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Westport Mini Maker Faire promotes mega burst of creativity

Updated 6:44 am, Tuesday, April 23, 2013

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  • Spencer Serels, a Coleytown Middle School seventh-grader who enjoys competitive skiing, shows a "Ski VT" sign he created on the 3-D printer at the Westport Public Library. WESTPORT NEWS, CT 4/3/13 Photo: Jarret Liotta / Westport News contributed
    Spencer Serels, a Coleytown Middle School seventh-grader who enjoys competitive skiing, shows a "Ski VT" sign he created on the 3-D printer at the Westport Public Library. WESTPORT NEWS, CT 4/3/13 Photo: Jarret Liotta

 

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'MAKE' IT COUNT
The second annual Westport Mini Maker Faire will showcase invention, creativity and resourcefulness with a variety of demonstrations and hands-on exhibits at the Westport Public Library and Jesup Green on Saturday, April 27, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The event will feature the latest in 3-D printing, Arduino board and Raspberry Pi applications, ham radios, DIY biology, computer-assisted drawing demonstrations, woodworking, vintage electronics, robotics, remote-controlled aircraft, student projects, unusual tools and machines, composting and rocketry.
A $1,000 prize will be awarded by the Awesome Foundation CT to an exhibitor whose work best exemplifies the Maker Faire principles of innovation, experimentation and craftsmanship. For more information, visit www.awesomect.org/makerfaire.
For more details about the Westport Mini Maker Faire, visit http://bit.ly/126U4J0.
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The key word is creation, and the Westport Public Library is "making" plenty of opportunities for creativity to soar.

Ask Spencer Serels, 13, a seventh-grader at Coleytown Middle School, who is one of the most knowledgeable volunteer ambassadors at the library's Maker Space. Serels was looking for a project to fulfill the community-service component of his bar mitzvah, but his introduction to 3-D printing at the Maker Space opened a whole new world of interests.

"I looked at it for one day and I knew what I wanted to do," said Serels, who not only operates the computer-driven printers, but has "printed" several creations of his own design, including a "Westport Library" sign.

The two 3-D printers are one feature in the Maker Space that will be front and center April 27 at the library's second Westport Mini Maker Faire. The event will feature a variety of exhibitions, hands-on workshops and demonstrations in a variety of sciences, arts and crafts, engineering areas, robotics, and more.

"There's over 100 `makes,' and there'll be a broad range of makers' activities," said Bill Derry, the library's assistant director for innovation and user experience.

Derry emphasized that the so-called Maker Movement involves more than just 3-D printers people can see in operation at the library. "It's a movement to get people reinventing and rethinking how things work," he said.

"It's all about learning," Derry added. "That's where the library is changing. It's lifelong learning," with the library supporting that learning network in new and broader ways.

Serels took time recently to demonstrate how the 3-D printer works, beginning with a spool of colored plastic cord attached at the back of the device.

"At 220, 230 degrees Celsius, it melts the plastic and extrudes it," he said, referring to the tiny nozzle that moves with the versatility of a printer's ink dispenser.

Using one of two programs -- MakerWare or ReplicatorG -- Serels then selects an item that he wants to replicate. In this case, he planned to print out an iPhone cover, which will be made in two separate pieces and then coupled together.

"You have to generate a G-code," he said, "and that's what the printer reads."

Once the computer is through processing the data, Serels cleans the printer's platform -- the space where the item will be made -- with acetone. "If any human oils get onto the platform, it wouldn't print," he said.

The plate itself heats to 110 degrees Celsius.

As Serels prepares to start the creation process, a group of library visitors pauses outside the perimeter of the Maker Space area to examine creations the printers have made -- about 100 small items of all varieties and colors, such as chess pieces, signs, figures and more.

"Boy, you guys have made a lot of new stuff!" one woman exclaimed.

Serels starts the printer. But when the fine line of plastic seems to go haywire, Serels quickly shuts it off.

"These printers are very temperamental," he said, "and what you have to do is make sure the plate is level."

After minor adjusting, he tries again. This time the project is underway and the supple spout of the extruder begins painting a delicate line of plastic in the design of a cellphone cover. With the quick-moving finesse of a master pastry chef spraying frosting, the machine will continue its crafting dance for about two hours before it finally completes the product.

"There's no limit to what you can make on these things," Serels said. "Some of the things that people can make are crazy."

Among these, according to Derry, is actual human skin made from biochemical material.

"The Westport Library was the first library in the state to create a Maker Space, and it was a direct result of the success of last year's Westport Mini Maker Faire," said Mark Mathias, a Board of Education member who played a key role in organizing last year's fair. Mathias, along with the Westport Sunrise Rotary Club, helped secure the library's first 3-D printer.

"The Westport Mini Maker Faire is the first official Maker Faire event in Connecticut," he said. As a consequence, he started a nonprofit called Remarkable STEAM Inc., which is co-producing the fair.

"Starting this year," he said, the fair "will start programs to help bridge the education gap, as well as help create jobs for people," he said. "One of our target goals is to build a physical facility that allows people to work on larger, longer-term projects with equipment and materials that will help foster creativity, innovation and learning."

`MAKE' IT COUNT

The second annual Westport Mini Maker Faire will showcase invention, creativity and resourcefulness with a variety of demonstrations and hands-on exhibits at the Westport Public Library and Jesup Green on Saturday, April 27, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The event, according to organizers from the library and Remarkable Steam Inc., will feature the latest in 3-D printing, Arduino board and Raspberry Pi applications, ham radios, DIY biology, computer-assisted drawing demonstrations, woodworking, vintage electronics, robotics, remote-controlled aircraft, student projects, unusual tools and machines, composting and rocketry.

A $1,000 prize will be awarded by the Awesome Foundation CT to an exhibitor whose work best exemplifies the Maker Faire principles of innovation, experimentation and craftsmanship. For more information, visit www.awesomect.org/makerfaire.

For more details about the Westport Mini Maker Faire, visit http://bit.ly/126U4J0.