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Maker Faire: Finding the Next Tech Innovators at the World’s Greatest DIY Festival

Perhaps the most stunning attribute of humans is creativity. Animals may accomplish incredible feats, but they usually learn them through repetition. Animals don’t normally exhibit the brilliant “ah ha!” moment that signals the innovative leap toward creativity.


“MythBusters’” own Adam Savage made an appearance at Maker Faire, alongside Arc Attack.

I live for those “ah ha!” moments, when a string of thoughts and ideas can pour through your head like a melody. And that’s exactly why each year I attend Maker Faire, a kind of creativity convention that showcases technological innovation. As I look at the creative innovations of Bay Area makers, all of them lined up in a row, you can almost see the cartoon light bulbs appearing over their inventors’ heads. You can almost hear the makers exclaim “eureka!” one after another.

This year’s Maker Faire was no exception. From large, flame-throwing, steam-punk contraptions…to wild, automated robots built by kids – each vendor table displayed some type of creation that started as an idea born inside the brain of a “maker.” The makers at the fair I attended came in all shapes and sizes, and certainly in all sorts of garb. The place was loud and colorful, and brimming with creative energy. It made you feel like you were in a futuristic bazaar, being mentally drawn from one vendor’s tent to the next.


Vintage video game machines are used to make music at Maker Faire.

Different Maker Faire events take place all over the country, but locally it’s held at the San Mateo County Fairground. It’s composed of two large exhibition halls and a whole host of outdoor exhibits. One exhibition hall contains a dozen or so of the most stunning and interactive exhibits. There’s also plenty of open space to take in the wonders around you, which include a stage dedicated to light shows powered by Tesla coil lightning-simulating towers (you know, the kind that movie scientists always have in their laboratories).

The main exhibition hall for vendors is the primary attraction of Maker Faire. This is where local makers each get a small table space to show off their creations. Everyone is friendly and eager to show you what they’ve been making. Believe me, your mind will be stretched more by a few hours chatting with these creators then during a semester of classroom lectures. Outside the main exhibition hall there is more of the same – only it’s larger and louder.

Video Game Legend Talks Creativity
In a recent interview, famed video-game creator Nolan Bushnell spoke about Maker Faire. Bushnell’s main point concerned the way jobs are evolving; his belief is that the only way to prepare today’s young people for the job market of the coming decades is to encourage them to master creative problem-solving. “Creativity is an area where I believe the world needs a lot of help – and for some reason, so many of the creative wellsprings are being driven out of the kids these days,” Bushnell said. “And making things is probably as good a creative training ground as [anything] else, and that’s why I’m so passionate about the maker movement.”

“I think there is an extremely high probability that the next Steve Jobs or Steve Wozniak will be at the Maker Faire. If there were [ever] a couple of makers, it was ‘Woz’ and Jobs.”

Bushnell thinks that Maker Faire events encourage nothing short of survival skills. “If you look at the jobs of 20 years from now, they are going to be very much like jobs that will occur on an alien planet,” he said. “There is not much you can do to teach kids, other than creative problem-solving, to give them the tools to survive and prosper.”

As founder of Atari, Bushnell knows a thing or two about encouraging creative talent. After all, at one time he was boss to the computer geniuses who would later found Apple Computer: Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. He sees the same creative energies that he saw in those two ricocheting around the Maker Faire. Bushnell even said that Maker Faire is a good place to search for the next Steve Jobs. “I think there is an extremely high probability that the next Steve Jobs or Steve Wozniak will be at the Maker Faire. If there were [ever] a couple of makers, it was ‘Woz’ and Jobs.”


Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari and creator of Pong – and an original maker.

The ability to create distinguishes us as humans, and it will increasingly be the factor that differentiates us in the workforce. Events like Maker Faire and programs like those found at Digital Media Academy computer and digital arts summer camps exist to advance the principles of creation. And DMA offers programs specially made for the technologically advanced young person who has a real passion for science and its enormous role in modern life – including an exciting programming & robotics summer camp, as well as game programming courses for a variety of today’s hottest platforms.

The creative process begins with a vision, moves on to organization and concludes with tactical execution. The tools to bring a creative vision to life have never been more accessible than they are now. Leveraging these tools today is the best preparation for a lifetime full of creative possibilities. Your creative and technological training begins this summer at DMA.

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