Engaging technology: Local dad introduces maker movement to area

Mom Kerri Martin of New Enterprise wasn’t having much luck finding an activity for her science and computer-loving son, Noah, 10, to join.

Enter: The Mini Makers, a newly formed organization in the area “focusing on STEAM: science, technology, engineering, art and math education; skill building and community engagement with the aspiration to help children develop skills in the areas they are truly interested in, abilities that would allow them to dream big and create big,” according to the group’s website.

It started when Jason Rhykerd of Roaring Spring, a self-proclaimed geek dad who is a computer security consultant, started doing projects with his kids at home, making the family part of the Maker Movement.

The Maker Movement is a technology-influenced do-it-yourself community, the Maker Faire website said. Festivals featuring makers and celebrating the movement are held worldwide.

The ninth annual Maker Faire Bay Area is May 17 and 18 in California with more than 900 makers, more than 120,000 attendees and more than 90 sponsors expected.

The fifth annual World Maker Faire New York is slightly smaller and scheduled to take place in September.

Other faires are taking place this year in other parts of the world including Norway, China and Italy and stateside in Detroit and Kansas City.

Rhykerd’s home projects with his kids eventually expanded to include others, and he is now welcoming the public.

The Mini Makers, which has teamed up with the California-based organization established in 2012 called Curiosity Hacked, held discovery sessions in order for people to get acquainted with the idea in March and April at the former Kitty Hawk restaurant in Martinsburg, Rhykerd said.

The first session had about 30 kids learning about circuit boards and their function. The next session, held in two parts, was about building circuits, and at the end of the day, 38 projects were built.

The group is not a drop-off program; sponsors stay and work with the kids. The togetherness aspect is one of the benefits of the group, Rhykerd said.

The next session is scheduled for 9 to 11 a.m. May 17 at Morrisons Cove Memorial Park’s banquet hall. Registration is available online.

Skipping the electronics this time around, the makers will create judobots, which are small robots made from such objects as popsicle sticks, tubing and syringes, Rhykerd said. They have an arm, which is made to move up and down and back and forth, allowing for a face off between dueling judobots.

A judobot competition will take place at 1 p.m.

The session will also offer information about the Mini Makers group, which plans to have members who pay a $25 yearly fee to participate. Participants are also responsible for “nominal” material costs, Rhykerd.

He is working to get the group established with the help of Mike Miller of New Enterprise, another dad who also works in computer security.

The group has had participants between ages 4 and 16. They plan to leave age appropriateness to the discretion of the adult who is sponsoring the child, Rhykerd said.

Isabella Swindell, 9, participated with her dad, Kim.

The two are into science together, mom, Gracie, said. She added that the program was a “nice supplement to school.”

She encourages her daughter to look beyond gender stereotypes.

“I like her to just try things like that, that might normally be geared toward a boy, anything that she’d be interested in and not to let that limit her,” she said.

The Mini Makers was a hit with her daughter.

“When she came home she was extremely excited,” Gracie said. “She spent probably an hour and a half showing various members of our family how the project worked and explaining it in detail. So I think she felt really proud of herself.”

“I like it,” Isabella said. “And at school they don’t really do a whole lot of stuff that’s hands-on and I like to touch it and actually get to do it myself.”

Participating offered a good bonding experience for Kerri Martin and her son, Noah, she said.

And Noah is ready for the next round.

His feedback says it all: “Oh yeah, he was like, ‘When’s the next one going to be? How much longer until we get to do this again?'” she said.

Mirror Staff Writer Amanda Gabeletto is at 949-7030.