Derby Mini Maker Faire 2013

You only have to read the comments left on Derby Mini Maker Faire's Comments Wall to get a feel of how engaging and utterly inspiring the event was for all ages.

The Comments Wall consisted of three posters, all prompting different responses from those who attended Derby Mini Maker Faire. Below are the poster headings followed by a short summary of the responses added to the Graffiti Wall, you can also see the images of these posters in our Derby Maker Faire Photo Album on Facebook.

What did you like best at the Maker Faire today?’

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There is no denying it: Derby Maker Faire was bursting with enthusiasm and this, for one of the Faire-goers, was highlighted as the best part of the event. The beauty of Derby Maker Faire was that there was something for everyone, and the comments on this poster just go to show how diverse the projects were at the Faire. The Mini Makers enjoyed ‘learning how to solder’ and getting the chance to get up-close-and-personal with ‘Big Engines’, ‘CNC Machinery’, and ‘Steam Trains’. Rope Making and the Marble Run were also massive hits on the day! Keep on reading to find out more about these projects and what was happening on the day.

‘What could you make?’

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The comments listed beneath this heading ooze enthusiasm and sheer self-belief, with one comment even going as far as to say that they feel confident enough to build ‘a Rolls-Royce Engine’: inspiration at its best! Other comments ranged from feeling able to make a ‘Rope’, ‘Crochet Flowers’, and ‘Greeting Cards’, to ‘Mini Clay Figures’, ‘a Robot’, and, to quote the most lively comment of the bunch – ‘a mess’!

‘What would you like to see at next year’s Maker Faire?’

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I love the idea of this poster! Not only does it give us at Kitronik an insight into what interests and engages our Mini Makers, but it also urges the Mini Makers into using their own imagination – the imaginations of our future engineers! An idea that automatically jumps out at me is Chocolate Making – I am with you on that one! Some of the Faire-goers want ‘Live Music’ at the next Maker Faire, which had clearly caught the imagination of another passer-by who decided to branch out from this comment with: ‘Yes, maybe some science or sound stuff, pitch demonstrations’. But that was not all, other desired, potential projects include ‘Paper Making’, ‘Giant Lego-type Building Equipment’, ‘Stained Glass Stuff’, ‘Eco Power Sources’, and ‘Titan the Robot’ – all super ideas! There was then the most adorable little comment left at about knee-height, which read ‘3D Dragons! More Sciencse Stouff’ with an incredibly cute dragon drawn just beside it. How sweet?!

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We arrived at the Silk Mill in Derby on Saturday 23rd November 2013 at 08:45, unpacked the cars and headed them off to the car park. Then we began to set up – making it the Silk Mill’s second transformation over the past few months! By 10:30 the Derby Mini Maker Faire was ready and set for the doors to open to the public, leaving us enough time to brace ourselves for the action-packed day ahead and to also have a browse around the other stalls at the event.

To kick-off the event, the Chairman of Derby Museums Trust, Peter Smith, said a few words to welcome everyone to the event, to thank Derby City Council for giving them the brief to renovate the Silk Mill, and to also thank the Museum’s team for delivering on time, on spec, and on budget. Peter Smith then handed over to the Leader of Derby City Council, Councillor Paul Bayliss, who announced how proud he was of the Silk Mill – the site of the world’s first automated factory. Peter Price, the Chief Operating Officer of Engineering and Technology at Rolls-Royce, then formally opened the event by echoing what was already on the minds of many of us at the event: how much of a buzz and enthusiasm was in the room already and how important it was to enthuse people about science, technology, arts, engineering and mathematics.

We had two stands fairly close to the entrance on the right hand side: Laika and Electro-Fashion. We had two Buggies on the go, both controlled by Laika Explorer. The Mini Makers loved zipping the WiFi Buggy around the grounds of the Faire, careful not to cause some serious damage! Our Electro-Fashion Cat Kit drew in crowds of Mini Makers. The idea of combining electronics and textiles was highly respected and even managed to get everyone into the Festive Spirit fairly early with our Rudolph Christmas Decoration – not one to be missed this Christmas!

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As mentioned earlier, Derby Makers' Rope Making project was one of the most memorable activities at Derby Mini Maker Faire. Rope is a very important tool in human history, allowing the earliest inventors to pull heavy objects, connect objects, and bind objects together; extremely simple in design but yet an invention that completely changed the capabilities of man. The Rope Making Project adopts traditional methods of creating rope, which involves twisting small fibres together to create a strong length of rope. During the event we managed to catch a mother and daughter making rope with the help of a Derby Maker. The images below show a Mini Maker simply turning a lever inside the open wooden box continuously, while her mother is to the left of the images holding the tail of the woollen strands. As the lever is turned, the three hooks on the outer side of the box (each tied to four woollen strands) are turned also, which twists the wool and gradually forms a strong length of rope in only a couple of minutes! It seems that our Mini Makers thoroughly embraced the conventional process of Rope Making: they had the chance to build rope, from scratch, with the help of family and friends.

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It seems that projects such as Rope Making and learning how to solder proved to be so successful at the Derby Mini Maker Faire because the Mini Makers were actually given the chance to MAKE. Demonstrations and giving the Mini Makers Robots, Buggies, and all sorts of funky things to play with and look at are all well and good but it seems that involvement is key to Maker Faires.

The Marble Run was another massive hit at Derby Mini Maker Faire. This station at the Faire consisted of white trays, all highly glossed and bordered with a small hole at one end for the Marble Exit. The trays were all at slight angles and overlapped in one way or another to ensure that the marble, when set on its way, was carried smoothly from tray to tray. But the Mini Makers were out to disturb this smoothness! Their task was to create a maze using nuts and bolts, bottle tops, elastic bands, and little Soldier figures, to hinder the ease of which the marble travelled.

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3-2-1 Ignition certainly had the 'wow' factor. They took everyday metal objects such as a dish rack and tied them to string. The string is looped around the Maker's fingers. The dish rack is then hit with a drum stick, making an ordinary 'boing' sound. The Maker is then asked to put their fingers in their ears, with the string still tied onto the Maker's fingers and the dish rack. The dish rack is then hit again, generating an incredibly different sound: a sound that instantly transports you, it seems, to the world's largest clock tower! The Makers were fascinated by this – myself likewise – you must give it a go at home!

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The list of activities at Derby Mini Maker Faire is endless. From Derby Makers' Jam and Pickle stand to the Royal Crown Derby's station of plate painting and decorating, and all sorts of cool handmade things at Nottinghack's stand, there was – quite clearly – something for everyone. I must admit that what was most striking, personally, was the immeasurable level of talent that immersed the Maker Faire.

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Matt Edwards, who was situated roughly in the centre of the Faire, is extremely, extremely talented. At the Maker Faire Matt Edwards repaired old books and spent a lot of the day painting glue onto the spines of books and so forth. See the pictures below to see Matt Edwards at work and to see only a portion of his masterpieces.

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I also felt sheer admiration towards all of the inventors at the Maker Faire, inventors that do not shy away from their dreams no matter how great the challenge. Take Greg Holloway, for instance, who was exhibiting his FishPi. Greg Holloway has the vision of one day having his FishPi sail across the Atlantic Ocean! It sounds like an immensely difficult project to say the least but with a little more work on the automation, FishPi will be fully equipped for that open sea expedition. Watch this space!

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There is just one more station at Derby Mini Maker Faire that I must touch upon (although I could go on), and that is the Optical Illusion Caravan. The caravan was just outside of the Silk Mill and although it looked like an ordinary caravan, the experience was somewhat dissimilar. So, picture this: you enter the caravan and you take a seat beside a few others. Then, all of a sudden, you begin to move. In fact, I don’t believe that the term ‘move’ cuts it! You are made to feel as though you are on a roller coaster. That stomach-dropping sensation is totally convincing. After a few minutes I felt as though I had spent the day at Alton Towers! But how wrong I was. It turned out that we, sat inside the caravan, were not moving at all – the caravan was rotating! Don’t believe me? Check out the photographs below – the bottom of the caravan is facing you! This Maker Faire activity definitely had everyone questioning the strengths of gravity and illusion.

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As expected, Derby Mini Maker Faire was deeply inspiring, educational, but yet fun! We hope that those of you that attended the event enjoyed your visit and we also hope to see you at the Maker Faires yet to come. Until then, keep making!

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