Ann Arbor's 5th annual Mini Maker Faire brings creators together under one roof
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It's not about selling or showing off what you can do; the Ann Arbor Mini Maker Faire is about fostering creativity, learning and coming together as a community, event organizer Emily Puckett Rodgers said.
The fifth annual Mini Maker Faire was held Saturday in the Morris Lawrence Building at Washtenaw Community College.
The event brings community members together to share what they’re making and what they’re doing, Rodgers said.
Exhibitors set up booths and teach others about what they’re doing and how they’re doing it. Children and adults alike flock to stations to learn anything from how to solder to how to create a 3D pop-up book.
“It connects people to each other through their skills and talents,” Rodgers said. “If we didn’t have events like this we’d be working alone and it would be difficult to foster new ideas.
"The Mini Maker Faire allows for transparency and participation. Those are important parts of creation.”
In past years, between 1,500 and 2,000 people attended the faire, but this year event organizers expected that number to be higher, Rodgers said.
“We’ve had double what we had last year for pre-registration alone,” Rodgers said. “With people able to get in without registering as well, we expect to see a much larger crowed. This year we’ve had better promotion, stronger connections with schools and it’s the fifth year so community members are starting to hear about it.”
The biggest change to the faire this year is location as well as the addition of a speaker series that features five groups that talk about their creations and answer questions, Rodgers said. She noted that there are also a lot of younger exhibitors this year.
One of the many young exhibitors was 10-year-old Joey Simon, who ran the Mine Craft Paper Craft table, an exhibit flanked with two touring figures made of boxes and paper squares. Foldable cut-outs allowed visitors of the booth to create their own mini versions of the larger figures.
“We measured boxes and glued paper squares to it and for the arms we made them bendy with zip ties,” Simon explained, keeping in touch with the mantra of the event: share and teach.
Simon pointed to the foldable models kids visiting the booth were putting together and said he makes them at home all the time.
“I wanted to show other people how to make them, too,” Simon said. “I’ve been to this faire a few times before and I thought it would be fun to have a booth of my own.”
Across the room filled with tables covered in creations, exhibitors and those looking to learn was the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum exhibit featuring a Kaleidograph program that allows users to manipulate shapes. The Hands-On Museum has participated in the event since it began in 2009, but this year it was also a sponsor.
“We decided to sponsor the event because we want to encourage kids to embrace science and be inspired by all the people and things being created here,” museum director Mel Drumm said. “The Mini Maker Faire allows people to get close to science and technology without being scared by it and to be a part of it is an honor.”
Karl Zinn, a trustee of the Hands-On Museum, pointed to a steam demonstration at the next table where a reproduction of an ancient steam turbine was being explained to a group of onlookers. Bare pipes, knobs and a metal wheel sat at the booth emitting steam and whistling periodically.
“It’s so open and exposed,” Zinn said. “The kids just love it. Those kids are playing and watching just for the fun of it, but the exhibitors and their parents are there telling them what it means and they’re learning. That’s what’s so great about it.”
The Mini Maker Faire attracts not only children, but adults and teens too. Rows of people varying in age sat at the All Hands Active exhibit to learn how to solder.
“The soldering is always a huge hit for both kids and adults,” All Hands Active worker Josh Williams said. “This is my third time at the Mini Maker Faire. I keep coming back because there’s always something new and where else can you learn this stuff, especially when you aren’t in school anymore.”
Ann Arbor is currently the only branded Mini Maker Faire, but Rodgers said there are others in the works.
“This sort of event is not just an Ann Arbor or southeast Michigan thing,” Rodgers said. “It’s a global movement and nationally, people are starting to realize what this sort of community participation can produce. Maker Faires and similar events are cropping up all over.”
Chelsea Hoedl is an intern reporter for AnnArbor.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.