Maker Faire Atlanta, in Downtown Decatur, is the perfect opportunity to satisfy all of my craft and hobby-fantasy needs. At the Maker Faire, I want and am encouraged to see, touch, do, and create everything in sight. I found myself making paper from cotton fibers and shredded dollar bills, solving a community crossword puzzle, assembling wooden robots from laser-cut pieces, and building simple circuits. As fascinating as it is to be an adult at a Maker Faire, it’s far more entertaining to observe the children both attending and presenting at the faire.
I spoke to two nine-year-old boys with separate tables at the homeschooled tent. Their parents brought them to the Maker Faire as a chance to share their crafts, hobbies, and passions. Yes, passions.
One boy created and sold collectable clay monsters. He imagined a monster, crafted it with clay, baked it to harden the mold, and sold them – obviously – along with a collector’s coin detailing their name and favorite item. I collected Geeko, a lizard-like monster that likes mangos; Slosher, a blob with eyes that likes soft drinks; and Gunk, a three-eyed glow-in-the-dark fellow that likes skunk meat – the creator is nine, remember.
The other boy built finger skateboards; going into great detail about the competitive advantage his finger skateboards have over others on the market (spoiler: the foam on the top of the board increases rider comfort). He also described his journey to find the perfect wheel for a smooth, wobble-free ride (spoiler: wheel bearings do the trick). He also sold Harry Potter wands made of different materials, shapes, and sizes, because wands are diverse and very selective of their wizard.
I started asking each boy real questions to get them thinking about their craft and the world around them. Though, as it became apparent that they were experts in their craft, I felt my questions transition. Instead of pushing their learning, I was asking questions to learn. What’s the advantage of clay over other materials? Why do wheel bearings change the ride smoothness? What wand is just right for me?
Independent of their ages, these two boys represent the true potential of the Maker movement. They are young and passionate about sharing their creations with the world. They are experts in their craft and have spent a lot of time thinking about the authenticity of the product.
As I walked back to my car on a rainy but exciting Saturday, I thought about how much I love seeing people create things with their hands and be passionate. The Maker Faire was an opportunity to recharge my brain and get the creative juices flowing. It’s also a leveled playing field where a nine-year-old can teach a grad student the intricacies of authentic monster creation.