PIEDMONT -- Techies from all over town will unleash their inner wizards at Piedmont High School on Saturday for the first Piedmont Mini Maker Faire. More than 50 "Makers" from Piedmont schools have entered projects in the fair, as well as a half-dozen entrants from the community. Entries include displays of robotics, drones, 3D printing, hovercraft and Lego inventions.
"Too often these days, students and parents are caught up in just consuming technology, whether it be games or the latest social media app," said parent Vince Monical, a former Google employee who spearheaded Piedmont Makers with David Ragones. "We think the Piedmont Maker Faire can be a shining example for how technology and design learning can flourish. Students and the whole community take a break from their iPhones and are inspired by each other to build amazing projects and valuable skills."
Piedmont Makers works with the Piedmont Unified School District and parent organizations, which are all firmly on board with making technology more available and fun for students. Monical said there is a lot of momentum in Piedmont to improve computer science and technology education.
"The school district is absolutely supportive of the Makers," said Randall Booker, the district's assistant superintendent of education services. "It will be a wonderful event, and I hope lots of people will come. I brought my two children to the Makers' open house in March, and they had a great time. It's a fabulous idea."
Piedmont High School Makers submitted nine entries into the fair, including "Technovation."
"High school girls put together a mobile app through a worldwide contest sponsored by Google that included a business plan and video," Monical said. "It's very cool -- it's inspiring to see what these high school girls are doing and how they inspire younger students."
PHS students Ilona Bodnar and Tiffany Zhou are part of the girls' team that worked on Technovation.
"Technovation was an exciting real-world experience to develop a mobile application, which I foresee as part of my future," Zhou said. "I experienced the adrenaline rush of seeing lines of code transforming into an app. It was an amazing feeling."
Bodner said Technovation has been an incredible experience.
"In a supportive and competitive environment, I was able to foster my love of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and have a fantastic time while doing so," Bodner said. "I hope that my role in this program will serve as an example to other girls who want to have a strong presence in the sciences."
Piedmont Middle School Makers have been busy, too. They will display six techie inventions in the Mini Makers Faire, including a "hovertrain," consisting of a train of hovercrafts. The hovertrain made quite a splash with attendees at the Maker Faire in San Mateo where it was introduced earlier this month.
"There was a long line waiting to ride the little hovercrafts, which float about one inch above the ground," Monical said. "The PMS kids started off making one hovercraft, then thought it was so cool that they decided to build more -- which turned into the hovertrain."
PMS student Maeve Andrews said the most rewarding part of the San Mateo fair was "giving rides to the little kids and seeing them smile."
One of the elementary school entries into the Piedmont fair, from Beach Elementary School, is the "Lego Rubik's Cube Solver," which uses a combination of programming and color sensing.
"The little robot solves the Rubik's cube while you watch," Monical said.
The Maker program, sponsored by Maker Media, which produces Make magazine, launched its Maker Faire in 2006 in San Francisco. It has spurred a worldwide Maker movement that promotes hands-on learning in education. The Piedmont Maker Faire is a trailblazer, as it is the first to be held in conjunction with a school district.
"We're hoping the fair grows and is even bigger next year," Monical said. "It's so cool that the community is excited about being Makers and not just consumers of this technology."
What: Piedmont Mini Maker Faire
When: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday
Where: Piedmont High School, 800 Magnolia Drive, Piedmont