Our exciting adventures at the National Maker Faire in DC 2015


National Maker Faire at DC 2015

National Maker Faire at DC 2015

The call to the National Maker Faire in DC was very exciting news for us! From planning to visit as spectators to preparing to have a booth where my 6 year old could share his passion for teaching and coding was a big leap! We were jumping up and down the house like kangaroos with their tails on fire :). What I love about the Maker Faire is its accessibility. Their staff is friendly, responsive and very helpful! The best part –  They share the same excitement as all the Makers out there to make the event a great one for the community! Being homeschoolers, we rely on public events to share and learn from our community! The National Maker Faire provided plenty of opportunities for that.  Like the Jurassic park is the land of dinosaurs, Maker Faires are a “land of Learning” and sharing your passion with your community!

 

If you have never visited one, please do! There are several Maker Faires happening throughout the year all over the world! http://makerfaire.com/map/ – check them out here.

The World Maker Faire is a grand event scheduled at the New York Hall of Science in NYC on Sept 26-27 2015. Last year’s visitors exceeded 100,000 people! If you are in the DC area or willing to drive to DC to expose your kids to the magic land of exploring and learning, an event you should not miss is the http://makerfairesilverspring.com/ on Sept 20 2015! If your kids have done science projects that you will like to share with other like-minded kids and parents, please consider enrolling them as presenters in the “Young Makers” category!

Helpers at the National Maker Faire 2015

Kedar & Ari met again as Helpers at the National Maker Faire 2015

KID Museum’s site at Davis Library in Bethesda, Maryland offers the community exciting programs and workshops. It is a truly wonderful experience. Last month my son, husband & I drove there from our home in Lehigh Valley PA for Scratch Day and spent 2 days there! My 6 year old had so much fun exploring the various stations – right from animation, music, and sewing, interfacing Legos with Scratch, motor based drawing robots, LED based fun craft projects, cardboard castles & 3D printing. My son just didn’t want to leave! He talks about it ever so often that we will be visiting soon!

There are a lot of knowledgeable volunteers from high school and college that patiently engage young learners. One such young volunteer is Ari, who Kedar looks up to, as his mentor! Ari is an Arduino hobbyist and an avid reader of the Make Magazine. He runs Arduino classes at the Kid’s Museum and showed Kedar how to build a Lego car with gears and motors that could be interfaced with Scratch( MIT based free programming tool for kids).  We had our first experience of using an electric breadboard. Our son was also inspired by Ari’s 3D models that he built using a 3D printer.

Where our playground is becoming more sophisticated with technology tools available to the young to turn them into inventors of the future, it is communities like the ‘Kids Museum’ that bring people, learning, ideas & inventions together! You can contact their very friendly Program Director Claire Cocciole who is always looking for new learning tools to enhance children’s and parents experience at the Kids Museum! http://kid-museum.org/

Use the community’s resources to help each other

Scratch an MIT based free coding platform is Kedar’s passion! He enjoys editing images, making his own characters, animating them to

Kedar explains a coding lesson in Scratch

Kedar explains a coding lesson as a young coder tries it out on the screen

perform a story or play a game.  When our application was accepted by the National Maker Faire, we didn’t know what to expect as this was our first event! I wasn’t sure if my 6 year old would be shy or claustrophobic being around huge crowds. Surprisingly he enjoyed the teaching experience greatly to a point where he became territorial 🙂 not letting me teach anyone since he wanted to teach them all! We were overwhelmed by the supportive response from parents, kids & educators who visited our booth to try their hand at coding! Personally I was touched by the passion of some educators who felt an urgent need to allow children to explore and learn inside and outside the classroom to make them lifelong learners, thinkers, tinkerers and problem solvers in their community!

Since the Faire was a National event and held in DC, a lot of our visitor parents/teachers worked for the government. We had the great pleasure and honor of meeting Mr Rafael Lopez (Senior Policy Advisor at the White House) & his son who spent quality time at our booth learning to code! Kedar was thrilled when he was offered a tour of the White house! He kept saying that he earned it for being a good teacher that day! That was all he would talk about on our trip back home to PA :). We are so appreciative of the encouragement and the goodwill !

 

Play, Create, Share

We learned a lot from our guests – we met some kids who just wanted to play, while others were eager to play and code. We interacted with parents who wanted to understand what their kids were doing, while others wanted to take a break while their kids did something engaging 🙂

Making a Father's Day card with a young Coder in Scratch

Making a Father’s Day card with a young Coder in Scratch

Among the kids, some wanted to try their own code and modified our characters while other kids enjoyed following along with a lesson we provided. I was personally delighted when a young girl came to me and said she was collecting resources to start a computer science club in school!  God bless her spirit to serve! A good number of educators were thrilled to see coding instructions at our booth and felt it would enable them to teach. We will be sending out these in our weekly newsletters when you sign up and stay in touch with us!

What if my kid already knows Programming?

We were asked by some parents, whose kids were familiar with Scratch, what else they could learn? From a technical perspective, kids can get started with Ruby on Rails, much like Scratch, – it is free! Also start them on Python, JavaScript or Java. There are children oriented books for these on Amazon.

More importantly, share with your community what you already know! Start a computer science club in your school; teach other kids at your local library. Programming is not an end in itself. Become a problem solver in your community, that’s what it is about!  It’s a tool, actively seek problems in your community and apply it to find a solution!

We will be doing free workshops online to get your kid’s familiar with many technology apps! Once you give them a tool, you never know what they will make with it! Stay in touch with us through our newsletter at www.littlecodeninja.com

Kids can use a lot of fun tools this summer to experiment with technology. Check out the neat compilation of educator approved resources https://www.graphite.org/top-picks#/top-picks.