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Event showcases inventions and innovation of residents
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Antoinette Flowers of Chatham shows the toothbrush robot she built at the Mini Maker Faire at the Artisan Center in Martinsville on Saturday. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)
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Sunday, May 4, 2014

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

About 200 people turned out for the Martinsville Mini Maker Faire on Saturday, a showcase and celebration of creativity and innovation.

Some of those at the faire learned how to make tiny robots called BrushBots using the head of a toothbrush as the body, bristles as legs, and battery, motor and wiring.

Others viewed a 3-D printer that was making a vase by fusing layers of plastic.

Some youth caught a large, soft ball that was tossed by a robot operated by another youth.

“It’s a great success, great people, and it’s cool,” said Matthew Wade, coordinator of the Fab Lab, which hosted the event.

The faire included hands-on educational activities inside the Fab Lab and outside in the Artisan Center parking lot underneath a tent. A separate event, a craft fair, simultaneously was taking place in additional parking space.

Maker Faires and Mini Maker Faires are held around the United States and world, according to the event’s website, but this was the first one in Martinsville.

The faire was independently organized and operated under license from Maker Media Inc., according to the website. It added: “Maker Faire is ... a family-friendly showcase of invention, creativity and resourcefulness, and a celebration of the Maker movement. It’s a place where people show what they are making, and share what they are learning.”

“Makers range from tech enthusiasts to crafters to ... scientists to garage tinkerers. They are of all ages and backgrounds. The aim of Maker Faire is to entertain, inform, connect and grow this community,” according to the website.

Ben Harris of the Alamance (N.C.) Makers Guild, which sponsors a Mini Maker Faire, said a faire “inspires kids (that) they can do things with their own hands and minds.” Harris, who attended the Martinsville event, added that a faire is a mixture of county fair and 21st century technology fair.

Patrick Henry Community College President Angeline Godwin said the faire helped spotlight the “innovative DNA” of the community as well as the Fab Lab’s work.

The Fab Lab, in the Artisan Center at 54 W. Church St., is a small-scale workshop with an array of computer-controlled tools that enable users to research, design and create products for local or personal needs in ways that are not practical or economical using mass production, according to previous reports. It is a joint initiative among PHCC, New College Institute and the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp.

Barbara Vigue of Martinsville called the lab “a great asset for the community.” She said her young son, Aiden, is interested in computers, engineering “and really wants to do 3-D printing on his own. He’s very excited to have access to the equipment (in the Fab Lab) to use it.”

Lloyd Cannaday, an instructor at PHCC, taught 3D engineering modeling and design in the Fab Lab on Saturday. “We create virtual parts and ... assembly,” he said.

David Dillard, an instructor at PHCC, was teaching basic light-emitting diode (LED) circuitry to illustrate electrical current and give practical experience in handling some components. Soldering was one of the steps involved. The process ended with LEDs illuminating and flashing.

Dillard said it was “really encouraging to me” how many young people he saw who already were familiar with the process.

Barbara Waldron, adviser/liaison between NCI and PHCC, taught how to make the BrushBots.

“They have fun. ... It makes them laugh,” Waldron said of faire-goers who had taken part.

Ktesha Penn of Martinsville was at Waldron’s table with her daughter, Tmesha, 9, and son, Tevin, 13.

“It’s really nice, very informative. I’ve learned how to make things,” Ktesha Penn said of the faire.

Tevin said he feels learning robotics and other skills highlighted at the faire “will advance my technology skills (and help him) become more of a computer wizard.”

Chris Padgett, founder of Fusion3 Design, based in Greensboro, N.C., was exhibiting the 3-D printer that was making a vase by fusing layers of plastic.

“I think that’s amazing,” said Donna Bullard of Fieldale as she observed the process.

Her son, Jeremiah, 11, “made a beeline” to Padgett’s table to watch, she said.

Wade noted that the Fab Lab also has a 3-D printer.

“I think it’s a fantastic event,” Leanna Blevins, associate director and chief academic officer at NCI, said of the faire. She added it highlighted some of the new and innovative things going on in the community.

Kris Landrum, public relations and marketing manager for PHCC, said a total of about 200 people attended the Mini Maker Faire and The Artisan Center spring craft fair.

“People who came, once they arrived, ... (stayed) for hours because of all the hands-on activities ... and discovery activities. People learned how they can make items that are both useful and entertaining. It was a good introduction to the Fab Lab to a lot of people who had not previously seen it,” she added.

The faire was funded by a Chancellor’s Innovation Fund grant, given to PHCC by Virginia’s Community Colleges. The nearly $25,000 grant increases entrepreneur opportunities to students, according to a news release.

Kim Buck, PHCC’s coordinator of community development programs, said the day celebrated people who create and make things, and, “Art is one aspect of that.” The craft fair had such things as fine woodworking, jewelry, beadwork, skin care products and glass art, she said.

PHCC also hosted a weekend event for entrepreneurs, innovators and creators to get inspired and turn their ideas into reality. The two-day Student Entrepreneurship Jump Start Weekend was held Friday at the Martinsville-Henry County Heritage Center and Museum and The Artisan Center, and Saturday at PHCC’s uptown classroom at the Jefferson Plaza.


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