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5 Reasons Why We Go to Maker Faire

Maker Works Soapbox Derby Race Track

Maker Works Soapbox Derby Race Track- click for larger view!

Sunday afternoon found us in a bright and bustling lot adjacent to the Henry Ford admiring home-made props, learning about alternative energy and currency, throwing darts, betting on wooden derby cars, and conversing with makers from across the country. The 5th Maker Faire Detroit welcomed thousands of people to a place filled with imagination and innovation, and we felt right at home.

Why do we go to the Maker Faire every year? We certainly had a great time last year, but why go more than once? As at other events, there’s a number of booths and groups who come to the Maker Faire each year, and not everything on display is brand new ideas or merchandise. Nonetheless, we have made a point of attending the Maker Faire each year, and we will almost certainly go next year.

Here’s why:

Innovation: Can you make it faster, better, cheaper — or at home? One of the coolest things I saw was a wheelchair modified with a lift to aid the user in standing up. A teenager from Ohio had built the equipment with parts from a hardware store for about $400, compared to the $4000 and up specialized chairs on the market.

Dalek Bowie

Imagination: The Maker Movement is full of people using their imaginations to make what they want. We saw a Dalek Bowie mash-up costume that a young woman had handcrafted and was happily showing off.

Creativity: Endless amounts of this on display! One of our favorites this year was the Maker Works display. Their whole tent was devoted to a single feature: making and racing a soapbox derby car, from woodblock to the finish line. We watched people of all ages sketching their designs, waiting for them to be cut on a saw, and adding wheels and extra features from the stash of recycled parts provided by the Scrap Box. The joy on the faces and the buzz of excitement in that tent was obvious.

A sturdy DaVinci Bridge made of 2 x 4's

A sturdy DaVinci Bridge made of 2 x 4′s

Building a DaVinci Bridge

Building a DaVinci Bridge

Conversation: We had a lot of good conversations on Sunday. Many of them began with that ever-popular conversation starter– paying serious attention to someone’s work. Jim is a master of conveying engagement in art or craft that captures his interest. When you take the time to examine an object or idea that another person has crafted, you are giving that person a gift which he or she shouldn’t take lightly. We also learned all day because we asked a lot of questions. I learned how to assemble a DaVinci bridge with the aid of a helpful volunteer.

Inspiration: Having an enjoyable outing is always a plus, but Maker Faire is an event that inspires attendees to go out and do something. I left with a stash of ideas to try at home.

What if you lack workspace, or tools, or skill? We were excited by the number of makerspaces from near and far that represented at the Maker Faire. I’m sure we didn’t see them all, but some of the local groups included Maker Works (Ann Arbor), All Hands Active (Ann Arbor), GR Makers (Grand Rapids), Mt Elliot Makerspace (Detroit), i3 Detroit (Ferndale), and TechShop (Allen Park). Each of these places offers tools, training, space and camaraderie, so you don’t have to wait to make something exciting.

See you next year at the Maker Faire!

Posted in • Making.

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The Power of a Second Chance: The Valedictory Speech I Didn’t Give


For the last couple of years, I’ve worked in an alternative education high school program. It doesn’t matter which one really; these types of programs exist all over. Ours is part of the public school system, and it’s designed to give the students who need and want it one last chance to finish high school and graduate with a diploma– not a Good Enough Diploma, but a real diploma issued by their high school.

This week, our most recent graduates gathered in a large room filled with family and friends.

Posted in • Sitting Still.

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Daffodils to celebrate Spring

Daffodill narrow

After one of the longest, hardest winters ever, signs of spring are especially welcome. Nothing says “spring” quite like daffodils popping up in the garden. Their bright yellow or white and orange heads are a cheery contrast to the just-waking-up surroundings.

Posted in • Growing.

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Transplanting Strawberries: How to help them thrive!

Strawberry plants

When the school program where I work was preparing to move to a new building, I heard about the abandoned garden in the schoolyard– and the strawberries. Another teacher expressed dismay that the strawberries would be left behind, that is, if they had survived. Since I was returning to the building another day, I brought along a shovel, gloves, and a couple of planter– just in case. I haven’t grown strawberries myself, but the thought of transplanting strawberries to the 20 minute garden and giving them a chance was very attractive.

Posted in • Growing.

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Gardening as Protest: Activists Planted Tulips in Potholes in the Ukraine

Tulips in Potholes

Reports from around the internet say that activists in the Ukraine launched a unique protest on the terrible condition of roads. Unknown protesters planted tulips and other flowers in potholes along major streets.

Posted in • Growing.

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