World Maker Faire: A Look at Skill Sharing

I had the pleasure of attending the World Maker Faire in the early Fall with my 14-year-old son, Sam, and 90,000 of my closest maker friends from around the world! What’s the maker faire you ask? Good question.

The whole experience defies description, but you could start by saying its equal parts science fair, craft show and renaissance festival all wrapped into one interactive and informative two-day event at the New York Hall of Science with sprawling displays inside and out.

The faire covers topics ranging from robotics to puppetry, 3D printing to hand-dyed textiles, and drone racing to paper air rockets. It’s a celebration of the creative spirit and the power of working together to build something great.

As I look back over the experience there are three themes from the World Maker Faire that continue to resonate with me:

  • Skill Sharing/Shopping
  • Blending of Disciplines
  • Bringing about Change

Over the next few weeks, I’ll delve into the second two themes, but today I want to focus on skill sharing (or, as it can also be called, skill shopping).

Connecting and Integrating Diverse Skills

One of the sessions I attended, Emerging Technology on Campus, featured a panel of students from Brandeis University, Wellesley College, the University of Connecticut and Colgate University. It was a distinguished panel that featured a “little bit of everything” sampling of tools and projects.

The panelists enthusiastically shared about the exciting things they were involved in; things like archeology, biomedical engineering and other super smart stuff that’s going to undoubtedly change the way the world works.

The young lady from Wellesley mentioned the idea of skill shopping. Skill shopping or sharing, she described, happens just by rubbing elbows with other creatives. It can happen when you observe someone else using a skill or technique that you might incorporate into your current challenge.

Maybe you’ve seen it happen. It’s at its best when brainstorming; you might share an idea or creation with a neighbor or classmate. Then, inspired, your classmate offers, “That’s really cool! Have you considered using your idea to do this…”

And from there the idea grows and is amplified by the power of collaboration. In the process, both the person with the original idea or skill—and the person who shared a new way to apply it—learn something new and share an experience they may have never had before.

The beauty of skill sharing is that it applies to all of us in so many aspects of our lives.

Students can learn from each other, regardless of gifts and abilities. In fact, it helps to even out the differences between the traditional high performers and those who are less obviously gifted. Together, both can gain something from each other’s perspective.

Teachers can benefit from the process too, as long as they are open to back-and-forth discussions about their strengths and talents. Collaboration can afford teachers the chance to learn great things from each other, and even from their students. All it takes is the courage to open the classroom door, take down the poster covering the windows to “limit distractions” and be open for a little elbow-rubbing and skill sharing.

The key to skill sharing is acknowledging that none of us have all the answers, but maybe, together, we can form the best answers and solutions for us all.