Last weekend, we took the Tinkering Studio on the road for the 11th annual Bay Area Maker Faire. As usual, we brought an interesting combination of exhibits, artists and activities down to San Mateo, which this year all related to the ideas of linkage-based mechanisms. Tinkering Studio staff and project explainers facilitated workshop spaces where kids and adults could spend time, slow down, and make something personally meaningful. And we were thrilled to host Theo Jansen and a strandbeest in the booth to represent his summer exhibition here at the Exploratorium. Here are a few images and stories from the booth:
In our main workshop space we continued the LEGO linkage experiments that we've been prototyping with explainers over the past couple of weeks. We prepared a bunch of the pegboard walls from Sebastian's file and collected an eclectic variety of instruments and sound makers.
The prompt also allowed people to go deep into the process of creation and we saw participants really struggle to make complex mechanisms with many different linkage movements coming from the single motor.
In the workshop space we tried to encourage kids and adults to work together. I thinks that LEGO as a material specifically can support kids to take the role of a expert as they build their machines alongside adults.
We tried to create a protected workshop space where people would feel comfortable lingering and we noticed the space being full almost the entire weekend with faire goers experiencing the process of tinkering and making firsthand.
While we always bring the venerable (but not quite waterproof) tube wall to Maker Faire, this year Nicole built another linkage based divider for the workshop space with pegboard walls with motion examples facing the interior. Luigi contributed his stenciled graffiti skills to add tinkering themed quotes by Theo Jansen that we felt fit with the activity. It was really nice how this wall made for a clear boundary but also allowed for other ways of interaction giving parents a place to watch their kids and let bystanders get a sense of what was going on in the booth.
For the previous two weeks before the faire we were also hosting an artist, Eunyoung Park who created a beautiful linkage installation for the booth using a wooden connector kit that she is developing called Linkki.
We also set up a small space for people to investigate with the same materials that Eunyoung uses to create her artwork. It was a little challenging for people to figure out how to put the pieces together, but we were impressed by the time participants spent playing with the system and the complex mechanisms that they designed using Linkki.
But of course, the piece-de-resistance of the booth was an ordis (mini-strandbeest) built by legendary tinkerer Theo Jansen. We brought it down as a part of the big summer show at the Exploratorium to give maker faire attendees a preview of these magnificent walking machines that use linkages to great effect.
Explainers and TS staff got to push the beest around the booth so that people could marvel at the lifelike motions produced by simple materials and a lifetime of trial and error (or evolution).
Paul D and others showed off a mini leg model that demonstrated the Jansen linkage that serves as the building block for the walkers. On Saturday, Theo was at the faire and gave a talk to a packed room about the process of creating the strandbeests and some of the tools and techniques that he's developed over time.
It's always a lot of work to get the booth ready for maker faire, but once again I feel that it was important to both connect to the aspects of the maker movement that support the learning that happens in the tinkering studio as well as provide a little bit different context for faire goers to get out of the chaos of the crowds, play with a mix of high and low technology, and have a meaningful interaction with faciliators.