Sometimes you don’t need to wear an athletic uniform to be featured in a photo-op with the President of the United States. Sometimes you can just be a scientist. Case in point: the inaugural White House Maker Faire on June 18. A mix between show and tell and a science fair, the Maker Faire showcased, in the words of President Obama, how to “learn by doing,” demonstrating the practical applications of science and math.
“What on earth have you done to my house?” exclaimed Obama to the eclectic group of invitees, comprised of professional and amateur scientists and engineers of all ages, as he examined the dozens of inventions scattered throughout the White House. “Smart” furniture, 3-D printers, LED devices and life-size robotics were among the featured creations on display. Meanwhile, virtual participants from around the world joined the fun online, posting pictures and videos of their own additions to the Maker Faire mix.
That disruptive mindset is a particularly appropriate attribute of the Maker Faire movement that began in 2006 in the California Bay Area. Advertised as a “family-friendly festival of invention, creativity and resourcefulness”, the Maker Faire is a gathering place for inventors, creators, designers, scientists and artists, who all convene to share their work and their process. “We are all makers,” claims Maker Faire founder Dale Dougherty. This year, over 100 cities will host their own versions, culminating in the World Maker Faire in New York on September 20-21.
Importantly for the STEM community, events such as the Maker Faire provide an unparalleled opportunity to bring their efforts to the general public. Combined with the now-annual White House Science Fair, the Maker Faire is part of a broader trend that has seen the Obama administration be a continuous champion for STEM. With this kind of support, the President might be in line for an honorary lab coat.