DIY biology
Tom Keighley

Member Article

Greatest show-and-tell on Earth comes to Newcastle

It’s been described as “the greatest show-and-tell on Earth” and “part science fair, part county fair and part something entirely new.”

Maker Faire is set to take Newcastle by storm this April, as a showcase of tech-heads, engineers, hobbyists and artists.

The San Franciscan-born movement will take to the city’s Centre for Life and promises everything from mechanical animal/human hybrid sculptures; to bunting making workshops; and “theremins that eat smart-phones for breakfast.”

“At its crudest it brings together amateur or DIY makers, but it encompasses so much. Last time we had some amazing characters and inventions,” said Life’s chief executive, Linda Conlon.

She recalls exhibits from the last Faire, including: a musician who was clad in chain mail, creating sounds with a Tesla Coil; a giant robot that was solving a rubix cube, and fire-breathing remote controlled horse.

The “Maker” movement was created and championed by American Dale Dougherty, one of Barack Obama’s ‘champions of change.’ It celebrates unfettered invention, from kitchen table tinkerers to laboratory level boffins.

The concept is pertinent to various industry sectors where innovation is at the heart of process. This is where the business community come into play.

Linda called for engagement from companies as she explained: “We have ambitions to try and capture some of that ‘Maker’ ethos, and establish a permanent Maker presence at Life. It would be a place where people can come along and get involved with these types of activities.

“Our remit is to support and augment the formal science sector. While we’re not a formal teaching establishment, that gives us tremendous latitude and freedom to look at the less conventional engagement routes. We need young people to think like technologists, think like engineers and think like scientists. Hopefully some of them will train in those skills that this region needs as it moves forward and plays its part in a modern knowledge-based economy.”

Linda suggests the Maker Faire ethos is one the region’s business community can buy into, and hopes they will contribute to a ‘maker space’ at Life.

She added: “There are some fantastic companies out there who may be able to help us create this space. They have technology know-how; interesting products and process; and they are interested in taking on young people who can think for themselves. It’s our agenda and it’s their agenda, so I would love to team up with anybody who wants to help achieve that.

“While Maker Faire is lots of fun, there’s a serious edge to it. If we’re going to have it here we need to sustain its message and develop a proper legacy.”

Dale Dougherty commented: “Newcastle, with its reputation for innovation, is the perfect home for Maker Faire UK and the Centre for Life’s ongoing efforts in inspiring and supporting the next generation of Makers should not be underestimated. Once again, the event line up is exactly the right balance of performances, hands on activities, installations and workshops.

“Change comes over time but it is clear from the 10,000 plus visitors to Maker Faire UK that the appetite for this type of event continues to grow and that people are starting to look at science in a whole different manner, realising that it holds something for them, whether they are an amateur or professional or enjoying it for work or pleasure. Now that is one amazing legacy.”

Both Newcastle and Northumbria University are supporting this year’s Maker Faire.

The Maker Faire takes place April 27-28 at Life. Tickets are now on sale and cost £8.25 adult, £24.10 family. For more information or to book online, please visit www.MakerFaireUK.com.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Tom Keighley .

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