Exploring Senses ‘Young Inventors Centre’ at the Brighton Mini Maker Faire 2014

The Mini Maker Faire is over for another year and what an amazing day it was! Exploring Senses’ ‘Young Inventors Centre’ occupied the first floor of the Corn Exchange, inviting visitors to participate in the planning, designing, building and populating of ‘Our Dream City’ using a spectacular range of physical materials, crafts and technological resources.
The day kicked off with Phase 1: City Planning and Development. Participants were asked what they wanted to see in Our Dream City and to begin designing it using computer aided software such as 123D Design, Pepakura, Dekkoscan and the phenomenal zeitgeist that is Minecraft, as well as getting to work on physical construction using cardboard, Lego and other materials.
By lunchtime, Phase 2: Construction was well under way and Our Dream City was beginning to take shape in 3D form on the cardboard foundations – presided over by our noble Town Mayor.
A well deserved Builders Tea Break followed, giving the Exploring Senses team the chance to clear away the surplus tools and materials from the construction phase, and to prepare for phase 3: Population! Now things were about to get crazy – and very warm – as our team of enthusiastic and diverse creative volunteers (ranging from artists, crafters and sculptors through to experts in digital media, film makers, musicians and everything in between) opened their cardboard shops to work with visitors of all ages to create anything and everything they could imagine and populate Our Dream City!

Participants were invited to make random experimental objects that could incorporate sound, light, movement and so on; wearable technology that might impress aliens, or purely to design things for their own enjoyment, using the resources and people available to bring their ideas to life.

The Toy Hacking area was as popular as ever, with visitors welcomed to get stuck into our supply of broken toys and give them a whole new (sometimes terrifying) lease of life – a far better destiny than thousands of years slowly deteriorating in landfill – by hacking them up and reconstructing them in any way imaginable with hot glue guns, needle and thread, or any other conceivable method.

It is always a beautiful thing to watch families enter the toy hacking zone, look around cautiously, uncertain as to what’s going on…to overhear a child saying ‘can I do it?’ and if their grown up looks unsure to jump in and say ‘Yes! You absolutely can – the toys are there, the glue guns are there – go for it!’ and to watch as the child bounces off to get stuck in while the grown ups relax and smile, or better still, get stuck in too!!

Exploring Senses aims to give children the opportunity and encouragement to try new things, develop skills and confidence in creating, building, planning, experimenting and generally discovering their own aptitudes, abilities and creative voice, with a view to helping them find their own path and perhaps a future career or hobby that they will love forever. This is particularly important, we feel, in this crazy time where really useful skills are being taught less and less as a part of standard education. But it’s not just for the kids. The Mini Maker Faire proved all over again that workshops such as these are incredibly valuable for grown ups too, who themselves may not have, or have had, many opportunities to experiment with such a variety of skills and media. When young and old play and learn together it can be tremendously bonding and therefore an incredibly positive experience for all concerned. Meanwhile, the integration of tangible skills with futuristic technology is ridiculously exciting – there is so much potential to mix it all up and make amazing things happen!
Our Dream City got everyone involved from the young to the slightly older, from the novices to experts – because the future of our world SHOULD involve everyone – no one, regardless of age, gender, ability etc, should feel that their voice is insignificant.
It was a wonderful experience, and we can’t wait to do it all again. If you would like to be a part of the next workshop, please follow us on social media and/or sign up to our newsletter.
Until next time, keep exploring!

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