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"Ursus Redivivus" is a sculpture of a California grizzly bear made with recycled parts from a dismantled escalator.

East Bay Mini Maker Faire instills creativity in local youth

on November 3, 2014

Bright banners flapped in the warm breeze, announcing the advent of the fifth East Bay Mini Maker Faire at Park Day School in Oakland. The event held on October 19, which drew close to 200  “makers” and 7,000 attendees, is an annual gathering of inventors, technologists, engineers, science clubs and artists. Some came to enjoy the 170 projects, such as mini-robots, a home-made butter shaker and a clothing swap. Some came for inspiration about avant-garde sculptures and room decorations. Others came simply to recharge. All of them were celebrating the “maker movement,” the growing community of creative and curious people interested in do-it-yourself projects.

“Today is very special, because the campus is able transform in ways that reinforce what we do all year round, which is maker-oriented, hands-on learning,” said Jon Kidder, head of Park Day School as he sat beside the booths. “We’ve been doing this for 38 years. So it is our fifth annual Mini Maker Faire, and we have been doing maker stuff since before there was really a maker movement. So when those things combine, it allows us to do some innovative, experimental things for the community.”

At the butter booth, volunteers handed jars of heavy cream to people, asking them to shake it for six minutes to separate the heavy butter and a thin milky leftover, which becomes buttermilk. “It is very nice because most people don’t know the process,” said Anna Campbell, an event volunteer whose children attend Park Day School. “Most kids think that you just buy it out of the store. They don’t know that it came from the cow, and then it came to be somebody’s work. “

More than 200 Park Day School parents and volunteers took shifts to support the event, like Jennifer Cooper, the school’s gardening teacher as well as the organizer of Nerdy Derby, a project for kids to build race cars in creative ways and test their cars on a track. “We use it in various class projects, where they learn about momentum, speed and are able to track that and do the mathematic calculation,” Cooper said. “So the track is a great learning instrument, as well as a fun thing for the kids to do.”

“Learning in any form is good for kids,” said Cecelia Clark, also known as “Swap Mama,” organizer of the clothing swap at the event. “Learning what they can do and what they can’t do—football, sewing—it just gives them the ability to understand their body and use their hands to know they can.”

Other projects included a sculpture, “Ursus Redivivus,” of the California grizzly bear made using recycled materials from a dismantled escalator. It was created by sculptors and makers Alex Nolan and Chad Glashoff. “This sculpture is actually paying homage to this noble creature. ‘Ursus Redivivus’ in Latin means ‘bear reborn,'” Glashoff said. “It is about sustainability too. Taking things that we no longer use, repurposing them in a way that turns them into treasures again. “

Other projects targeted environmental problems. For example, Farm Curiosity is a project to help kids reconnect with the food system by providing cheese-making kits, fermenting sets and knowledge about how to raise backyard chickens. At another booth, people were showing a project called, “Seedles,” a rainbow-colored seed ball that allows people to throw it and grow wildflowers to support the declining bee population.

“The idea behind the maker movement is bring us back to where we used to be, which is that people had experience building things with their hands, designing, redesigning, working in teams,” Kidder said. “That’s how human have always created innovation. And with the modern era, we’ve been getting away from that—the idea of building things in your garage, sewing things yourselves and designing things. So the idea behind maker movement is to inspire confidence and skill so that people could learn how to do that themselves.

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Photo by Basil D Soufi
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