Alibi V.26 No.33 • Aug 17-23, 2017 

Culture Shock

Something for the Makers

Spoiler alert: We're all makers

3-D printing
3-D printing is hands-on at the Mini Maker Faire
Craig Goldsmith
Once a year for the past six, science dressed up as a raucous party comes to Albuquerque to celebrate art and invention. What all the tinkering and craft and technology ultimately equals is the Albuquerque Mini Maker Faire, an event that explores the intersections of science, technology, craft and art. “The maker ethos and community is about reconnecting human beings to that part of us that loves to make things, whether it is a cake or a robot or a new outfit,” Charel Morris, the executive director of the local arm of the international Maker Faire movement, explained. “As human beings we've survived on this planet because we've learned to make what we need, and in the last generation or so, we have shifted from 'What can I make?' to a consumer society.” That is—what can I afford?

We live in a world of wonders—digital cameras, smartphones, drones, computers, tablets and on—but though we buy it and live among all this technology, its not really ours. “In the tech world,” Morris said, “there's a t-shirt that says, 'If you can't take it apart, you don't own it.' … So much of the technology we buy, if you unscrew anything, your entire warranty is null and void. So you now own it, but you can't look inside, even if you're just curious.” Maker Faires encourage visitors to forge a deeper connection to the stuff around us by literally delving into technology (as well as homespun inventions). Here, there are dedicated stations where the curious can sit down and take apart the kinds of technology we're usually not allowed to touch. It’s this sort of hands-on tinkering that is at the core of the do-it-yourself enlightenment that is the maker movement—the most obvious extension of which is the Maker Faire.

The Albuquerque Mini Maker Faire will host soldering stations, “Take-a-Part(y)” courtesy of Quelab, and stations manned by the likes of Intel, Sandia Labs, Make Santa Fe, Albuquerque Game Developers Guild and the New Mexico Lego User Group—to name a precious few of the participants. At these wildly variant stations, visitors of all ages can explore things like rocket building, block printmaking, puzzle and maze design, a seed library, local history, rug crafting and much, much more. That's part of the idea of the Maker Faire—to expose people to a variety of activities—because you never know what will capture their imagination.

Children explore the multitude of ways one can be a maker
Children explore the multitude of ways one can be a maker
Craig Goldsmith

“That's a huge part of what maker faires are about,” Morris continued, “to give our families and kids and grandparents the chance to come out and see what the options are, to see what they might be excited about.” In fact, many people see the Maker Faire as a shining example of the hands-on future of education. In Pittsburgh, a dedicated “Maker City,” new initiatives have secured space in many junior high and high schools that have had resounding impact on graduation rates and career development. “What triggers a love of learning?” Morris asked. The answer: It is as unique and particular as a fingerprint. Allowing students the opportunity to explore the myriad ways to make is how they uncover it. “It's about turning the creative process back over to the student and to the people,” she said.

The bar for entry is low. As an organizer, Morris always encourages participants to have a project on display that some might consider a failure, though she waves off the notion that failing is ever a waste of time. “Mistakes are actually just course correction!” she gleefully declared. “I'm sure even Da Vinci had his off days.” For many years, working in an entirely different field, Morris didn't realize that the creative energy of an event, or more accurately, a movement such as this, was missing from her life. “I now see people making real breakthroughs … I missed seeing people realize that they had skills and talents and abilities and getting excited about it.” What's irrefutable is that we all have unique insights that we bring, and we can be creative in whatever ways move us. “I wanted to be part of waking up people to realizing that everyone in this world is a maker. We all have the ability, we just need to wake up to it, find the niche that makes us come alive.”

For folks of nearly every milieu, the Albuquerque Mini Maker Faire allows for the possibility to discover what makes them come alive. And one of their main objectives is making the potentially life-changing event accessible. As such, tickets for adults clock in around $10, while kids, senior citizens, and active or retired military are just $5. The Faire will come alive at the Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum (9201 Balloon Museum NE) on Saturday, Aug. 26, and Sunday, Aug. 27. More details can be found online at albuquerque.makerfaire.com.

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