I just about heard Maker Festival Toronto last week and I had no idea what it was going to be about but it was going to have 3d printers and robots so I thought I’d check it out.  I wasn’t sure if I should bring my family, but I decided to drag them out and I was sure glad I did as it was super family friendly!

When we got there I was like a kid in a candy store – where to start!!?  My son and I went around to check out a few booths, checking out various robots and 3-D printers.  Very cool but too complicated for my son to really get interactive with.

Cool robots to check out

Cool robots to check out

Then, we started on all the fun kids activities!  My wife and daughter came across a great display on shear thickening fluids.  Basically, 2 parts cornstarch to 1 part water has some pretty interesting properties.  It acts like a liquid when poured or moved slowly, but under rapid pressure, it acts like a solid!  The rapid pressure causes the suspended molecules to overcome the weak forces separating each other and they collide and temporarily feel like a solid.  So the kids got to tap the “liquid” and feel their fingers bouncing off and then touch it slowly and feel the liquid stick to their fingers.  There was even small puddles of it that kids were running across to really feel the effect.

Learning about Shear Thickening Fluids

Learning about Shear Thickening Fluids

Right beside that station was a “learn to solder” station where for a $3 donation, you could make a cool little LED space ship.  We got to pick out the colours we wanted and my son sat beside me and watched me solder it up in a few minutes.  They had volunteers guiding us there so it was a great quick craft for adults, and the kids love the spaceship.

Making an LED space-ship while learning to Solder

Making an LED space-ship while learning to Solder

One of the most popular activities was the “Build a Marshmallow Catapult” station on the stage.  It was free but you had to sign up for it.  The maker instructors led the kids through the small construction project lending out tools as they needed them and help them to test out their firearms once completed against a target.  The kids didn’t get to keep the catapult but they had a lot of fun and got to eat their marshmallow of course.

Building a wooden marshmallow catapult

Building a wooden marshmallow catapult

We still had time to walk around and check out the booths.  It was like being at a mini-science centre.  Still tons of kids activities we didn’t get around to including building and sailing your own boat and more.  What a great community of small businesses and learning organizations that have been established here.  Where was all this when I was a kid?  Well, hopefully groups like this will spawn the next generation of engineers.  It was inspiring and I look forward to joining in the cause and hope to volunteer or maybe even exhibit next year! (I’ll need to think of something pretty cool to run with these folk!)

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