Port Jefferson’s most inquisitive young explorers will have a new, sustainably minded activity to learn from thanks to the efforts of one of their own.
Girl Scouts looking to achieve their Gold Award, the highest honor a Girl Scout can earn, are tasked with identifying an issue in their community, conducting research, pitching a project and shepherding it to completion in a leadership role in the hopes of achieving some greater good for the community.
Girl Scout Devin Rotunno, a Port Jeff resident heading into her senior year at Earl L. Vandermeulen High School, decided to achieve her Gold Award by building a station where kids can plant locally native vegetation at the Long Island Explorium, a Port Jeff museum located at 101 E. Broadway dedicated to fostering an environment of learning and discovery for visitors of all ages, where Rotunno has volunteered for years. She dropped off and set up the project with help from her parents Aug. 10.
“When I started here early last year in 2017, we felt the programing here has always been about STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics], and we wanted children, guests and visitors not only to know STEM for the knowledge of STEM, but really the civic component of it, like, ‘What’s the big deal about learning about science, technology, engineering and math?’” said Angeline Judex, executive director of the Explorium. “The civic component is obviously our interaction and our relationship with the world and our environment surrounding us. I’ve been trying to infuse some sort of sustainability type programing and I think this was something that we thought was perfect.”
Rotunno’s project was built from common cedar wood and includes a laddered portion where kids can keep and monitor their plants as they grow, as well as a station to plant seeds, equipped with soil and gardening tools. She credited a family friend and contractor for helping with the design and lending his shop and tools for the cause.
“I love it here so much, and as my Gold Award project was approaching I thought it would be the perfect place to dedicate my Gold project to,” Rotunno said of the Explorium. She reflected on providing a new program for kids now in the position she used to be in, visiting the museum to enjoy activities it had to offer. “It’s awesome, just the feeling — since I’m going off to college in a year, the fact I can leave something they can use forever — it’s just a good feeling I can give back.”
Carol Van Duyn, the museum’s manager who has been there for 13 years, reflected on the full-
circle nature of Rotunno’s time at the Explorium.
“Many of the children that came to join and participate in the interactive exhibits continued and then they became volunteers, and then came to us to ask us if they could do something to leave their mark, and we were thrilled,” she said. “She [Rotunno] kept redesigning and reconfiguring, coming back to remeasure before she made her final cut. So, this was a work in progress for a number of months.”
Rotunno’s mom, Jennifer, who also served as Girl Scout Troop 2988 leader since her daughter was in kindergarten, shared her feelings about witnessing the culmination of the long process for her Scout daughter.
“It’s awesome, I’m very proud,” she said. “I’m proud that she’s been a Girl Scout all these years. It’s not common for a girl to make it to this age and to this award. It’s a really special thing. She’s loved coming down here and volunteering.”
All photos by Alex Petroski
People arriving to this year’s Eastern Long Island Mini Maker’s Faire in Port Jefferson June 9 were greeted by robed Jedis from the Long Island Saber Guild flourishing with their lightsabers and a true-to-scale Hulkbuster costume as if straight from the screen of the recent “Avengers: Infinity War” movie. It was just the start to a day filled with the strange and the unique as makers from all across Long Island and beyond showed off their inventions and skills to interested guests.
The annual event, hosted by the nonprofit Long Island Explorium, is a celebration of doers, dabblers or anybody who uses their own sweat, blood and tears to create or build something, even if it’s a little off the wall. New to this year’s fair was the Long Island Vegetable Orchestra, which used hollowed out carrots, gourds, cucumbers to play songs, such as The Beatles’ hit “Hey Jude.”
Several robotics teams from high schools across the county showed off creations, from Lego Mindstorms robots that could stop and reverse if it sensed an obstruction in front of it, to a huge shirt cannon from Smithtown High School’s Mechanical Bulls robotics team that fired t-shirts from the Port Jefferson Village Center all the way into Harborfront Park.
New York State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) presented the explorium with a resolution commending its work in producing the event. At the same time three volunteers who worked with the explorium on the event received the Presidential Volunteer Service Award for their work in the explorium’s museum. One of those young men, fourth-grader Greyson West, received the bronze reward for working between 26 and 49 hours at the museum.
“We earned the award by our age group and how many hours we participated in volunteering at the museum,” Greyson said. “It feels pretty good to receive it.”
An organizer of the event commended Greyson’s hard work.
“They work with the children, they worked with the community,” Carole Van-Duyn, the explorium’s museum program director said. “Our volunteers taught and engaged with the kids in several events and Greyson helped make it a great experience.”
By Kyle Barr
Creativity, innovation, experimentation and a whole lot of fun are all on the menu as the Village of Port Jefferson gears up for the third annual Eastern Long Island Mini Maker Faire to be held on June 9 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Hosted by the nonprofit Long Island Explorium (formerly the Maritime Explorium) and the Greater Port Jefferson-Northern Brookhaven Arts Council, the event will take place at the Explorium, all three floors of the Port Jefferson Village Center and spill out onto the adjacent Jeanne Garant Harborfront Park as makers from all over Long Island and beyond will come bringing robots, music, woodworking, metal sculptures and practically anything handmade to celebrate the exciting worlds of science, technology, engineering, music, art and math.
Last year the event drew more than 2,000 visitors who were able to experience everything from 3-D printing to flame belching metal sculptures.
Angeline Judex, executive director of the Explorium in Port Jefferson, said she expects close to 60 “Makers” will be there for this year’s event. “At this event, people are able to explore new concepts and technologies, take [this knowledge] home with them and then dive into their own exploration and engagement to create their own maker experience,” Judex said in an email. “It transforms theory into reality. It excites, inspires and motivates the next generation to embrace STEM as a resource for innovative problem solving.”
New this year will be the Long Island Vegetable Orchestra featuring students from the Waldorf School in Garden City using carrots, squash and gourds as musical instruments and a visit from the Suffolk County Chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronism, which will demonstrate how trades such as blacksmithing, inks and paints and naval shipbuilding technology have evolved over time.
Returning this year will be costume maker Tom DePetrillo from Rhode Island-based Extreme Costumes who dazzled participants in last year’s Makers Faire with his burly Transformers Bumblebee costume. This year he will be bringing a to-scale HulkBuster Iron Man suit seen in the movies “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and “Avengers: Infinity War.”
“People really enjoy the giant costumes,” said DePetrillo.
The Hulkbuster costume took 10 months and approximately 1,600 man hours to complete. DePetrillo tours all over the world with his giant designs as a full-time job. It enables him to keep making and creating. “It allows me to have an outlet for my creative energy,” he said. “I do this because I love doing it.”
Father and son team Chris and Ray Rumore have been attending the Mini Maker Faire every year since its inception. Ray Rumore got involved with 3-D printing, crafting and robotics, and created a robot named “Volt,” a companion robot who can follow him around and live stream events with his on-board camera.
“Ray enjoys three main things about Maker Faires — they allow him the opportunity to encourage others to join the fun and become a Maker, the opportunity to meet other Makers and learning about their creations and the food,” the elder Rumore said in an email.
The event is sponsored in part by Stony Brook University, BASF Chemical Company, Capital One, Riverhead Building Supplies and Suffolk County Community College.
The Eastern Long Island Mini Maker Faire will be held on June 9 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., rain or shine, at the Maritime Explorium, 101 East Broadway, Port Jefferson. Tickets, which are $10 per person, are available online at www.easternlongislandmakerfaire.com and at the door. Parking will be available around the Village of Port Jefferson, Off Street Parking, Brookhaven Town Lot as well as Spring Street. The Port Jeff Jitney will be running during the day. For further information, please call 631-331-3277.