Editor's Note: Young adult novelist Sara Ryan attended Maker Faire in New York looking for kids doing fascinating things with technology. As we've noted before, we believe the maker ethic has a shot at overhauling education. And this team of young women is one reason why.
The World Maker Faire took place in and around the New York Hall of Science this past weekend. Sponsored by Make magazine, the event was created to unite "engineers, artists, crafters, tinkerers and scientists." Depending on where you look, Maker Faire takes on qualities of carnival, craft skillshare, indie arts fest and science fair. It's a massive collaborative venture, one that's overwhelming to contemplate.
So I head straight for the Young Makers pavilion, operating with the theory that if the Faire ends up having the staying power to outlast the current DIY trend, it will be because today's kids and teens embrace its tech-positive, tinkering-friendly spirit. Almost immediately, I find high school sophomore Amy Lai, helping a little girl practice driving. They're controlling a four-wheeled vehicle that I later learn is called a VEX bot, built using a kit from VEX Robotics.
There are two VEX bots on a square mat. Sometimes the bots run into corners, or each other, and there's a steady stream of kids eager to take the controls. My conversation with Amy is regularly interrupted as she repositions the bots and gently encourages the kids to share. Amy is a member of the Fe26 Maidens, an all-girl robotics team from the Bronx High School of Science. (If you use the word Iron, it's copyrighted by the band; thus the team's clever periodic table-based name.) She got interested in joining after attending a school fair that featured robotics projects. "I just thought it was really amazing," she recalls. "I wanted to learn to build them."