look’ and try it out in front of everyone. Kids used everything from royal robes to Darth Vader masks to express themselves, strike a pose, and make each other smile.

We loved this opportunity to design, dress up, and try something new with our visitors. We hope to continue to #MakeItWork with you at Boston Mini Maker Faire on September 17!

Earlier this summer, a coworker sent around this Facebook video. It’s a pretty absurd looking scene; the video shows a gaggle of kids rolling each other around in a giant barrel. Simultaneously, the barrel prints stamp shapes onto a huge sheet of paper on the ground. As my deskmate and I watched the video, people stopped by to smile and laugh at the goofiness happening on screen. I bet you a million dollars that most people were thinking, “Oh how cute… but it’s just one of those things that could only happen on YouTube.”

 

But what does a Maker Mind think when it encounters something weird or confusing or downright unexplainable?  I can’t speak for all makers, but when my coworker and I saw this video, this is how our Maker Minds worked to turn the Facebook video into a reality.

 

  1. “Yes, and…” For those who aren’t familiar with this phrase, “Yes, and” is a famous approach to improv comedy. It means that you are accepting your teammate’s creation and you adding your own ideas to move the scene forward. I think it applies pretty well to making too. A Maker Mind sees a situation, accepts the challenge (‘yes’) and moves it forward with their own questions, ideas, and approaches (‘and…’). In the case of the Human Printing Press, our Maker Minds said, “Yes! This is something we can do! And here’s how we’re going to do it…”

 

  1. Breaking it down. To make the project more manageable, we broke it down into smaller parts. We watched the video a few more times in order to generate a materials list and focused on acquiring the individual pieces before assembling the whole creation.

 

  1. Recycling. I love that the Maker Movement focuses on reuse and creation instead of just consuming. As such, my Maker Mind prioritizes reducing my environmental impact when I’m doing a project. So, when hunting for materials for this human printing press, we looked close by instead of purchasing new stuff. We found an old recycling bin (ironically enough) to use for the tube and some pool noodles leftover from an old project. Furthermore, we found some scraps of paper that we pieced together for our printing surface.

 

  1. Prototyping. Odds are, when you create something you’ve never seen in person before, you’re probably not going to make it perfectly the first time. And that’s okay! It always helps to test out your project before you put it on display. We learned a few lessons while prototyping our project: Mod Podge will NOT attach pool noodles to cardboard and not all pool noodles will print equally.

 

  1. Accessibility. Since we would be rolling out this project (pun intended), at Boston Children’s Museum, we had to make sure that it was accessible to as many Mini Makers as possible. We recognized that not everyone is willing and able to roll around in our human printing press. For our littlest visitors (0-3), we set out paints and brushes so that they could paint the tube if they wanted, or just do finger painting! In addition, we set out some more pool noodle pieces that they could stamp with. These adaptations also work well for visitors with a range of abilities. The sensory experience of painting is great no matter what tools you use. We encouraged visitors to help us roll the tube and invited some fearless visitors (and grownups!) to test out rolling in it themselves.

 

 

We had a great experience creating this project and we’re pretty sure our visitors loved it too. Rising to the challenge provided great exercise for our Maker Minds. We’re grateful to be part of a community that promotes exploration, inquiry, and saying “YES!”. We hope you will join us at the second annual Boston Mini Maker Faire on September 17 as we test this project out once again.

 

 

 

 

One of the things I LOVE about the Maker Faire is how it gives all of us here at the Museum an excuse to MAKE stuff!  Yes, we do that year-round, but the Faire affords us a special opportunity to delve into projects we’ve been thinking about for a while (or saving on Pinterest for a while, or shopping for a while back..!)  This coming weekend, on Friday, July 11th and Saturday, July 12th, we’ll be hosting a “Maker Weekend” to get our juices flowing for the big event.   This weekend’s theme is “Make it Work!” and we’ll be helping kids (and their grownups) find their inner designer/fashionista/model.

Naturally, this provided an excuse to try out several upcycled tee shirt projects I’d been eyeing.   I mean, we can’t very well have a craft program without providing examples, right?  So I raided my (husband’s and neighbors’) closet to find some overlooked shirts that might have a bright future as a tote bag, scarf, or bedazzled top.  Lo and behold, I got bags full, and have spent a morning “recycling” them into fab finds.

Who knew this could be so fun?  I may just have to wear my new “tuxedo tee” out on the town tonight!  If you’d like to see what else we put together, join us this weekend!  More info at bostonchildrensmuseum.org.

On Friday July 14 and Saturday July 15, we held our first of two Mini Maker Weekends here at Boston Children’s Museum.  These weekends are an opportunity for staff and visitors to flex their Maker muscles with some simple Maker projects that will hopefully get everyone excited about the main event in September!

Our theme in July was “Make it Go!”   Projects ranged from creating abstract paintings with rolling golf balls to designing and launching paper rockets, some of which made it 20 feet up!  We also explored different ways of folding paper airplanes, and created a ramp that spanned the whole of Studio A.  All of the projects were done using common inexpensive materials like paper cups, tape, cardboard tubes and empty soda bottles.

 

For a lot of people, “Maker” means someone who is well versed in current technology and uses it to build robots and custom made remote controls.  For people who don’t consider themselves tech-savvy, this can be intimidating.  But making is not limited to high-tech, and in fact, many makers don’t use it at all. Our Mini Maker Weekends are meant to highlight the kinds of projects that kids (and adults!) can do with materials they probably already have lying around at home.

 

Making is not just about the product you create.  Just like in art projects or science experiments, the key part of making is in the process.  Making sparks creativity, develops problem-solving skills, fosters collaborative learning and cultivates a “learn by doing” attitude. Nobody starts out as an expert in anything, but messing around with materials and processes is how you become one, be that as a builder of robots or a folder of complex high-flying, long-gliding paper airplanes.

 

Join us for another Mini Maker Weekend next week for “Project FUNway: Make it Work!” on Friday August 11, 3:00-8:00 and Saturday August 12, 11:00-4:00.   Get your creative juices flowing as we upcycle old T-shirts, create unique fabric designs and lots more!

 

–Alissa Daniels
Science Program Manager, Boston Children’s Museum

That’s right, we’ve extended the deadline for our Call for Makers…the new and improved deadline is Friday, July 28th.  We wanted to make sure everyone who wants to participate had a chance to apply, and one item on our application form needed some tweaking to be just right.  (Nobody said making was a perfect process…even online).  So – there’s still time!

And, as always, if you have any questions or concerns, or just need a nudge to apply, please reach out to us at contact@makerfaireboston.com.   That’s what we’re here for!

 

When we talk about making, we often talk about the things that people make, but the process of how people make things is just as important. Regardless of what it is that you make, making anything involves exploring new ideas, taking risks, making independent choices, and even making mistakes!

Here at Boston Children’s Museum, we encourage all of these activities through our philosophy of self-directed play. Supporting self-directed play means empowering children to learn by exploring their own interests and deciding for themselves what those interests are. For us adults, that often means taking a difficult step back and allowing children to do things differently than how we would do them. Within a safe environment, taking risks is a healthy exercise for children and helps them grow, build their confidence, and make informed choices. Doing all of these things often means making mistakes, which can be difficult for both adults and children to accept, but by making mistakes we learn to chart new paths forward. Supporting self-directed play can be really hard (!) and really uncomfortable (!) but it also leads to amazing bursts of creativity and innovation, and lots and lots of fun.

BCM isn’t the only place you can find self-directed play in action. On a recent trip to New York City, I visited Governor’s Island and discovered play:ground – an adventure playground where children create, design, and interpret “a world of their own making.”

To adult eyes, the space may appear as a just junkyard, complete with old tires, slabs of wood, and tools. But to children, the area is a safe space (monitored by trained adults but away from parents, guardians, and caregivers) where they can engineer their own adventures.

This often means that children need to negotiate the physical space, including unfamiliar tools and materials, and also negotiate with each other in order to work together and solve problems. They can build anything from obstacle courses to slides to climbing walls, and everything in between! Children who visit play:ground – and other adventure playgrounds – have the freedom to make their own choices instead of relying on adults to supply answers or solutions.

We’re looking forward to facilitating more self-directed play and making opportunities here at BCM as we approach our 2nd Annual Mini Maker Faire in September. In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more about play:ground, visit their website here!  To learn more about the history of the adventure play movement, here are some additional resources:

Play:ground: A Brief History of Adventure Playgrounds

NPR: The Value of Wild, Risky Play: Fire, Mud, Hammers, and Nails

The Atlantic: Europe’s Adventure Playgrounds Look Way More Fun

 

 

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