There will be a gathering this weekend that will be generating a whole lot of interest in science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics, or, as some like to say, STEAM.
Behind the acronym is a growing movement -- among educators, innovaters, scientists, artists, engineers, mathematicians and other creative people -- to build bridges between the disciplines to foster collaborations that encourage inspiration, revelation and innovation.
For the past two years, the organizers behind the Westport Mini Maker Faire have been tapping into that attitude and propelling it forward by providing a day for curious minds to tinker and learn new things. On Saturday, April 26, the event will return, and organizers are expecting another record crowd.
"The first year, we planned for 800 people," said Mark Mathias, the event's founder and one of this year's co-chairmen. "But when the day came, 2,200 people showed up."
He said he expects about 4,000 people this year, who will learn about scientific principles such as the concept of lift (thanks to a demonstration booth sponsored by Stratford-based Sikorsky), state-of the art 3D printing by Makerbot Industries, blacksmithing and how to build a self-contained ecosystem by Allison Wonderland Terrariums.
But these are just a few of the more than 100 exhibitiors that Mathias, who lives in Westport, expects to be at the fair, which is being produced by Remarkable Steam, a company Mathias recently launched, in partnership with the Westport Library. The event, which takes place at the library, will provide multiple opportunities for exploration inside and out. In addition to demonstrating their creations, makers will offer visitors activities to interact, participate and take handmade inventions back home.
Mathias, who was inspired to bring the state's first Mini Maker Faire to Westport after attending the World Maker Faire in New York City in 2010, has been pleased with the response among exhibitors and visitors.
"Every time we do this, I am completely in awe, as far as what this has spawned," he said.
For instance, he said he believes the Westport event has brought together a community that embraces the "maker movement" and enabled the launch of the Fairfield County Makers' Guild, a community workshop and studio that provides tools and other resources for tinkerers of all levels and ages.
Among the interactive projects planned at the Westport Mini Maker Faire are chances to build a pinball machine out of cardboard, to launch a handmade foam rocket, to make a paper airplane and to create a wooden car that is then raced along a track -- the "Nerdy Derby." Come see multiple robotics groups and stay for a series of lectures, including one from technology writer and TV host David Pogue.
There also will be food for purchase from several food trucks.
The first Maker Faire, which falls under the auspices of Maker Media, took place in San Mateo, Calif., in 2006, and has since grown to cities throughout the United States and the world. The World Maker Faire in New York City will be Sept. 20 and 21. Mini "faires" are held throughout the world, too, under license from Maker Media.
Mathias, who is organizing the festival with co-chairmen Bill Derry and Heather Lawless, said the process is a lot of work, but worth it.
"What drives me is the fact that we have spawned this level of interest and energy, community involvement and learning," he said. "We have helped to create jobs and helped people to gain an appreciation of lifelong learning."