PIEDMONT -- Piedmont Mini Makers maximized their creativity quotient at Saturday's first Mini Maker Faire at Piedmont High School.
There were more than 50 entries from students of all ages, running the gamut from a scribbling machine (a kind of abstract art Etch A Sketch) to a Halloween-themed tubular roller coaster, complete with skull bone mask.
"The roller coaster demonstrates the velocity on the tight curves versus the gravity on the low curves," said Colleen Gallagher, whose 10-year-old son Ronan Seybold, a student at Beach Elementary School, came up with the roller coaster idea, using a tomato plant frame and plastic tubing. "The ball bearing goes five times faster on the lower curves."
Piedmont Unified School District, which just last week approved a new set of K-12 standards for computer science, sponsored the Maker Faire in conjunction with Piedmont Makers, a new association of school parent clubs dedicated to promoting science and technology education.
David Ragones, one of the organizers of the Maker Faire, estimated that close to 1,000 people, including exhibitors, attended Saturday's all-day event. The five-piece Industrial Bluegrass Band held up the musical end of the creativity spectrum.
"It's a great turnout, especially since we only started planning in January. We're the first school district to host a Maker Faire," said Ragones, whose group worked closely with Maker Media to make that happen. "It goes to show the momentum around technology."
Maker Media produces Maker Magazine and launched its first Maker Faire in 2006 in San Francisco.
"Part science fair, part county fair, and part something entirely new, Maker Faire is an all-ages gathering of tech enthusiasts, crafters, educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers, science clubs, authors, artists, students, and commercial exhibitors," the Maker website states.
Walter Teitelbaum and his friend, Azul Kothari, both eighth-graders at Piedmont Middle School, built an intricate quadcopter that is operated by a remote control.
"The remote controls the receiver, which controls the board that sends out signals to tell the motors which way to spin and move -- it's complicated," said Teitelbaum, who begins high school in the fall.
Matt Bjork, whose wife is a teacher at Piedmont Middle, operated an electric-versus-gas-car clinic. He brought along his gas-powered Honda Accord and his electric-powered Nissan Leaf and pointed out how clean the electric engine is compared to the oily gas engine. Bjork said that he and his 16-year-old daughter prefer the electric car.
"The electric is great -- it's so quiet, it's like riding a bicycle through town, even though there are four people in the car," Bjork said. "There's no oil, no cooling water -- nothing to make the engine dirty."
The Bruggermann family, from Wildwood Elementary School, offered visitors a chance to try a compressed air rocket. Youngsters made the rockets out of rolled-up paper and attached paper wings with tape. The rockets were attached to a rocket launcher, which was fueled by an air pump. The kids pushed a detonator, causing the rockets to blast off with a satisfying "pop."
Brothers Jordan and Jeremy Wong, 17 and 14 respectively, are interested in engineering. They showed an FT3D plane that they'd built from a kit with their own modifications.
"It goes as high as 200 feet," said Jordan, who flies the plane at Witter Field using a radio control. "It took about three days to build. We found planes on the Internet, then modified it as we went along."
Over at the Lego Creations table, Havens' first-grader Logan Watral demonstrated his Mega Launch, a complicated catapult made of Lego pieces and rubber bands.
"First, you wind it up, then you put the character in, hit the trigger, and he flies," Watral said.
Inside Piedmont High's student center, older students and some community Makers were engrossed in their projects. Kent Leech, with Fixit Clinic, had dismantled a Leap Frog device to try to figure why it wasn't working; Mira Wollenberg and her father Steve showed off LED lamp sculptures that they'd made using recycled engine pieces from an old boat and air filters for lamp shades; 15-year-old Matthew Turney and nine of his PHS friends built a Scotbotics robotic bulldozer that handily scooped up a tower of plastic cubes.
Over at TinyTechsClub, owner Vrina Joshi put it this way: "We're encouraging creativity in children through science and technology to become confident in the digital age."