Hands-on experience: MakerFest aims to inspire

MakerFest aims to inspire

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Madelyn Vicina, 5, of Nisula moves a husky figure through the set of Ian Raymond’s stop-motion film as part of his booth.

HOUGHTON — Visitors could make paper circuits, try out ham radio or help animate a stop-motion film at Saturday’s MakerFest.

This was the second year for the event, put on by Superior Fab Lab. In a change from last year, anyone who had a display was required to include a hands-on component, said co-organizer Shane Oberloier, an assistant teaching professor of electrical and computer engineering at Michigan Technological University.

“You go to craft shows, and you see the finished crafts, but here the emphasis is on seeing them being made and put together,” he said. “And so the real objective here is to inspire, to go and say ‘Oh, I could do that,’ or ‘Oh, I tried that and I want to do more,’ or ‘I’m curious to try this, can I talk to you and ask questions?’ We’ve got vendors that are excited about what they’re doing, and they want people to try it out as well.”

Instead of six or seven hands-on activities, this year had close to 30, Oberloier said. It also moved to a larger space within Houghton High School, with demonstrations occurring in the gym.

About 350 people had attended in the first two hours of the five-hour event, more than had come in all of last year’s debut.

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Children build paper circuits at the Society of Women Engineers’ booth at MakerFest Saturday.

Woodworker Dylan Goodson demonstrated his skills and explained the details of his carvings. He’d gotten started at 14 after watching a PBS woodworking show that showed a carver making a face in a block of wood.

His first attempt at a realistic figure resulted in a Picasso-ish figure with one ear and square holes for eyes. But he kept at it, checking out books from the library, buying better tools, then taking (and later teaching seminars). He moved on to animal carving and discovered a natural knack for relief carving.

“Ten to 15 years later, now I can make the type of human figure carving that I wanted to make when I started,” he said. “But it took me 15 years to get to that.”

Some pieces can be done quickly, such as the faces he carved in a piece of wood during last year’s MakerFest. More complicated pieces — such as the full-body figure of a magician, complete with rabbit in his coat pocket — can take up to 700 hours.

Plenty of people stopped to talk to Goodson and learn more, including Katie Ek and her family. Ek, of Hancock, had seen MakerFest on a school email. There were too many good parts of the day to single out, she said, but she loved that her kids could do hands-on activities.

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette People build creations from bins of Legos at Saturday’s MakerFest.

“They can participate, see how things work, and try it for themselves,” she said. “I think that doing that as a young child, it can spark the interest for them in their older years, because that’s exactly what has happened to me in all my hobbies.”

Madelyn Vicina, 5, of Nisula got to help move a figure for a stop-motion film being made by Ian Raymond, an assistant teaching professor of photography at Tech. As she moved a tiny husky incrementally along a set, Raymond uploaded the frames and showed her the footage.

The stop-motion booth is “really cool for the kids,” said Vicina’s mother, Angela Vicina. She’d also liked the Society of Women Engineers’ booth on building paper circuits, and Zack Osborn’s station on growing mushrooms.

“We homeschool our children, so we try to get them out and about to do these types of things as much as possible,” she said.

Raymond also talked more about his process during one of a series of presentations at Saturday’s MakerFest, which included everything from upcycling plastics to the mental health benefits of making things.

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette William Forney scans the head of Jordan Tormala, 11, of Hancock to create a 3-D image at Saturday’s MakerFest.

He starts by writing down his ideas and doing storyboards before animation. It’s time-consuming work, said Raymond, who showed a 28-second clip that had required about three full days.

After the planning comes the capturing of images, as people did all day at his set. He follows that with editing, which can include digitally removing wires.

In an industry setting, everything that doesn’t have to move is secured with hot glue, said Raymond, whose credits include working on the Cartoon Network stop-motion show “Robot Chicken.” Though filmmakers had begun introducing CGI in lieu of stop motion starting with “Jurassic Park,” he said he did not think animation such as Pixar would ever fully take its place.

“It can’t replace stop-motion, because you get that vibe of using lights, having naturalistic shadows and having that kind of choppy movement,” he said. “They might have AI that mimics stop-motion, but i don’t think they’ll ever be able to get to that effects feel.”

At the Superior Fab Lab booth, children got to try out 3-D printers, oscilloscopes and autorouters that can be used to make designs such as names.

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Simon Gross, a sixth-grader at Houghton Middle School, stands with his eight-string instrument he entered in Saturday’s MakerFest.

“It’s the chance to show off the tools we use in the enterprise, show how they can be used and generate interest in it that way,” said William Forney, a Tech student in the Open Source Hardware Enterprise group Oberloier advises.

Forney did 360-degree 3-D scans of people’s heads. Those files can then be used to 3-D print a bust.

One who lined up was Jordan Tormala of Hancock. His father, Jason Tormala, said his children enjoyed robotics and 3-D printing.

“They see a lot of stuff online, but to see it in person, like printing and scanning, is really cool,” he said.

Makers also competed in various categories, with their works stationed in the hallway outside the gym for people to view.

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Woodworker Dylan Goodson spins one of his pieces, a magician, to show the details to Katie Ek and her family at Saturday’s MakerFest.

Simon Gross, a sixth-grade student from Houghton Middle School, made a stand-up string instrument using a piece of wood and a garbage can. He’d gotten the inspiration one night after looking at a broom handle. His question: “What would happen if I put strings on this and had them going around in a full or partial octave?”

He thought about it for a year, then decided he could build it. And he did, taking about five weeks from planning and design to the actual tuning and building.

A cello student with Copper Country Suzuki Association, he used two sets of cello strings, though each was tuned differently.

Saturday was the public debut for his instrument, which he’d finished the night before. He also composes and hopes to eventually incorporate the instrument into one of his pieces.

“People are just really open to the idea of a new musical instrument, and it seems like they like it,” he said.


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