What I Learned About the State of Making At National Maker Faire

This past weekend I had the amazing opportunity of attending National Maker Faire in Washington D.C. It was two days packed with awesome displays, talks, and people. I had a chance to make a ton of great new connections in the maker world and got a great look into the current state of making, as represented by the various booths and attendees. These are my main takeaways from the faire.

The Future of Tech Is In Good Hands

By my very rough and unscientific estimation I would say there were at least as many and probably more kids attending the faire than adults. It was absolutely amazing to see kids dragging their parents around with such excitement in their eyes and enthusiasm in their tone. Seeing them play with a robot kit or write some Blockly code to control a Sense HAT showed me that their passion for tech and making is unparalleled. I can’t wait to see what they accomplish.

Bots, Bots, and More Bots

Not the kind that are trying to take over the online world, but physical robots. I counted at least a dozen displays featuring robot tech or kits to engage with the maker audience, especially kids. I can’t say I was totally surprised but I was a bit shocked by just how much focus there was on robots. Many of the younger attendees spoke about participating in FIRST Robotics and how much they loved it.

3D Printing Is Here To Stay

3D printing came in a very close second to robotics at the faire with companies showing off the usual plastic PLA filament printing with ever-increasing accuracy. Additionally there were displays for metal 3D printing as well as flexible 3D printing using TPE filaments which was very cool. The takeaway here is that 3D printing is definitely not just a maker fad. The space has new players showing up all the time which creates strong competition that drives prices down while fueling innovation to make the printers more full-featured, accurate, and easy to use.

Parents Are Lost

So which of all these things should I really buy for my kids?

In addition to taking in all the faire had to offer I had the opportunity to work in a sponsor booth that had programming activities for kids. I took full advantage of that time to talk to as many parents as I could about how their kids got into making and what sorts of things they did, as parents, to nurture that spirit. The overwhelming majority of parents expressed the concern of having no idea how to help or encourage their kids. Of the hundred or so parents I spoke with less than ten had any background or knowledge in tech. The #1 question I received by far was “So which of all these things should I really buy for my kids?” The kids want everything but parents have the daunting task of deciding how to spend a finite “toy” budget.

Did I Mention The Amazing Kids?

I can’t stress enough how impressed I was with the young makers at the faire. They were quick to tackle solving problems and had an amazing energy about them. The mix was pretty evenly split between boys and girls which was very encouraging and a great reminder that a maker doesn’t have to fit a certain mold. I watched kindergarten-aged kids solve programming problems in Blockly while parents looked on in disbelief.

It’s a great time to be a Maker and we can definitely expect even more exciting times in the years ahead.

Are you a Maker? I’d love to connect and get to know you better. Find me on Twitter @KevinSidwar.

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