Berkeley 7th graders Jane Yarnell and Sam Schickler and their Black Pine Circle School science teacher Christine Mytko will attend the first-ever White House Maker Faire today as “honored guests.”
The Maker Faire, described on the Maker Media website as “the greatest show (and tell) on earth,” is a gathering of hobbyists and professionals interested in hands-on, do-it-yourself crafts, often involving technology.
The Maker movement has grown rapidly since its launch in 2006. In 2013, 98 independent Mini and Featured Maker Faires were hosted globally, and flagship Maker Faires in the Bay Area and New York were attended by a combined 195,000 people. So far, 140 Maker Faires are scheduled for 2014.
Thirteen-year-old Yarnell, from Kensington, said that she feels at home in the Maker Movement.
“I’ve never liked to just buy a new thing. It’s way more fun to work on it,” she said, describing the Maker Movement as a “group of people who are interested in just that, who’ll give you advice on how to do this or that.”
Maker Media, the company that started Maker Faires in 2006, opened an office in Berkeley in May after moving from Sebastapol. They plan to move completely out of their Sonoma County offices by the end of the year.
More than 1,000 “makers” contributed to the fair this year in San Mateo. The event drew tens of thousands of spectators to see displays ranging from world-record-holding paper airplanes to a group of competitive lock-pickers. Yarnell, Schickler and Mytko were there representing the BPC Maker Club.
The BPC Maker club had shown its work with 3D-printing at two events previously, the East Bay Mini-Maker Faire and the Bay Area Science Festival, after the school purchased a 3D printer in the spring of 2013. Mytko said that when the school purchased the 3D printer, she had reservations about how the students were using it.
“The kids wanted to print ducks and iPhone cases… and to me that’s not the power of 3D printing,” she said.
Mytko, who has taught science at BPC since 2007, did an internship with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Advanced Light Source (ALS) to learn about more meaningful uses of 3D printing. Mytko explained that the ALS can be used to create hyper-detailed digital reconstructions of small objects.
“You take over a thousand photos from many different angles, of the sample, which is generally about a millimeter in size,” said Mytko. “So using software what you can do is reconstruct that like a 3D x-ray.”
Mytko arranged for her seventh-grade class to write proposals to use the ALS. A small group of students was selected, and they were able to scan several objects with the machine. Among the objects scanned were pieces of Mentos candy and eggshells.
The BPC Maker club figured out how to expand the scans using open-source software and 3D print physical objects that showed the microscopic eccentricities of the material scanned.
“We learned about how the eggshells have pores, and it’s hard to see that because they look smooth,” Mytko said. “And then when you print the model that we scanned, enlarged, it’s very clear to see the structure of the eggshell.”
Yarnell and Schickler and other members of the Maker club debuted their ALS prints at the San Mateo Maker Faire, winning an “Editor’s Choice” blue ribbon and a “Best in Class” red ribbon.
Thirteen-year old Schickler of Berkeley said that he appreciated the hands-on learning. “It’s really different to see it online and to learn about it than to touch it and feel it,” he said. “It makes it much better, you understand it much more.”
After winning the ribbons at the Faire, Mytko decided to apply on a whim to the White House Maker Faire, she said.
“It was just like — Oh, there’s the first ever White House Maker Faire. Wouldn’t that be funny if we could go? I was not expecting this to happen. I didn’t tell the kids I applied, because it was such a long shot,” she said.
On Wednesday, Yarnell, Schickler and Mytko, along with the rest of the makers invited to the White House, will share their work with President Obama. Obama will also announce “new steps the Administration and its partners are taking to support the ability of more Americans, young and old, to have to access to these tools and techniques and brings their ideas to life,” according to a representative from the Black Pine Circle School.
“I’m a little nervous about it, but I feel like it’s a group of fellow makers,” said Yarnell. “It’s a group that knows that things don’t always work the first time, and that there’s a lot of experimentation involved in this, and just appreciates how cool it is, even though it doesn’t always go smoothly.”
Charles Siler is a summer intern at Berkeleyside. He grew up in the North Bay and now attends Tulane University in New Orleans.
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