One of the hearts of the Maker Movement are events which bring makers together to show off projects, exchange ideas and skills, and demonstrate their creativity and innovation. While the Northwest has events open to the whole maker community, the NWAIS Maker Fellowship Team wanted to apply the energy and learning potential of these events directly to NWAIS students and teachers. On May 16, 2015, the team hosted the first NWAIS Maker Fest at University Prep in Seattle featuring projects from K-12 students at NWAIS member schools.
Students submitted projects in a wide range of categories, both made for school projects or in-class as well as outside hobbies or interests. While students had a teacher approve their application, the projects were student-designed and -constructed. As students stood with their projects or demonstrated them for the audience, they talked about the design process, their multiple attempts and revisions, and the myriad kinds of learning they experienced through their projects. Some, such as one student's Soccer practice wall, were the result of a personal need, interest or question. Discussing her project, this student described a challenge from her coach to get more "touches" in and practice her ball handling. In response, she built a short wall on wheels that she could move around to and set up whenever she had the opportunity to spend a few minutes on her ball handling. In another project, a group of students described researching and building a CNC router for their school club, following their interests in fabrication and design.
Some projects came directly from in-class work, but demonstrated a wide range of open-ended and creative approaches to a common prompt. One set of projects came from a class reading of "Danny, the Champion of the World." In the book, Danny concocts a plan to trap pheasants in a local competition. After reading the book, students were challenged to design and build their own pheasant traps. In pairs or trios, these students took the same starting challenge and each created their own unique traps and presented them. Talking with each team at the Maker Fest, attendees saw how each used their own ideas to create very different solutions.
Aside from the participating students, teachers and family members, many attendees were from other NWAIS-member schools who either had or were looking to develop their own Maker programs. As the audience circulated amongst the projects, teachers, heads and program directors discussed the various curricular and extracurricular programs developing with the school association and shared ideas and techniques.
The first NWAIS Maker Fest provided over 50 students the opportunity to showcase their creativity and design skills to peers and the maker community at large. Based on conversations with participants and attendees, and in following with good making practice, the team looks forward to developing NWAIS Maker Fest 2.0 in 2016!