By Nina Arens
Designing a booth for Maker Faire may seem like an intimidating project. Festivals like these attract a broad demographic, a lot of questions, and all sorts of people with different interests and objectives. Combine it with the fact that visitors hardly ever linger at an exhibit longer than 8 minutes, and it may feel downright impossible.
But don’t fret! You are a Maker! You CAN make a fun, interactive exhibit!
Whether you’re a multimedia artist, a laboratory scientist, a basement tinkerer, or a vendor, every made object can have an interactive element. It may not seem apparent right away, but no matter how complex, all ideas are a built on simple foundations.
Design Take-Home Projects from Complex Ideas
Imagining just how a visitor could take home a piece of your display can be difficult. Especially if your project is a long process. Or requires special tools. Or an attention span. Here are some ideas to help you do it with a little creativity.
Protein Chains with beads and pipe-cleaners
Protein Chains with beads and pipecleaners
I wanted to convey how a cell makes its proteins to 4th grade girls at Bailey-Gatzert Elementary. Obviously, I couldn’t bring them to my lab, or have them visualize something. And certainly they wouldn’t sit still for a lecture. Instead, I adapted a beading activity to simulate the biological process in similar ways. At my booth, girls worked to thread and fold “pipe-cleaner proteins” using the letters in their names as a recipe. Continue reading
On March 3rd we hosted a workshop to help local makers design their booths and get ideas for interactive exhibits and hands-on activities. We will repeat the class in late April or early May. Here are some highlights from the workshop:
Part 1: Meet the team and General Booth Design
Key points: A few signs will help attendees understand your project, but don’t let the signs form a barrier between you and the public. Open shelving gives you more vertical space to display parts, projects, tools and components. Practice setting up your exhibit at home and test your hands-on activities with friends and kids.
Part 2: Examples of interactive exhibits
Key points: Let people see and touch. Show some interesting raw materials, show what things look like in-process, half-way done, and parts that broke during your design trials. Let the public experience the process of making with all of their senses! Great hands-on activities are ones that simplify the process to their essential components or symbolize complex things with simple analogs, for example make strings of beads as an analog for protein chains.
Part 3: Hacker Space booths and group exhibits
Exhibit what a group of geeks can accomplish with a little sharing of ideas, tools, and space.
Thank you to Steven Bradford, videographer, from the Seattle Film Institute.
-Christin Boyd, Producer, Seattle Mini Maker Faire