Building, Tinkering, and Inventing at the Eugene Mini Maker Faire

June 18th, 2015 by Deborah Fike

With Contraption Maker being the spiritual successor to The Incredible Machine, we hear a lot of stories of how the original game shaped kids’ lives.  One comment that comes up over and over again is how The Incredible Machine prepared people to delve into science fields, from programming to engineering to medicine.  We here at Spotkin love how games can create engaging learning opportunities, which is why we were excited to be a part of the Eugene Mini Maker Faire.

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Girls building a computer from scratch at the Eugene Mini Maker Faire on Saturday, June 13th.

 

For those of you who are unfamiliar with what a maker faire is, think science, engineering and the arts taken into the DIY inventor space.  At the Eugene Mini Maker Faire, companies and hobbyists were showing off robotics (Lego and otherwise), welding, recycling technology, and weaving projects, just to name a few.  Kids built computers, programmed a robot to write their names, made tall towers out of straws, and even did some 3D printing.  You can see all of the makers who presented here. Everyone together created an interactive county fair meets hands-on learning lab.

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A repurposed sewing machine becomes a steampunk TV stand.

 

Many people might not see where a video game company would fit into a maker faire.  Games don’t necessarily “create” physical objects.  But Contraption Maker is a cool exception to that rule.  While running a demo presentation of the game, I watched 5-year-old boys and elderly ladies alike tinkering around with the game’s Make Mode, trying to build their own crazy machines.  People love being able to play in a system where discovering how parts interact with each other is half the fun.  Case in point, the boy in the picture below had to be dragged away from Contraption Maker.  His parents later informed me that he made this incredible machine later that evening. Invention at its finest.

Kindergarden Contraption Maker

A boy tinkers with Contraption Maker during the Eugene Mini Maker Faire, goes home later to build a better machine.

 

Halfway through the maker faire, I found out that another exhibitor was showing off Contraption Maker.  Our friends at the Eugene, Oregon branch of Coder Dojo was using Contraption Maker alongside Lego robotics to show how fun computer programming can be.  Coder Dojo is a global movement of volunteer-led clubs designed to get kids interested in computer science.  They receive free copies of Contraption Maker through our educational games program.

Coder Dojo uses Contraption Maker to engage kids in computer science.

Coder Dojo uses Contraption Maker to engage kids in computer science at the Eugene Mini Maker Faire.

 

All in all, I’d say Spotkin’s time at the Eugene Mini Maker Faire was a success.  I got to meet a wide variety of people – from curious kids to retired engineers – who were interested not only in Contraption Maker, but in building things.  Since we think learning should be fun and engaging, we support the kind of energy you find at a maker faire.  Finding joy in launching pumpkins via trebuchet, building a wacky laser contraption, and sending a rocket up into the sky makes for the perfect Saturday afternoon.

-Deborah Fike

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