This past weekend, roughly thirty students traveled to Atlanta as part of an Engineering Club field trip to the Maker Faire. Maker Faire was originally conceived of in 2006 in the San Francisco Bay Area as a labor of love by the editors of Make: Magazine with the ultimate goal of providing a forum for inventors of all kinds to showcase their creativity, skill, and resourcefulness. Make:Magazine stated, “The aim of Maker Faire is to entertain, inform, connect, and grow the community of Makers.”

In the ten plus years since the original showcase, Maker Faire has grown into a network of events throughout the country with over 190 independently-produced “Mini Maker Faires” and over 30 full-fledged Maker Faires. The Maker Movement has even spread overseas with Maker Faires taking place in Tokyo, Rome, Taipei, Paris, Berlin, and Barcelona. These events are often described as, “part science fair, part county fair, part novelty.” 

The Atlanta area Maker Faire began in 2011 on the campus of Georgia Tech as a Mini-Maker Faire, and has grown into a bona fide Maker Faire event. This year’s event was held in downtown Atlanta in the historic Georgia Freight Depot and was sponsored by the Southeast Makers Alliance. 

This unique field trip opportunity allowed MSMS students to experience a wide variety of exhibits, speakers, workshops, and demonstrations. Featured makers ranged from tech enthusiasts to crafters to homesteaders to scientists to garage tinkerers. There was a good mix of legitimate businesses and self-identified makers at the event. Makers not only showcased their work, but also engaged the students in a dialogue about the art and science of that work.   

At the conclusion of the Maker Faire festivities, MSMS students traveled to Georgia Tech to visit their “MakerSpace,” loving called The Invention Studio. Georgia Tech’s Invention Studio is open 24 hours a day to any student, staff person, or faculty member to come and work on whatever they would like. The space is open to everyone, not just those students in engineering related classes. People are encouraged to come to the Invention Studio and tinker, explore, and create. The Invention Studio is equipped with 3D printers, laser cutters, a waterjet cutter, an injection molder, a thermoformer, and various milling devices. Dr. Craig Forest, faculty sponsor for the Invention Studio wrote, “These facilities, infrastructure, and cultural transformation are demonstrating the value and sustainability of hands-on design, build to stimulate innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship in engineering undergraduates.”

MSMS students appreciated seeing Georgia Tech’s Makerspace and were particularly struck by the way the Robotics Team at Georgia Tech was able to leverage the Makerspace to improve their robotics design. 

“I was able to learn more about robotics because of this trip. I saw a lot of different designs that other robotics teams have used in the past. And I was even able to see some small businesses and their manufacturing design for their product,” Daniel Smothers, Engineering Club President, stated.

The field trip to Maker Faire is just one example of the innovative learning experiences available to MSMS students. As a school devoted to STEM exploration, MSMS seeks out opportunities to put students in contact with inventors, innovators, and creators throughout the country. Additionally, MSMS believes strongly that access to cutting edge technology yields opportunity and that opportunity shouldn’t be stifled by finances. As a result, field trips such as the one to Maker Faire are free of cost to students.  As the technology industry has continued to grow and the pace of innovation has quickened, MSMS has undertaken significant fundraising initiatives to ensure that students continue to have access to a wide variety of STEM showcases such as Maker Faire.