Lansing's first Mini Maker Faire, fun for all ages.

What do an artist, a scientist, a crafter, and a designer have in common? They all create and innovate. For years, one event has been popping up in major cities across the world to celebrate these creations and the people who make them, and they call it a Maker Faire. This year, Lansing was approached by Maker Faire Global to join in on the Maker Faire fun, hosting its first ever Mini Maker Faire from Apr. 29 to Apr. 30. 

On the Maker Faire website, they explain the convention as “part science fair, part county fair, and part something entirely new ... an all-ages gathering of tech enthusiasts, crafters, educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers, science clubs, authors, artists, students, and commercial exhibitors.” Maker Faires range in size from a regional/global level (these are called Flagship Maker Faires or Featured Maker Faires) to smaller, community or school-centered events (Mini Maker Faires and School Maker Faires). Regardless of size, each Faire, known as “the Greatest Show (& Tell) on Earth,” is one that celebrates and showcases innovation, creativity, and people who make stuff. 

In the past, the Meridian Township store, tinkrLAB has been involved with Maker Faire Global, an international organization that helps organize more than 160 Maker Faires across the globe, by hosting a similar event for kids called Mini Maker Madness. 

This year’s Faire was hosted in partnership with two local organizations, The Mini Maker Foundation and tinkrLAB, which is located within the Meridian Mall. The community-focused Faire attracted approximately 4,500 attendees. It took place in the main hallways of the Meridian Mall in Okemos where children, families, and makers attended this free event to see what other makers in the area are up too. 

Christopher Allen, Director of Educational Technology at tinkrLAB was the producer for the Lansing Mini Maker Faire. Explaining it as a “show and tell,” Allen says this event brings a lot to the local community, especially to families with children. 

“From engineers to artists to scientists to crafters, Maker Faire is a venue for these ‘makers’ to show hobbies, experiments [and] projects. Attendees can expect to see 3D printers, a laser cutting/etch art showcase, see robotics teams offering demonstrations and more,” says Allen. 

There were a number of makers and businesses who showed up to this year’s mini Maker Faire, both enthusiasts and professionals. Each maker brought something unique and interesting to the table. The Information Technology Empowerment Center (ITEC), for example, a non-profit organization that offers classes in science, technology engineering and math, showcased their classes at their booth, which include skills like Lego robotics, 3D printing, Raspberri Pi, video game design and more. They also had a station for free building with Legos for participants to take part in.  

Others included Construct a Truck USA, giving kids model kits to build realistic toy cars and other mechanical objects; LooUQ, an East Lansing based company that has developed what is called the iotQi loT platform, which they showcased at the Faire; and How-to Halloween, a festival for the entire family that celebrates and showcases the do-it-yourself opportunities that the spooky holiday brings. 

Another aspect that was unique about the Lansing mini Maker Faire was a special challenge called “Hack the Runway,” a design competition that challenged designers to create a garment or accessory that also includes some sort of wearable technology. Whether it was LED lights, computers, or some other technology, each garment included a piece of technology that wowed the attendees and the judges. 

While each Maker Faire has unique events and aspects about them, all Maker Faires are unique as an event because of the fact that their target audience doesn’t have a specific demographic. The only factor that binds visitors and participants of the Faire is their interest in creating, innovating, and making. Adults and children love it for the same reasons; the inventions, items and demonstrations are quite interesting and complex, and you almost always walk away having learned something. 

The two-day event was sponsored by AP Lazer, TechSmith, MSUFCU, WLNS, Ingham ISD, Dart Container, Piper & Gold, and LEAP Inc..  The mini Maker Faire offered stations where participants could try their hand at different projects involving STEM/STEAM education, 3D Printing, inventing a product, learning coding, and more. The event was also packed full of demonstrations, speakers and panel discussions, such as ‘How to Start a Business.’ 

“We received an overwhelmingly great response ... There will be more Lansing Maker Faires,” says Allen, noting that this year’s event was so successful that he plans to make this an annual event. “We have already secured our dates for 2018. The second annual Lansing Maker Faire will be March 17 and 18, 2018.” 


Megan Westers is a freelance writer for Capital Gains.

Photos © Dave Trumpie

Dave Trumpie is the managing photographer for Capital Gains. He is a freelance photographer and owner of Trumpie Photography.

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