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Eastern Long Island Mini Maker Faire

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Scenes from the Eastern Long Island Mini Maker Faire in Port Jefferson Village June 9. Photo by Kyle Barr

Talking to the conductor once the STEM engine comes to a halt, it’s clear that for nonprofits pushing for education among young people, the track ahead is still uncertain.

Like many nonprofits, the Long Island Explorium in Port Jeff, a small haven for interactive learning on the North Shore, has been hit hard by the pandemic, but since so much of its revenue depends on schools’ field trips, the onus has shifted to a virtual approach. That, however, is something difficult for a learning center that has long emphasized interactivity.

Angeline Judex, the executive director of the explorium, said that once COVID-19 hit Long Island, her space along East Broadway was closed, while her museum employees were furloughed and her volunteers sent home. It would take until the end of April before she finally received her Paycheck Protection Program loans from the federal government, and she was able to rehire several people to help with administrative tasks. Their PPP loans will likely be exhausted by the end of July, Judex said. 

Meanwhile, all their teaching apparatus was transported online, specifically to video conferencing app Zoom. Keeping some of their regulars who often came to the explorium, they were able to transform one planned field trip into an online field trip, but the vast majority of booked school trips were canceled once the pandemic hit. 

Judex said the situation has made the explorium learn to innovate in new ways. So far they have conducted more than 80 live STEM workshops including a virtual science fair, impacting approximately 120 families and 400 students over the past few months. She said general reaction to the programming has been positive from parents and teachers alike.

“The Explorium will continue to scale up and expand on their virtual offerings over summer and beyond to ensure that students of all means, abilities and needs have access to high quality STEM programming,” she said.

One of the benefits of the last few years is that the explorium has started to diversify its revenue streams, from grants, school districts as well as individual donors. The explorium remains financially solvent, she said, despite the obvious hits from the pandemic. Much of their revenue normally came from their work with local school districts, so depending on how well districts are in the fall, which also depends on whether New York State will slash school aid, could leave the nonprofit without 30 to 40 percent of its normal revenue stream.  

“We’re hoping schools have this one year to get back to normal, and by hopefully next year things will get better again,” Judex said. 

The explorium is tentatively planning to open the museum location in August, though it will only be for private sessions, and how they do will determine if the place remains open for the rest of the fall. If not, then the museum has plans to open again in spring of 2021. Currently, she said the nonprofit has enough funds in the coffers to survive until then.  

“As a children’s museum, it’s supposed to be a high touch environment, but if they’re not allowed to touch anything, what are they going to do?” the executive director said. “That’s a huge challenge for museums everywhere, not only mine.”

After several months of hosting learning online, the challenges of keeping students’ attention became apparent. At first, Judex found their online programs became very popular, then when schools started to catch up with computer-based schoolwork, demand dropped. By April and May, she said students were tired of completing schoolwork on a computer and listening to teachers online. Judex said she’s finding the same challenge with her own children doing schoolwork from home. 

“I think I’m Zoomed out,” Judex said. “Meeting in person, there’s so much more warmth to it, whereas on a screen you have to make due. Several months of making due in virtual meetings, it was just too much.”

The explorium has three virtual summer camps coming up in the next few months, with the first one including 14 kids. The next, Judex estimated, will likely contain just 10 children.

She said her team found hosting a single Zoom call with 30 students to be nearly impossible, and they are loath to sacrifice the quality of their learning apparatus in order to facilitate more kids per group. 

“We’re not compromising on the quality of the experience,” she said.

Still, Judex said the online programs were well-received.

“The pandemic allowed us to focus even more on our mission of meeting the needs of all students regardless of means, abilities and needs as well as advance our strategic plan to explore distance learning,” she said.

Port Jefferson village Mayor Margot Garant said multiple nonprofits in the village have struggled to maintain during the worst months of the pandemic. The building the Long Island Explorium occupies right next to the Village Center is in year 12 of a 20-year lease and they are up to date with their rent at $750 a month. 

The explorium requested some kind of rent relief, and at its July 20 meeting, the village board unanimously voted to reduce the nonprofit’s rent by $250 so as to cover utilities. 

“It’s real tangible support, that every little bit counts,” Judex said.

Towards the end of summer, the explorium is crafting its Reimagining the Future strategic plan with steering committees set up with members of the community. This would outline how our explorium will move forward in the next stage of the pandemic.

One of the most well-known activities for the explorium is the annual Maker Faire in Port Jeff. This year’s event got pushed back from June to September, but this week it was announced that all of maker faires in New York State were combining forces to host the online Empire State Maker Faire Oct. 16 and 17, including demonstrations of art, crafts, technology and robotics. The event is free and open to the public. 

People can offer support to the explorium at: longislandexplorium.org/support-us/ or visit the website for a full list of programs at www.longislandexplorium.org.

This article was updated to include info about the Explorium’s future strategic plans.

This article was updated July 30 to add extra info about the explorium’s online learning live streams.

By David Luces

For the fourth year running, the “greatest show and tell on Earth,” the Eastern Long Island Mini Maker Faire, returns to the Village of Port Jefferson on June 8 and will once again be the epicenter of innovation, experimentation and lots of fun.

The Maker Faire, hosted by the Long Island Explorium, will take place in the explorium’s building, all three floors of the Port Jefferson Village Center and spill outside onto the nearby Jeanne Garant Harborfront Park. Makers from Long Island and beyond will congregate at the faire to showcase innovative robotics, kinetic and interactive art, fine sculptures and woodworking among others that will celebrate the boundary pushing worlds of science, technology, engineering, music, art and math. 

Last year over 100 makers and 2,000 visitors of all ages participated in the faire. Lisa Rodriguez, digital media manager for the explorium, said they expect more visitors this year and currently have 92 makers and counting as well as 13 roaming scientists.

“Anybody who is a maker will be there,” said Rodriguez in a recent phone interview. “It will be amazing [for visitors and makers] to be able to interact with so many different walks of life.

Angeline Judex, executive director of the explorium, said the faire is a family-friendly showcase of invention, creativity and resourcefulness. “It allows the community to experience firsthand how textbook science can translate into innovative solutions that can solve future challenges,” she said.

A featured performer this year will be lifetime professional physics demonstrator David Maiullo of “That Physics Show” who looks to bring his scientific “magic” to Port Jeff from his Off-Broadway performances in New York City. Maiullo’s performances are dubbed as a scientific cross between the Blue Man Group and The Gazillion Bubble Show.

The collective trio of Dirt People Studios will also make an appearance at this year’s faire to showcase a 10-foot, 2,000-pound bear with a heart, circulatory system, lungs and stomach. The anatomically correct statue was built by recycling and reusing a combination of organic and inorganic materials and putting them together like puzzle pieces. 

For the younger crowd, Rizuki Cosplay will feature favorite science fiction characters and offer classes on makeup, wigs, posing and much more. Also returning this year will be the Endor Temple Saber Guild to teach kids and adults the art of lightsaber choreography. 

Judex said the faire allows visitors to experience firsthand the importance of STEAM as well as inspire future makers of tomorrow. “It is important to inspire the future generation and help them see their education as a means of making the world a better place to live,” the executive director said. “The community is beginning to realize, appreciate and embrace how STEAM is an integral part of our society, environment and way of life.”

Judex said the best part of the event in her opinion is the fascination and wonder you can experience from interacting with the maker and fellow visitors. “It’s a full day of fun and learning that is transformative for both the young and the not so young,” she said.

The Eastern Long Island Mini Maker Faire 2019 will be hosted by the Long Island Explorium, 101 East Broadway, Port Jefferson on Saturday, June 8 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets are $10 per person at the door. The event is held rain or shine. For more information, call 631-331-3277 or visit www.longislandexplorium.org.

Photos courtesy of the Long Island Explorium

Costume maker Tom DePetrillo will return this year as the Marvel Comics Giant Hulkbuster. Photo from Angeline Judex

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. 

Ray Rumore with his robot ‘Volt’ at last year’s Mini Maker Faire. Photo from Chris Rumore

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.

On a sun-splashed Saturday afternoon, members of the community young and old had the chance to get outside and exercise their imagination at the third Eastern Long Island Mini Maker Faire. The popular event, hosted by the Port Jefferson Maritime Explorium June 10, saw demonstrations using robots, interactive activities, exhibits and performances from various “makers” at the Village Center and outside at Harborfront Park.

The Port Jeff maker faire is a scaled down version of the larger Maker Faire brand, which hosts worldwide events similar to the one in Port Jeff. According to the Maritime Explorium’s website, more than 100 makers and 2,000 participants attended the 2016 Mini Maker Faire, and even more were projected to show up this year, although final totals were not readily available.

Some of the makers on display included Funtown Studios, which brought an interactive fireball sculpture; robotics teams from the Sachem and Smithtown school districts; electricity and magnetism demonstrations by representatives from the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe in Shoreham; an underwater robotic demonstration by SeaPerch; representatives from Stony Brook iCREATE, an innovation facility designed to encourage “innovation and entrepreneurial nature” of the Stony Brook University campus community; and many more.

Before the 2016 faire, Stephanie Buffa, a volunteer board member at the Explorium, explained the importance of the message of the event and the museum as a whole.

“Everything is at our fingertips,” she said in a phone interview. “If you’re sitting at the dinner table and somebody asks a question, you ‘Google’ it. It’s so easy to get answers that way…it’s so easy to get caught up in all of these pre-packaged things that we forget to sort of, do it yourself. You can be creative in so many ways. You don’t have to be a good artist and be able to draw beautiful pictures to be creative and to make things.”

Lauren Hubbard, founding president and former executive director of The Maritime Explorium, who is listed as a producer of the faire, said the day was a success, though attendance numbers are not available as of yet. She said in a phone interview the goal of the event is to show local people of all ages they have the creativity to be makers.

“It’s really about highlighting the entrepreneurial spirit,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity for young people to see how that process happens, how to create something completely new.”

North Shore ‘Makers’ to put creativity on display

A scene from last year’s Eastern Long Island Mini Maker Faire. Photo from Maritime Explorium

By Alex Petroski

Creativity, innovation, exploration and a lot of fun are all on the docket for Port Jefferson’s Maritime Explorium this weekend. The Eastern Long Island Mini Maker Faire is slated to take place on June 4 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., rain or shine, at the Explorium, the neighboring Harborfront Park and all three floors of the Village Center.

Douglas Baldwin, fractal artist and experimental musician will be at this year’s event. Photo by thecoyote.org
Douglas Baldwin, fractal artist and experimental musician will be at this year’s event. Photo by thecoyote.org

Last year the Explorium hosted a Maker Festival that drew over 2,000 visitors after board members attended the New York City Maker Faire and gave it rave reviews. The Maker Movement has taken off worldwide, thanks to the efforts of Maker Media, the group behind the faires. This year the Maritime Explorium is being supported and sponsored as an official Maker Faire, albeit a miniaturized version of the ones typically found in big cities like Barcelona, Berlin and the Bay Area across the globe.

“[The Eastern Long Island Mini Maker Faire] totally fits in that [the Maritime Explorium has] a space there that encourages more participation from makers on Long Island, and it gives them somewhere to go; and then for people who are unfamiliar, it gives them a nice taste of it without having to go into the city,” said Stephanie Buffa, a volunteer board member at the Maritime Explorium in a phone interview this week.

Buffa said the spirit of the event is to remind attendees of all ages that they are capable of making incredible things with their hands. Makers bring their inventions, innovations, prototypes and experiments to not only show off to attendees but also to provide a hands-on experience to do it yourself and make your own.

“I think it’s imperative,” Buffa said about the importance of making. “Everything is at our fingertips. [These days] if you’re sitting at the dinner table and somebody asks a question you [just] Google it. It’s so easy to get answers that way and it’s also so easy when we buy our children something to buy that cool science kit. ‘Here it is, your seeds, your pot, your dirt, your shovel all in one. Let’s buy this and teach them how to garden.’ It’s so easy to get caught up in all of these pre-packaged things that we forget to sort of, do it yourself. You can be creative in so many ways. You don’t have to be a good artist and be able to draw beautiful pictures to be creative and to make things.”

The event will feature dozens of makers, performers, artists and exhibitors as well as a Future Makers Expo and Robotics Showcase presented by students.

A scene from last year’s Eastern Long Island Mini Maker Faire. Photo from Maritime Explorium
A scene from last year’s Eastern Long Island Mini Maker Faire. Photo from Maritime Explorium

Some of the makers attendees should expect to see include Charles Rufino of The Long Island Violin Shop who will be demonstrating how to make a violin while finished ones are put to use and representatives from Stony Brook University’s College of Engineering and Applied Sciences who will be demonstrating build-your-own catapults. “Yarn bombers” who crochet colorful covers for trees and columns of buildings like the Maritime Explorium will be present to teach the art of crocheting as well as interactive sculptures, a Technology Showcase, a guided Marine Biology Exploration and Meet-a-Scientist.

Other organizations involved with the day’s presentation include SBU’s College of Arts & Sciences, Stony Brook School of Medicine, InnovateLI, Brookhaven National Laboratory, Touro College School of Health Sciences,  RINX Roller Skating on the Harbor and the Greater Port Jefferson-Northern Brookhaven Arts Council.

“It’s a little bit different from a high school or junior high school science fair because there’s more hands-on opportunities for people to actually participate and see how they can be a maker in whatever way themselves,” Buffa added. “It’s about participating and learning for all of the faire attendees, and getting a hands-on experience while they’re there.”

The Maritime Explorium is located at 101 E. Broadway in Port Jefferson. Tickets to attend the event are $17.50, though there are reduced family rates. For more information or to buy tickets visit www.easternlongislandmakerfaire.com.

A scene from last year’s Eastern Long Island Mini Maker Faire. Photo from Maritime Explorium
A scene from last year’s Eastern Long Island Mini Maker Faire. Photo from Maritime Explorium