It’s hard to believe this was my first ever year attending the Maker Faire in NYC, but yep. It’s true. And now consider me an annual attendee. Thanks to our sponsor Sprout by HP who hooked me up with tickets (thank you thank you thank you, HP!) I got to spend a beautiful Saturday roaming Flushing Meadows Park and checking out some of the exciting things people are creating in the STEM and maker space. Wow there were a lot of things, and I definitely didn’t see them all. But from what I did catch, I’ve pared it down to just some of my favorite finds that I think families will be excited about too.
Ready to start your holiday lists? Okay then.
I really love this brand new Boston-area company, who’s got a Kickstarter starting Sept 30 (big scoop!) for their new US-made wooden marble maze kits for kids. It’s a really fun way to introduce engineering principles and basic physics to kids who don’t just play with a marble maze, but actually construct their own. It all comes together with a cool little graphic novel that helps create a story around the inventions, and I think kids will love it. At least if my kids are any indication. They saw the video and went, whoa! We want that!
If you or your kids are having fun experimenting with photography, I love the kits our friends at Photojojo are putting together. This one in particular helps you add light and color effects to photos, with items like a glass prism, a pack of coor four, LEDs, a rainbow peephole, and a book of tricks so you’ll know what to do with it all. So fun!
As HP’s partner, I was lucky to get a hands-on demo of this mindblowing computer and WOW you guys. I didn’t want to leave. No wonder they had a line out the door of their mobile Sprout Truck to try it out. I also kept thinking of Mike Teevee in Willy Wonka getting beamed from the platform onto a TV set, because this is pretty much like that.
Essentially the Sprout is a powerful Windows PC, with a scanner at top, and a touch pad at the bottom.
The scanner can pull in both 3D objects (like fruit or toy animals or your hand if you’re my kids) or 2D objects (like a book page or a scrap of fabric), then turn those things into design elements for creation of all sorts.
Check out the creators section on their site or follow #gomakethings on Instagram for lots of inspiration and ideas. Like Camille Styles who scanned fresh flowers to make new drawer liners for the office. Or our friend Rachel from Handmade Charlotte, who wrote fun sayings in frosting (above), then turned them into free downloadable ecards.
(Which is why she is Rachel, and I am not.)
Scanning aside, the touch pad works in coordination with all kinds of apps, which is like having a second touch screen as part of your computer system. You can design your own cards using the Martha Stewart CraftStudio app, get kids creating using Crayola ColorAlive! or Colordraw and Sing, teach your kids piano with Pianotime (above), learn stop motion animation and so much more.
One of the coolest functions for me was the Docscan function. I watched an open book get scanned in in a few seconds, turning it into an editable Word document instead of a PDF or a JPG image. Do you know how awesome that is for cookbooks, old family photo albums, and even class lists and team rosters? This is some cool system.
There’s also a collaboration with Dremel 3D printers, should you want to get into that at home. Based on what I was seeing at Maker Faire, every home will have one soon.
I cannot stop thinking about this remarkable program at the University of Delaware, which is essentially retrofitting ride-on toys to provide mobility to kids with special needs and physical challenges in a fun way. Much more fun than electric wheelchairs.
I saw an ordinary looking colorful toy motorcycle that was rigged to help children walk — it automatically stops the second a little tushie hits the seat. Then there were cars for kids who don’t have the lower body strength to activate pedals, and instead can hit a huge red button on the steering wheel to stop and go.
There are more than half a million kids in the US alone who could use a vehicle from Go Baby Go — this video pretty much sums it up — and I hope this non-profit gets all the funding they need to make it happen.
This is way more fun than you’d think, even though it’s really simple: Kits that allow you to create fun, LED-lit pop-up greeting cards on your own. Isn’t that like everything every crafty kid loves all in one place? I didn’t make a greeting card at their booth, but I did make my own LED floral paper pin at their booth and my girls are now fighting over it. Coming out soon: Holiday card kits. Keep an eye out.
Originally made as to-scale building kits for professional use by architects and home designers, turns out the world of LEGO and Minecraft opened up the market — kids started using them no problem. Now there are several kits and they being used by schools, STEM and STEAM programs, and even just by kids at home. If you have kids with good fine motor skills, patience, and the need to put away the Minecraft once in awhile, this is an awesome way to do it. The basic kits start at $69.99 and go up to a massive 620-piece kit for $399 that pairs with SketchUp to create your model’s digital match. Whoa.
Maker Faire discount: Use code arckitmf15 for 15% off through oct 30
This very cool startup is blowing up the UK, now making inroads in the states, and creating all sorts of awesome kits for kids, whether they want to build and code their own games, create a homemade synth, or just know when to feed the houseplants by setting up a solar-powered moisture sensor. Seriously. The company all about tapping into the activities kids already love, which isn’t hard to figure out considering the CEO and co-founder is a mom herself.
I think the Electro Dough kit is a great intro to circuitry and for $25 will be a fun little holiday gift for STEM-loving kids. But for a more advanced project, check out the DIY Gamer Kit that requires soldering together the components and pairing with the Arduino micro controller so you can play Snakes and Pong and even games of your own design.
Did you ever think we’d be excited to play Pong again? The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Thanks so much to our fantastic sponsor Sprout by HP for letting us check out their groundbreaking computer system first-hand, supporting all kinds of makers in a big way, and giving us the opportunity to us see all the other inspiring projects at the World Maker Faire.
For more info on Sprout by HP, visit the website and follow the hashtag #gomakethings on social media.And if you’re in the Market for the Sprout + Dremel 3D Maker’s bundle, be sure to use code dremel200 for $200 off!
You may also be able to visit the Sprout Truck yourself in your hometown! Just check out the HP Facebook Event page for more Sprout Truck Stops.