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STEAM

By Tara Mae

Ingenuity and imagination synthesize into innovation. The Long Island Explorium, a science and engineering museum in Port Jefferson, celebrates the projects and persons involved in this process with the 7th annual Maker Faire Long Island at the Port Jefferson Village Center, LI Explorium and Harborfront Park at 101 East Broadway on Saturday, June 8 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

Featuring more than 75 exhibits and 120 presenters showcasing their creations, this multi-sensory experiential event lauds efforts in science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM). Exhibits range from robotics and cosplay design to environmental engineering projects, scientific advancements, kinetic art, and fire sculptures.

Highlights include:

Adam Foster’s Royal Trumpets: Majestic 15-foot kinetic pyrotechnic sound sculptures.

Mandalorian Mercs Costume Club: Bringing the Star Wars universe to life. (pictured above)

Long Island Drone Soccer: An electrifying new sport combining drone technology with soccer.

Princesses with Powertools: Empowering young engineers with hands-on projects.

Balloon Bot Brawl: A thrilling robot showdown led by high school maker Ray Rumore.

Learn to Solder Workshop: Taught by Elijah Horland of Mythbusters Jr, sponsored by PCBWay.

Besides individual contributions, organizations such as Suffolk County Community College, Brookhaven National Labs, and Stony Brook University will show some of their work. Scientists and educators from the university will also participate in ‘Ask a Scientist” Q&A sessions that enable young attendees to cultivate their curiosity as they ask scientific questions of professionals. 

In addition to the dialogues, displays, and demonstrations, the Faire will have live musical performances, including a songwriter showcase, from 1 to 5 p.m., and two performances by the Umisora Taiko Drummers.

“Maker Faire is a global movement that combines elements of classic science fairs with innovation, creativity, and STEAM. It is known as the ‘Greatest Show & Tell on Earth,’ showcasing makers’ ingenuity and creativity. Maker Faire Long Island…embodies this spirit,” said Long Island Explorium’s Director of Digital Media/Marketing/Programming Lisa Collet Rodriguez.

With conventions in other locations like New York City, San Francisco, Barcelona, and Berlin, the Maker Faire Long Island is part of a larger international initiative that fuses scientific experimentation with artistic expression. By embracing these pursuits, the family-friendly occasion seeks to engage audiences of all ages, with interactive elements geared towards youth. 

“I wish I had [Maker Faires] when I was younger. They have provided me a platform and support to share my works with tens of thousands of makers across the country, and inspire future generations of makers. It’s a win win,” said maker Adam Foster, of Rochester.

A musician, steel fabricator designer, and engineer, Foster made “The Royal Trumpets,” six 15 foot tall kinetic sculptures. They allude to the trumpets that historically announced royalty. And at the Maker Faire, this grandeur is both a celebration of community and an invitation for new members to join it. 

Encouraging visitors to dream and learn are not the only collective goals shared by many of the participants. The Faire is an opportunity for pragmatic ponderers and methodical mavericks to network with each other.

“Popular subcultures always have places to gather, such as Comic-Con. Maker Faire is that place for people passionate about the intersection of Arts and STEM now called STEAM,” maker Elijah Horland, of Brooklyn, said. “At a Maker Faire we gather, not just to show off our skills, but to collaborate with peers, mentors, and beginners alike in a supportive environment.”

Through his company, Not-A-Bomb, Horland develops mechatronic projects that incorporate engineering lessons curated to entertain and educate. He is a MythBuster from the Discovery Channel reality show and the executive producer of Maker Faire Coney Island. 

A number of the makers participate in other Maker Faires throughout the country, sharing their projects with interested parties and building relationships. 

“Maker Faires are these amazing events where people from all different backgrounds and with all different interests can come together and find a bigger community,” said maker Caeley Looney of Austin, Texas.

Originally from Farmingdale, Looney is the founder and CEO of Reinvented Inc., a nonprofit organization that hosts Princesses with Powertools. The program connects girls with women in Science, Technology, and Math (STEM) professions who, while dressed as princesses, teach them how to operate their first power tools. 

“Innovation is diversity driven. Without having diverse minds and voices working on the leading edge of science and technology, new ideas, products, and solutions will never be created. Women play a huge role in this, but historically have been left out of these fields and conversations — and that bias and pushback is still felt by students today,” she added. 

Bringing STE[A]M to individuals who historically have less access to it is a motivating factor and ongoing endeavor for many Faire associates, according to Long Island Explorium Executive Director Angeline Judex.

“Many people don’t think of museums as agents of social change in communities, but the Long Island Explorium plays a vital role on Long Island as a lighthouse of enriching STEM programs that foster inventive thinking and serve as a catalyst for empowerment,” Judex said. 

“The Maker Faire is strategically aligned with our vision to promote STEM discovery, learning, and innovation that will shape the intellect, social values, and principles of future generations,” she added.

Advanced tickets may be purchased online through EventBrite. Individual tickets, including fees, are $13.36 per person. A family pass, which has tickets for two adults and up to five children, are $57.65 including fees. Tickets at the door for individuals are $16.65, including fees. Tickets at the door for family passes are $62.80, including fees. 

For more information, including a complete list of exhibitors and schedules, visit longisland.makerfaire.com. 

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The Long Island Maker Festival debuts in Port Jeff

Spectators view demo of the Voxiebox which will be on display at the Long Island Maker Festival Sunday. Photo by Sean Kane

Opening my web browser the other day, I was dropped into the middle of an Apple “special event” product unveiling where an executive enthused about some app or service or the other. It was something to customize my newsfeed. Since I’m good with the way I currently get my news, I didn’t pay too much attention and moved on.

Sometimes it can be overwhelming — keeping up with apps, worrying about issues of privacy and multi-tasking — all of which can erode productivity and promise access to more content than we could ever properly consume. And yet, we can either be intimidated by technology or energized by it.

People who turn that energy into creativity — makers, doers — can be an inspiration to us all. That’s why this Sunday, June 14, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the Maritime Explorium in Port Jefferson Village and KidOYO are hosting the Long Island Maker Festival.

The largest maker festival in Suffolk County, it will showcase the work of people who have seized technological innovations and turned them into opportunities to become innovators, says Cindy Morris, the event’s organizer.

As Cindy describes it, the maker movement stems from accessible innovation.

“Technology has changed so much, you can do almost everything from your own home,” she says.”

You don’t need millions of dollars or fancy hi-tech facilities to realize your ideas.

I have to admit that I love the word “maker.” People who create, contribute and value utility. It’s the opposite of consumption and requires grit and ingenuity. How could anyone not be excited by that?

Sunday’s family event will bring together 50 volunteers from ages 11 on up to the Port Jefferson Harborfront Park. There will be scientists from across the island wearing shirts saying, “I’m a scientist. Ask me a question.” They want to encourage those who attend to learn more about the science behind what they will be seeing.  And Cindy assures there will be lots of science — professional robotics, a children’s science exhibition, a demonstration of green screen technology and a hologram machine built in a garage — to name just a few offerings.

Festival participant takes in the Voxiebox 3D video consul. Photo by Sean Kane
Festival participant takes in the Voxiebox 3D video consul. Photo by Sean Kane

The maker movement encompasses more than just science and technology, Cindy says. There’s art, performing art and crafting, much of which will also be seen Sunday.

Stony Brook University’s theater department will demo theatrical make-up, while attendees can take sewing lessons, observe an African drumming circle, or take in other musical performances. Workshops from computer coding to organic gardening will also be offered.

“We always talk to our children about being imaginative, but as we get older, we stop doing it ourselves,” Cindy observes.

This event, this gathering of creators and entrepreneurs, is to show that “anybody can do this,” she says. “We want our children to know that they don’t have to be adults to be creative, and for adults to realize that they don’t have to be children to be creative.”

All of this came together in four months, which Cindy sees as a show of the community’s interest and desire for such an event.  There are close to 100 makers participating, and organizers expect the festival to draw some 3,000 attendees.

Cindy’s background as a strategic planner for non-profits — she owns The Benson Agency — definitely came in handy when gathering sponsors. Without them, the undertaking would have cost anywhere from $30,000 to $40,000, she estimates.

Port Jefferson Village is allowing the organizers to use the Harborfront Park rent free, while The Rinx, the roller rink at the Village Center, is offering all attendees free roller skating for the day. Stony Brook University College of Arts and Sciences and its department of technology and society, Stony Brook Medicine, Hofstra, The Science Academy Camp at Park Shore, Long Island Parent and PSEG are among the other sponsors.

If you are a mover and a maker, or you want to be one, head “down Port” this Sunday. Maybe something you see will spark your sense of invention!

Tickets: Purchased in advance $10/person or $40/family. Day of $15/person or $60 family. www.limakerfest.com