Apr 26, 2014 1:05 PM by Mark Waller
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - What amounted to a pop-up, hands-on science museum materialized recently in the gymnasium at Uptown's Joseph P. Lyons Recreation Center. Homemade musical instruments pulsed, 3D printers whirled and handcrafted vehicles of various types parked for display at the New Orleans Mini Maker Faire.
If things turn out the way organizers hope, the one-day festival could start a movement and enduring tradition. San Francisco and New York already have large Maker Faires that attract thousands of people to their showplaces for tinkerers, hobbyists, technology enthusiasts and do-it-yourselfers.
The maker movement encourages both children and adults to learn through building things and collaborating with each other, New Orleans co-founder Cameron MacPhee said.
"I was interested in getting to know more about this movement, this culture," he said. "It's a very egalitarian spirit, this open-source spirit, about the movement. It's open and available to anyone."
MacPhee said he wants engineering to join music and food among the cultural fixtures influencing New Orleanians as they grow up. "I'm really hoping that streak of high-tech, inventive stuff gets rooted in a younger crowd," he said.
Some of the fundamentals already are established in New Orleans, seen in the traditions of people constructing their Mardi Gras costumes and floats for walking krewes. Members of the Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus had some of their self-propelled parading contraptions on display.
Other exhibits included electric motorcycle conversions, an audio and video poetry-making system, the science of bubbles, screen printing demonstrations, coffee roasting, a wood turning lathe, pinball machine modifying, amateur radio, pizza-making contraptions, a drone airplane and more.
The Maker Faire took place in conjunction with the newly launched Bricolage Academy charter school in New Orleans and partly served as a fundraiser for the school.
But other maker-oriented groups are appearing, such as the Maker Krewe, a four-hour Saturday program for elementary school students started in September by teacher Oskie Creech.
"I wanted something alternative to the overly structured school day," said Creech, who ran a project room at the Faire. "It's open build, all creativity driven."
Bob Armbruster and his first grader son Jack attended and have been attending Maker Krewe weekends and hope the movement grows.
"One of the things our country has gotten away from is the manufacturing side," Armbruster said. "We don't make anything anymore."
As his son wired buzzers and light-emitting diodes to 9-volt batteries, through a switch, Armbruster said, "This is the fundamentals of engineering right here."
Mia Bagneris had a prekindergarten daughter and fifth-grader son at the Maker Faire. She'd heard of these events in other places and said she was excited to see it come to New Orleans. She's also been visiting Creech's Maker Krewe and said it gives her son an outlet for his interest in technology.
"It's sort of a merger of creativity and technology," Bagneris said. "It was something to get him out of just playing video games all the time."