Friday, April 06, 2012
By James Lomuscio
For a town with a long history steeped in the creative process, Westport’s inaugural MiniMaker Faire celebrating invention and set for April 28 at the Westport Public Library seems like a natural to hear Mark Mathias, the event’s founder, tell it.
“The idea of these fairs is to bring people together to share creativity and innovation,” says Mathias, a technology business consultant. “We all have that in us, and we just have to have it unlocked.”
Mathias, a Board of Education member, also sits on the board of directors for CLASP Homes, celebrating its 30th anniversary serving mentally challenged adults in town. To underscore the organization’s work, Mathias came up with the idea for CLASP to join with the library to launch the state’s first Maker Faire, an event that will showcase creativity is it myriad forms, from builders of robots and a submarine to musicians and fine artists.
“There are a lot of Maker Faires going on in the world, and the largest one is in San Jose that’s been going on for six years,” Mathias said. “It’s a two-day event, and it attracts 100,000 people.”
Until this year, the closest one to Westport has been in New York.
“We’ve been going there for the past two years, and after the second one, my kids couldn’t stop talking about it,” Mathias said. “They were interested in learning and seeing things that were crazy, unique and asking why would you think of making such things.”
Coming face to face with those who invent and make things, he continued, is a critical learning experience, especially since “we as a society are a consumer society.”
Open to makers of all ages and backgrounds, the event to be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the library and on Jesup Green will feature engineers, tinkerers, hobbyists, science clubs, students, craftsmen, even commercial exhibitors. Participants will range from from the makers of soap to the builder of a submarine, Mathias said.
Alan Winick, the director of education at the Discovery Museum in Bridgeport, plans to exhibit his 2,300-pound, 8-foot long, yellow submersible submarine, the Explorer, “the fulfillment of a childhood dream.” Built in 1998, the Explorer has completed a series of dives to 120 feet in the Long Island Sound, he said.
“I grew up in the age of Apollo 11 and Jacques Cousteau,” Winick said. “The Explorer’s function is for research, and for young people to believe in themselves and pursue their dreams, whatever those may be.”
Winick is currently updating the submarine, adding a mechanical arm so the pilot can move objects in the water and conduct experiments.
“One of the nice things about these fairs is that you get to meet the maker,” Mathias said. “It’s not reading about it in the book. It’s not seeing it on the computer. It makes it real to people. You’re taking to the person who did it.”
Kerstin Warner, a Bedford Middle School teacher and member of the event’s organizing committee, agreed.
“The cool thing about them is how accessible they are, how open ended and truly creative,” she said. “There’s everything from inventions to workshops on how to make or program things, to circus performers, artists, great food and visitors wandering around in a wide range of costumes.
“It’s anything goes, really,” she added. “We hope hobbyists, enthusiasts and students who tinker outside of the everyday spotlight will join us.”
For further information, visit www.westportmakerfaire.org.
Posted 04/06/12 at 12:49 PM
Great to see the story on the Maker Faire. Free tickets are now available at http://westportmakerfaire.eventbrite.com/.
If you would like to volunteer, please go to http://www.westportmakerfaire.org/contact-us-2/, then select “Volunteer” from the Subject drop-down menu and let us know how you’d like to help.
We look forward to seeing you at the Westport Mini Maker Faire.