Sunday, July 06, 2014

My Thoughts on the 2014 Kansas City Maker Faire at Union Station

2014 Kansas City Maker Faire in Union Station

I have looked forward to the 2014 Kansas City Maker Faire all year.  Last year I attended my first maker faire and it blew my mind.  This past week Union Station again hosted the 2014 Kansas City Maker Faire and I attended on both Saturday and Sunday. Once again, I walked away energized and excited about how the maker movement can impact education. The Kansas City Maker Faire drew over 16,000 visitors from 40 different states.  Think about that - 16,000 people from over 40 states attending a two day event about making.

Checking out wallets and covers made from paper and maps

Click here to check out my 360 degree photosphere from the center of the Kansas City Maker Faire at Union Station.

Click here to check out my 360 degree photosphere from the Kansas City Maker Faire inside the Maker Studio at Union Station / Science City.

Click here to check out my 360 degree photosphere from the Kansas City Maker Faire inside Union Station / Science City.

Click here to check out my 360 degree photosphere from the Kansas City Maker Faire outside Union Station.

It is hard to describe a maker faire but as I walked around on Saturday and soaked in the creativity.  Union Station, and the grounds in front of Union Station, were packed with people.  There were a lot of 3D printers, students demonstrating robotic projects, and tables of people willing to share their open source projects.  But there is so much more.  I stopped by tables of people who made their own jewelry and bought my wife a purse made by a couple of women in Kansas City from recycled coffee bags.  

Handbags and purses made from recycled rice and coffee bags
The Kansas City Maker Faire, which is currently the 3rd largest maker faire in the country behind the Bay area and New York City, had a special guest this year - Dale Dougherty, the godfather of the maker movement.  I was visiting the Maker Studio on the ground level of Union Station when Mr. Dougherty walked past me.  I recognized him and did what any starstruck geek would do - I told him how much I appreciated his work and asked him to take a selfie with me.  

My selfie with the creator of the maker movement - Dale Dougherty

Later in the day I was able to sit in the audience of a panel discussion hosted by Mr. Dougherty on education and the maker movement.  It was a great discussion but perhaps the biggest take away for me was a question from a teacher in the crowd.  She asked:

"I know the maker movement would be great for the classroom but as a classroom teacher I don't the knowledge or the funding to do these amazing things. What do I do about the lack of those two things if I want to do the maker movement in my classroom?"

I think this is a common perception of the maker movement in education - it takes a lot of technology and a lot of money but if this is the perception then we need to correct the stereotype.  I have dabbled in the maker movement over the past year by trying a lot of new things, having my two daughters try to build things and reading as much as I can on the topic and I have come to the personal conclusion that the "maker movement" is misleading.  It should really be called the "sharing movement".  It is about trying something, then trying something else and when you get stuck asking someone who might know the answer.  The great thing about the maker movement is people are so willing to share.  Union Station was full of people willing to share and explain the things they have been working on and what they want to do in the future.  

Creating stamped prints at Kansas City Maker Faire

It isn't about the "stuff" - sure 3D printers are cool and generate a lot of buzz but the maker movement is also about scraps of wood, cardboard toilet paper tubes and glue sticks.  As educators we need to allow our students to think, create and build things.

Maker Studio in Union Station Science City - Kansas City

I came back on Saturday with my entire family.  My wife talked to several Kansas City artists about their their print making and fabric arts.  I bought a hand made leather cover from the little notebooks I carry around.  My daughters made stamped art with erasers and build light sticks with LED lights and small batteries.  They also bought a couple of necklaces and visited with the artist who made the artwork. It was a great day and my family walked away with new ideas about things we can build and create together in the future.

The Photo Bus at the Kansas City Maker Faire 2014


  1. Hello again, Mr. Langhorst! The Maker Faire sounded so incredible this year! I really appreciate your follow up post to let us know how it went this year. I really like how you said it should be called a "sharing movement". I think that's how a lot of teaching is these days because no one can teach on their own without a little help from others. Thank you for the great post!

  2. I really like your characterization of it as a sharing movement as well. The question you repeated from that teacher is exactly the one my wife has been struggling with, and I have wondered about too. Your post inspired me to start with a Rube Goldberg project with my makers club students this year after school! I also an inspired to help my students learn how to solder by the soldering experiences my daughters had at Makersfaire Kansas City this year. Those little LED pin kits were very simple but so cool to successfully create independently.