Fun in Silicon Valley: Visit the Maker Faire in San Mateo
A family-friendly festival embracing invention, creativity, and resourcefulness, the Maker Faire is a science and county fair all rolled into one. While these fairs are held around the U.S., one of the largest and craziest of the bunch is in the area where Apple Founder Steve Jobs once made his famous toast to the crazy ones who see things differently. Yes, I’m taking about Silicon Valley.
What is the Maker Faire?
Launched at the San Mateo Event Center in 2006, the Maker Faire began as an offbeat exhibition of 100 makers, hands-on workshops, demonstrations and DIY competitions. It has since grown to over 900 exhibiting makers and has inspired additional events around the world. Much of this expansion has been spawned by families who have joined the legions of crafters, hobbyists, engineers, tinkerers, tech enthusiasts, scientists, authors, and artists who flock to this event.
Activities at the Maker Faire in San Mateo
While the bulk of the activities revolve around educational topics like engineering, recycling, building, science and technology, your kids will have no idea that they’re learning but they’ll have no doubt that they’re having fun!
Here are some scenarios to prove my point:
- My daughter discovered the thrill of power tools when she got her hands on a soldering iron at this fair, using it to fashion a garden sculpture comprised of computer parts.
- My son took his first crack at operating a sewing machine, reworking a standard men’s shirt into a super hero cape.
- Both kids tested the powers of laser beams by crawling under them to escape detection. Of course this would be a very handy skill for a prisoner or thief, but the point of such activities for kids is to have them step outside their comfort zones and get up close and personal with technology.
From unusual vehicles like a motorized barcalounger to workshops on lock picking, there are so many unique and unusual things to check out at a Maker Faire. Here’s a partial list of classic sights that resonated with my kids:
- The Life-Sized Mousetrap Game: A hand crafted, 16-piece interactive sculpture set atop a 65,000 square foot game board.
- Coke Zero and Mentos Show: Geysers of soda shoot over twenty feet into the air in this spectacular mint-powered Maker Faire version of the Fountains of Bellagio in Las Vegas. If you want to see this demonstration, go early to get a spot because everyone in the fairgrounds turns out for it!
- Cupcake Cars: Small go-kart type cars shaped and decorated like cupcakes. These sweet modes of transportation are powered by an electric wheelchair motor.
- The Water Totter: A seesaw/water fountain utilizing kid power. I begged for more than the allotted five minutes in hopes of wearing out my high energy children, but alas others were waiting!
- The Lego Jeep: A unique interactive and ever changing art display where children build onto and rearrange Legos on a Jeep fashioned into a building station.
- The Young Maker Community: The array of projects coming out of the Young Maker community will blow you away! My kids found a lot of inspiration testing fun and offbeat products like a xylophone made from baseball bats and a pinball machine constructed of recycled wood pieces. This area featured everything from robotics to printmaking, and the kids explored every area.
One thing for sure is that the spirit of the Maker Faire is catchy. My daughter is living proof. She joined her high school robotics team this year, pouring the enthusiasm she found at the Maker Faire into her efforts there. Yes, another Maker is born.
Make it a weekend of innovation and educational fun by booking a room at Hilton Garden Inn San Mateo or Hilton San Francisco Airport Bayfront. Both are a short drive from Silicon Valley’s Maker Faire, which runs from May 20-22.
If you love the idea of taking the kids to a Maker Faire, but can’t make the San Mateo event, check out the other Maker Faires coming up this year in Washington, D.C., New York City, and other U.S. and international locations!
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Kristine lives in Mountain View, California, where she is the mother of a gifted girl athlete and a special needs charmer. Like almost everything in her house,…