We were given THE PRIME location in the young builders section of the Word Maker Faire.
Six students shared duty with 1 person out in the crowd inviting passers by, 1 person giving the elevator pitch and follow up questions and 1 person showing little kids how to solder. Communication in real life. This strategy seemed to work well because the booth was rarely empty. The invitation with elevator pitch was long enough to get the kids to sit down and learn to solder. This in turn gave an extended time for E-B students to talk with the adults while they waited for their kid to finish. A lesson in not only communication, but in group dynamics. So many more lessons than just how to 3D print cases and solder circuits.
Everyone was impressed with the student run booth. The other booths in the Young Builders section were mostly adults catering to the young or booths with young projects, with parents running the booth and kids running around. At our booth, the adults were close by, but out of sight. I only spoke with 4 participant adults, and that is because they specifically sought me out. Three of them spoke about how well spoke the students were.
Both the New York Times and one of the MakerFaire Organizers each spent about 30 min at our booth. They both mentioned that they were impressed by a few things.
#1. That we were using engineering to solve a real problem in the world. As fun as making cool robots that fight each other might be, we were doing something real.
#2. That 5 of the 6 high school students were female. That is an oddity. What is it that we are doing different? It was fantastic to see these elementary aged girls looking up to the older high school girls as mentors as they learned how to solder. One little girl with a pink NASA hat left the booth saying, “Mom, I want to be an electrical engineer for NASA.”
#3. That students were in charge of the booth. While the adults gave advice, suggestions and a few ground rules, it was the students who made decisions on who would have break when, who would fill what role etc…
As a result, we are going to form a “significant” contribution to the NY Times Sunday Magazine dedicated to Learning.
One of the Editors of the MakerFaire actually took time out of her very busy schedule, knelt down on her knees in the grass and spoke with our students. She said that Engineering Brightness booth was brought up twice in the planning meetings in a positive way in between comments about the huge Google or Digikey booths because of our “raison d’etre”. She awarded the students with an “EDITOR’s CHOICE” award. ‘
The interview with the NY Times, the Editor’s Choice Award and the meeting with Justin Collette at the School of Rock, all combined together to give a new perspective of what it means to be from New Brunswick Canada, the poorest, but yet the best province in Canada?