Maker Faire: full S.T.E.A.M ahead


The annual Piedmont Mini Maker Faire returned for the fourth time to the PHS campus on April 23.

Projects were shown in the quad, the library, student center, and the computer lab.

Piedmont Makers president David Ragones said the faire was made possible by the Piedmont Makers, a non-profit organization with a mission to support and encourage S.T.E.A.M (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) education in Piedmont’s education system and spark interest in the community around these topics.

In fact, the local Makers community is a component of a much larger network of people: the international Maker movement. According to the “Make” website, it all started when founder Dale Dougherty and his team first published the bimonthly “Make” magazine, which brought ideas for creative tech and construction projects to its readers. Over the years, the magazine formed an expansive community of people who share an appreciation for creating things with a do-it-yourself spirit, and Maker Faires became the hubs that brought these people together to share ideas, and inspire each other. This year, there are Maker Faires being hosted all across the world: from Cairo, to Hong Kong, and the flagship faires in Chicago, New York, and San Mateo. Of the people who attend these faires, many of them are students.

“For a lot of students it’s about being inspired about science, technology, and education in math,” Ragones said. “So maybe students who weren’t considering those careers or weren’t considering those subjects in college or professionally, could see all the cool things that happen around S.T.E.A.M and think about taking another course or getting interested in a subject that they weren’t interested in before.”

Ragones said that Maker Faires are a cool way for students to  get inspired about what they can create and find more direct connections between what they learn in the classroom and what people do in college or at work.

Besides producing the local annual Mini Maker Faires, Piedmont Makers also facilitate tech social and makerspace events that encourage students and their parents to come together to create projects or to share and learn about different tech topics.

“[The Makers] saw a void in the educational system and they wanted to fill that in,” computer science teacher Nathan Mattix said. “I think the Piedmont Makers have always seen that as a goal for the community to work with schools to improve the schools.”

Attendees of the Piedmont Maker Faire had a chance to drop by the computer lab to see projects done by students who are taking computer classes.

“[Piedmont Makers] wanted my students to participate in the Maker Faire so I usually recruit some students to show what they are working on in class,” Mattix said. “They project it to the screen or they show people as they come by to their computers.”

In past Mini Maker Faires, students from clubs such as Technovation and Girls Who Code have showcased their projects. Exhibits for the Oculus Rift virtual reality glasses and 3D-printing have also been featured.

“In general, they can expect to see a whole wide variety of technology [and] gadgets made by everybody from elementary school students [up]” Mattix said. “They usually have some parent-student bands that play and they’ve got food trucks. So it becomes more of a fair-carnival atmosphere, where people roam around.”

For this year’s Mini Maker Faire, senior Ryan Padua participated by helping run an exhibit. Padua is a member of the Scotbotics Team,  a non-school affiliated robotics team run by PHS students.

“In the past few years when they’ve had the Maker Faire we’d come and set up our field and we’d show off the robot that we built for that season,” Padua said. “This year there are actually two different teams: The middle school created their own team called the Piedmont Pioneers so they’re going too and we’re going to have little face-offs.”

Maker Faires also present opportunities for students to find support and guidance for their projects.

“Another plus this year is that we’re partnered with the Maker Faire for the first time. So we are under the Piedmont Maker’s banner as a team,” Padua said. “We’ve never really had a set sponsor. We’d like to integrate [Scotbotics] more with the school and doing it with Makers is a pretty cool thing for us.”