Anyone interested in young people education has probably heard of the Maker movement and the Maker Faire. Or, at least, they may have seen a copy of Make: magazine on the newsstands. Many educators understand the connection between science and technology education and how this Maker movement can be used to make learning fun.
Well, I have to say this is a lot of successful marketing hype – since so many people worldwide think this is a new and wonderful phenomenon. Here’s some news for everyone: This is not a new idea. Amateur radio operators (“hams”) have been among the original Makers since the early 20th century.
In case you have not heard about Makers, here is a brief description: The Maker movement is about making something rather than buying something, fixing it rather than throwing it away, pre-cycling or recycling instead of throwing it away and modifying something to make it work better or different.
This “making” refers to anything you can think of, from clothing and costumes and computers to bicycles and cars and aircraft. And for ham radio operators – it’s making or modifying radio communications equipment.
A Personal Passion and Mission
Since ham radio has been and continues to be one of my passions, I want to make sure people understand that today’s ham radio is not an outdated, dying hobby that no one uses any more. It is not necessarily a hobby for old retired engineers talking to strangers from their basements and closets. The Amateur Radio Service is much more chic and many of us are using today’s technology and applying it to ham radio activities. And as a science and an educational tool, ham radio has a lot to offer.
A Timely Showcase
The Bay Area Maker Faire is at the end of May each year. Sponsored by Make magazine, the Maker Faire website describes this event as, “A two-day, family-friendly festival of invention, creativity and resourcefulness and a celebration of the Maker movement.”
When you actually get there, you may describe it as a giant playground for everyone where science, art, food, clothing, bicycles, fire, machines, lasers, steam, electricity and music all crunch together into one giant gathering. And I can insert ham radio into this cornucopia of educational fun.
In 2012, my ham radio friend Dennis Kidder had some free passes to the Bay Area Maker Faire. Since the tickets were a great bargain, we had to make the all-day drive to the Silicon Valley to see this thing. We had such a great experience that year we decided to create our own display to show off our ham radio projects. Besides, we got to meet Grant Imahara from the Discovery Channel show “Myth Busters,” and a famous female hacker named Jeri Ellsworth. Adam Savage, also from the Myth Busters show, is the Maker Faire emcee.
Amazingly, Maker booths are free. Considering how much commercial exhibitors pay for booth space, electricity, water, compressed air and cleaning for tradeshow booths, this is an incredible deal.
For 2014, my Maker Faire theme, “Not Your Grandpa’s Ham Radio!” continues for the third consecutive year. Our displays include a wide range of experiments, demonstrations and practical wireless communications equipment using a mixture of traditional and the most modern techniques. Here are some examples of our projects from previous Maker Faire events…
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