Schools / Kids

PHOTOS: Kids Tear Down and Build Up at Maker Madness

Photos by Franck Goldberg

“Maker Madness is my favorite event of the year! Once again, it was an amazing day with positive energy in every corner.” This is how Susan Grierson, South Orange and Maplewood schools’ Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction described Achieve’s community fair devoted to STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts and math) on April 29 at Columbia High School.  

The third annual Maker Madness featured 33 demonstrations and hands-on activities, including Maplewoodshop, drones, marble raceway, coding for moms, hovercrafts, Lego™, how TV is made, cardboard mini-Maplewood and paper circuits. Over 1,400 students and families participated. In addition to a hard-working committee and many volunteers, Edrington, litteBits™, Bernadette Aulestia and Christian Lynch, South Orange Country Day School, the Vanessa Pollock Realty Team and other generous sponsors enabled Achieve to offer free admission to Maker Madness.

Grierson went on to say, “Your outreach was incredible. The sheer number of families who attended was phenomenal. Everything was so well organized, and there was something for everyone. I loved the interesting new projects, and it was great to see all the volunteers from the community explaining their activities to highly engaged kids and adults.”

Scott Sinkler of Public Eye Productions once again organized the big crowd-pleaser: “Teardowns – How Things Work.” Hundreds of kids participated, and with screwdrivers and wrenches, disassembled everything from computers to snowblowers. Some sat rooted in place for more than an hour, until their devices were down to their smallest possible component pieces. “My hope is that an engineer or two was born today,” Sinkler said.

Maker Madness is the brainchild of Larry Boyer and Aileen Nicoletti, SOMA parents with a passion for interactive learning, who approached the Achieve Foundation in 2014 about the idea of hosting a free, all-day event to give students and parents a first-hand look at the exciting world of interactive, 21st Century learning. STEAM education brings the creativity of the arts to the study of math and science with the benefit of new technology. Boyer delighted this year in seeing how kids used their ingenuity to enhance their creations by taking them from one station to another.

Among the new activities this year was littleBits™. SOMA parent, Brad Schenker brought tables worth of easy-to-use electronic building blocks, and hundreds of kids and parents learned about circuits and invented their own lights, remote controlled cars, confetti blowers and music synthesizers.

The Maplewood Memorial Library Create Space helped kids make their own golf putters with PVC piping and woodblocks, which they tested on their own mini golf course with obstacles they made out of cardboard. Parents and kids took the “spirit of making” home with them, planning to build golf courses in their own backyards.

At another station, kids learned about the workings of the musculoskeletal system by building model hands with articulating fingers. Starting with cardboard cutouts, they bent creases in the knuckles to create finger joints. Straws and string became ligaments and tendons, which they glued to the cardboard bones. Kids pulled the strings at the wrist to see the fingers curl in a way remarkably similar to their own creative fingers!

Maker Madness’ attraction was obvious for little kids, but many secondary school kids came and also took ownership of different projects. The robotics club was out in full force, and kids of all ages competed at the Power Tool Raceway. Four hundred participants made “magic wands” with chopsticks, hot glue and paint. Teens created intricate, Hogwarts-worthy designs with impressive patience and skill, while toddlers turned the chopsticks with great concentration as their adults applied the hot glue.

Grierson summed it up like this: “Maker Madness speaks directly to the district’s mission statement and many of our current priorities. I can’t thank the Achieve Foundation enough for all the hard work that made the event such a success!”

To learn more about Maker Madness and Achieve’s other year-round maker activities, contact STEAM committee co-chairs, Aileen Nicoletti and Irene Langlois at [email protected].

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