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Making a Maker Faire

WNYRIC is Part of Rochester Maker Faire at Every LevelA student assembles a block robot at Maker Faire Rochester.

The Western New York Regional Information Center (WNYRIC) staff played many roles in Rochester Mini Maker Faire’s transformation to Maker Faire Rochester and the addition of a third day dedicated student STEAM activities.

Since the beginning, WNYRIC has had a connection to the state’s largest mini maker faire. Staff Development Coordinator Antonio Scordo III is one of the founding organizers and has been on the New York State Association of Computers and Technologies in Education (NYSCATE) Fall Conference Committee since March of 2014 as a co-chair for the Maker Faire event.

“My first experience with a Maker Faire was in bringing my own children to the Buffalo Mini Maker Faire. I wanted to bring the smiles I saw on their faces to more children and adults, to see students having fun learning about science, technology, engineering, arts and math,” Scordo explained. “This year, I wanted to step things up and I proposed a ‘Student STEAM Fest.’ To my surprise, NYSCATE and Make: magazine approved the idea.”

WNYRIC Director of Business Continuity, Research and Innovation Michelle Okal-Frink serves on NYSCATE’s board of directors. She is currently the group’s vice president and has also served as president in her 13 years on the board.

“I have seen this event go from its inception, grow every year and now take the step from Mini Maker Faire to a full-fledged Maker Faire with the addition of Student STEAM Fest and the Hack-athon. It is a wonderful start to our annual NYSCATE conference that gets bigger and better every year,” Okal-Frink said.

The first Student STEAM Day opened to 1,200 students from 50 grade 3-8 classrooms from 28 districts across Western New York on the morning of Nov. 16.

For the past five years WNYRIC has encouraged Scordo and other staff volunteers to man the event. This year, the RIC’s participation also increased with the size of the event. A team of 20 staff members volunteered to supplement the inaugural Student STEAM Fest activities. Scordo plans the logistics of the event, from mapping to scheduling and set up to tear down. Other staff development coordinators assisted with hands-on learning opportunities like make your own ice cream, lemon juice invisible ink, squishy circuits, robotics, and fun with oobleck (non-Newtonian cornstarch and water combination).

Students also were treated to the magic of science at a performance by Jason Latimer, curator of the Fleet Science Center in San Diego, Calif. and a multi-award-winning magician.

“One of our goals at WNYRIC is to maximize the quality of instruction and to improve learning. Our staff development coordinators work to do that every day in classrooms across 100 school districts in western New York. This event takes STEAM integration in the classroom to the next level and we at WNYRIC are proud to promote this opportunity for students,” Elizabeth M. Freas, Director of Instructional Technology Resources and Professional Development, and oobleck station attendant, said.

The day was filled with nearly 95 makers focused on STEAM and teaching concepts from coding to culinary arts, civic engagement to sustainability and do-it-yourself to design.

WNYRIC Staff assist students in revealing their lemon juice invisible ink messages with an iron.   Three girls feel the properties of oobleck (cornstarch and water).  WNYRIC staff assist students in making their own ice cream from milk, sugar, ice and salt in a bag.

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