It took me longer to resume posting about the Maker Faire, my apologies for that. What I wanted to focus on in this post is the creative atmosphere that exists at a convention like the Maker Faire and the importance of exposing children to constructive and positive experiences such as this. I know how crucial this can be, partly because I benefited from it myself. I was one of the lucky few whose parents were VERY encouraging when it came to building things, “disassembling” toys to figure out what made them tick, or even giving the A/C technicians, who would visit our house every spring to service the units, a hard time… I wanted them to explain every single thing they were doing! That made for some frustrated A/C technicians, but for a really happy and satisfied kid.
A young child playing with an interactive exhibit that demonstrates the Bernoulli effect
Empowering kids by exposing them to friendly environments where they feel comfortable building, experimenting, learning and playing is an incredibly important step towards a technologically progressive society. Not only does this creativity manifest itself in terms of scientific or technological achievements, but also in an overall “Can Do” attitude that is equally applied to social problems. Perhaps this is part of why the US has a culture of social activism; the previous generation in particular was raised on issues of Popular Mechanics and Dad+Son doing weekend projects from the pages of the Boy Mechanic was not an uncommon phenomenon.
We need to bring a lot of that to Pakistan; yes, there are a number of things being done at a private level, for instance, the Buraq space society, or the commercial Discovery Robotics Center (now defunct), the Alif Laila Children’s Society and others. But so much more needs to be done, it’s not even funny. Government schools need to be brought into the act. And since they won’t be able to do it themselves – there is just too big of a gap between the rote learning in practice at these instutiutions today, and experimental, hobby based learning. Exposing kids to constructive pursuits means you are producing inspired engineers, scientists, social workers, educationists, literateurs – you name it. And we need more of all of the above.
A Crafter helping a kid with her project
So on to the Maker Faire; as I said, it was a perfect example of an environment where kids felt comfortable creating and building! One of the “booths” had a whole bunch of LEGO pieces that kids used to build their own racing cars. Once they were done with a particular design, they would race them competitively to see who had the best design. This was not only fun, but also incredibly instructive. 4-year old kids would run over to their losing design and try and add some more weight to make it do better next time, or add a “nose cone” to allow part of the car to get through the finish line first! Very inventive ways in which to improve upon what they’d built. This wasn’t the only creative exercise at the Faire ofcourse. There were tutorials on crafts and electronics, hobby kits, robot building tutorials and all kinds of other stuff. Just seeing all the possibilities of what you can do with physical materials, what all can be created by ordinary everyday hobbyists, has got to fire up a child’s imagination as to what they can achieve.
A Halloween booth where kids could carve and decorate their own Pumpkins
An environment like this creates optimistic kids that don’t know what “impossible” means. We definitely need more of that DNA in our country. Not that there isn’t already, we’ve just got to multiply it very quickly… NGOs, Government, Private Individuals (e.g. Buraq) and companies can all play a role. So bring on the creativity!