People who never met before handle clay, cloth, drone controllers, and 3D printer filament, working as a team to solve the challenge before them. A child and her grandmother build a working robot from a box of parts. A panel takes audience questions about social media. It’s all just another day at the Jersey Shore Makerfest, taking place later this month and now in its fourth year.
Makerfest celebrates the global phenomenon known as the “maker movement,” which brings together artists, crafters, inventors, and educators to share works of imagination and address real world problems.
“Makerfest is a 100 percent hands-on experience,” says co-founder Marc Natanagara, assistant superintendent of Toms River Regional Schools, the host of the one-day event. “Where else could you build an insect, trim a bonsai tree, and experience augmented reality in the same space on the same day?”
In the past three years, Makerfest has drawn over 250 makers and 10,000 participants of all ages and backgrounds. The event has grown steadily each year, beginning in the newly renamed RWJBarnabas Health Arena in 2015 and this year expanding into two gyms, an outdoor patio and lawn, and a ball field where drones and remote control aircraft take to the skies.
While there is often a good dose of high tech, from 3D printers to surgical robots, many of the activities can easily be replicated in the home or classroom. According to co-founder and Ed Tech Supervisor Tiffany Lucey, “It’s more about having a ‘maker mindset,’ in which authentic issues are tackled with imagination and a wide variety of tools and materials. I’ve seen problems problems brilliantly addressed with cardboard and hot glue.”
Thanks to generous sponsors including the Jay and Linda Grunin Foundation, Teq, and Community Medical/RWJBarnabas, the event is free to both attendees and makers, which this year include Apple, Barnes & Noble, Microsoft, Home Depot, Ocean County Modelers, Beachplum Quilters, and 60 others. As the 20,000-square-foot arena buzzes with activity, robotics competitions, live-streamed EdTalks, and the town Green Fair take place in adjacent spaces.
Says Superintendent David Healy, “Makerfest has been a catalyst for involving more of our classrooms in taking a problem-based and personalized approach to learning. It continues to highlight the ingenuity of educators.”
“The benefits have gone well beyond a one-day-a-year event," added Natanagara. "Most of the groups and individuals we’ve met through the Makerfest have become lasting partners, many of whom are hours away from us."
The 2018 Jersey Shore Makerfest will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, October 20, 2018, at RWJBarnabas Health Arena and High School North, 1245 Old Freehold Road in Toms River, NJ. Though admission is free, online pre-registration is requested at jerseyshoremakerfest.org which can also be accessed through the district’s Facebook “Events” page.