Houston Maker Faire & Technical Literacy for Children
The Maker Movement, Education Trends & 21st Century Skills
by Bernadette Verzosa
When Ethan Saadia was in the third grade, he asked his parents for parts of a computer. He wanted to build his own. So they took him shopping with a list that included a motherboard, RAM and an Intel processor. And he built his first personal computer (PC) from scratch.
Saadia is now in the seventh grade and has launched his own company PCs for Me. The young entrepreneur sells kits to encourage children to learn how computers work. “I’ve always been interested in electronics. I’ve always been fascinated with computers and coding. I want to share my knowledge with other people. I want to make it easy for them,” he says. “When you go online and get a parts list, many people don’t know where to get each part. I gather the parts and create kits.”
Most of Saadia’s sets feature Raspberry Pi, a computer the size of a credit card that plugs into a screen and a keyboard. It was designed to teach kids about programming. The Raspberry Pi Foundation, a charity based in the United Kingdom, developed it to help children better understand computer science and technology.
The organization’s mission reflects industry concerns about properly educating the new generation. In this age of smart phones and tablets and wireless circuits, there should be more accessible tools to learn how technology ticks.
HOUSTON MINI MAKER FAIRE
Saadia is showcasing his kits at the 3rd Annual Houston Mini Maker Faire at the George R. Brown Convention Center on Saturday, November 14. He’s among the 250 exhibitors in 130 booths at the event. “Its purpose is to inspire creativity and inventiveness in people of all ages. Makers are learners and doers and Maker Faire allows us to share our learnings by example,” says lead organizer Mike Hinkle. “It’s the best exhibition of what educators are calling ’21st Century skills’ namely creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and problem solving.”
The festival promotes Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education but it’s squeezing in the Arts, turning STEM into STEAM. Children and parents can participate in hands-on activities that involve robotics, rockets, e-textiles (clothing and technology) and renewables (sustainability). Families can also engage in traditional arts and crafts projects such as creating paper, pendants, clay sculptures, soap, and even nail polish.
Demonstrations include 3D printing, laser cutting, drones and cutting edge products that feature the Internet of Things (IoT), objects that can be controlled through an Internet connection.
MAKER MOVEMENT TREND & TECHNICAL LITERACY
The Houston Mini Maker Faire is one of more than 100 community-based Maker Faires happening this year from Beijing to Istanbul to Rio de Janiero. The original Maker Faire was held in San Mateo, California ten years ago, billed as the ‘Greatest Show & Tell on Earth.’ Visionaries gathered to share knowledge and give the public a glimpse of innovation and the future. They were joined by traditional artisans who also create custom items.
Their spirit of independent ideas and inventions is spurring the Maker Movement. The trend towards education and technical literacy is gaining momentum, and many businesses are embracing the trend. In Houston, Barnes & Noble River Oaks recently hosted its own Mini Maker Faire. The bookseller is carrying children’s products that promote technical curiosity. It’s also coordinating a “Meet the Makers” series where leaders in the Maker Movement as well as local inventors can make presentations and interact with the public.
“Literacy is at the core of what we do and rolling out the first-ever Mini-Maker Faire in stores nationwide signals our commitment to what we believe it means to be literate in the modern world,” says Michelle Nelson, Community Business Development Manager at Barnes & Noble.