Why I love the Ann Arbor Mini Maker Faire

The sixth annual Ann Arbor Mini Maker Faire is less than a week away (join us if you’re in the area!). I really enjoy being part of this community that comes together for one day to celebrate creativity, learning, passions, and being together. It’s inspiring to see the ideas other people have brought to life and to experience it myself.

A few weeks ago, I spoke at Nerd Nite Ann Arbor and I thought I’d share my slides and notes from the presentation here as well.

Hi. I’m Emily Puckett Rodgers. My day job is as a librarian at the university of Michigan Library. In my spare time for the past two years I’ve been working with an awesome group of people to organize and put on the Ann Arbor Mini Maker Faire.  A2MMF is in its sixth year.

I’d like to give you some background on myself. I wouldn’t really consider myself a maker. I don’t build.  I don’t code. I can sort of sew in a straight line. But I did have an upbringing that primed me to participate in the Maker community that has emerged the past few years. This is a photo of my dad’s cake at his retirement party.  When I was little, I used to think my dad had two jobs: one as a computer analyst at the university in my hometown and one as a ham radio operator.

Dad is really into ham radio. He was the faculty liaison to the college radio station. He was a regional chapter organizer. He built his own computers and radios and I grew up with a hot soldering iron in the house. He used to stay up late at night talking to people all over the world–with morse code and voice contacts. My mom is also a teacher and she told me stories all the time about what it was like to teach kids in our community and really make a difference in the lives of others. He also supported a big community of hams in the area and we were always going to cookouts and taking trips to the middle of nowhere to 1) install 2) fix a huge antenna.  I grew up with an extended family of nerds and a love of taking things apart and putting them back together, either to make them better or to create something totally new.

I became a librarian because I was inspired and empowered by my public library.  I didn’t use it as a kid–I worked there in high school.
Libraries are really made up of people and the things people can do together, with information, and resources, is incredible and life changing.
So I came here, to U-M, to go to the School of Information.

At school I didn’t just learn about how to be a librarian. I learned about how people seek information and make sense of it. I learned about working with users to figure out solutions to information needs. I also hacked around in design jams and sought out community organizations to work with.

After I got out of school, I started getting more involved in community activities. Here I am with a friend at the 2010 Ann Arbor Mini Maker Faire, the second year it was held.  I was super inspired by the Ann Arbor Mini Maker Faire. It ignited an interest in taking some more control and ownership over my own life and learning how to make things for myself.  It was the melding of my professional life as a librarian and growing up with a teacher and a ham radio operator for parents. I also got involved in the A2Geeks nonprofit. First as a speaker at Ignite, and now as a board member.

Helping to organize the Ann Arbor Mini Maker Faire is one of the most rewarding volunteer experiences I have ever had. I get to do all of these things by being part of such a diverse, passionate community. The best part is I get to see and experience first-hand all the awesome makers who come together from our area each year.

The best part about a Maker Faire is that it’s hands on.  You don’t just walk away with great ideas, you walk away with new skills. Everyone who exhibits is there to teach you something and share their experiences and ideas with you. I’d like to give you a few examples of awesome makers from last year’s faire with quotes from our own community members about what a Maker Faire is all about to them. A whole bunch of people participate in this: maker communities in Lansing, artists, hobbyists, entrepreneurs, and community organizations like the Ann Arbor District Library and the Hands On Museum.

We had some of our youngest mini Makers at this year’s faire. One was this awesome kid (Joey Simon) and his family who came with huge minecraft models they’d made out of paper. The son had attended Mini Maker Faires in the past but this year he was ready to be a maker.
His parents helped him out and he spent the whole day teaching other kids how to build these models. It was teamwork at its best.

Common Cycle also came to the faire this last year and set up their bike repair stand. They teach folks how to fix their bikes so that they can feel more confident riding and have great bike riding experiences. They’re just one example of the many other organizations in our area, like Nerd Nite, that are passionate about sharing what they know with others to support their community.

Finally, we always have folks like Michael Flynn, who could be called a scientist artist inventor. He brings things like the cloud bean to Mini Maker Faires that are pure whimsy and science at its most beautiful. He created this out at Maker Works, which is a big makerspace that supports the Ann Arbor Mini Maker Faire each year. It was pure delight to hang out in the cloud bean and to watch kids get really excited about the wonders of science, creativity and invention.

All of our faires are put on by volunteers from the community of Makers. We have folks who help from Go Tech, from Maker Works, from A2Geeks, ShopBot, and other groups. There are about four of us who are core organizers and we always feature a call for volunteers to help closer to the faire’s date. It takes probably 9 months to organize. We have to review and approve our contract with Make Media. We have to get sponsors (we think it’s really important that our Faire is free!) We have to secure dates for our location (new as of last year). Get insurance and sign lots of contacts. We have to reach out to makers, attendees, and stay on top of communications. We could use some help with this.
We have to reach out to all area schools. Then we just have to make it happen: choosing the makers who will exhibit, getting all the contracts together, map out the booths, organize the speakers. Finally, we open the doors and let the magic happen.

So that’s why I love the Ann Arbor Mini Maker Faire and I hope you are excited to join us this year. We’re still taking applications for makers, through the 25th. Looking for folks to spread the word about coming to the Faire (it’s free and family fun!) Looking for volunteers to help with the set up and day of activities.



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