Parents like Tony DeRose (Ph.D.’85 CS) are all too familiar with the difficulty of finding something engaging for their children to do with their hands. “When my son grew out of Legos at about eight years old, we realized there wasn’t much for him to graduate into,” DeRose says.
That’s when DeRose began working on projects with his son in their garage. Most of the projects went unfinished until they discovered the Bay Area Maker Faire, “the world’s largest DIY festival,” held each spring. Their first exhibit at the fair was a multi-touch computer display, similar to a giant iPad, in 2008.
From there, DeRose and his son were hooked. DeRose, a senior scientist and research group leader at Pixar Animation Studios, wanted to bring the Maker Faire to more students. In collaboration with the Exploratorium, San Francisco’s hands-on science museum, DeRose co-founded the Young Makers program in 2010. The program expanded with Young Makers clubs at schools or in parent-run garages and workshops. In its first year, 20 clubs with about 100 young makers participated, and around 40 teams exhibited at the Maker Faire. Projects ranged from kinetic horses and hovercrafts to animatronic fire-breathing dragons.
Makers are people “who are always wondering how things work, taking things apart, who really like to work with their hands in everything from knitting to robotics,” says DeRose. “The most important thing we’re helping to develop in these kids is the ability to learn on their own—to take an idea from conception to completion.”