This year, Cemetech returned to World Maker Faire for the fourth year in a row. Held in Flushing Meadow Park, Queens, New York, at the New York Hall of Science, World Maker Faire 2015 put makers, makerspaces, and companies in front of about 95,000 visitors. In August, we announced that we'd be attending for a fourth year, with five dedicated Cemetechians showing off cool graphing calculator projects and teaching fairegoers about programming with graphing calculators. For more than two months before Maker Faire, we were working hard on building new displays, revitalizing old displays, and getting ready to put our best foot forward. If you followed our Cemetech at World Maker Faire 2015 Plans thread, you'll have seen our nearly daily updates about our progress, covering everything from getting banners printed and polo shirts embroidered to building new wooden display cases, 3D printing battery inserts, and creating a new Whack-a-Mole project. Our work reached a crescendo in the final two weeks before (and including) the Faire, ending at the Faire itself.
As in previous years, we spent three days at World Maker Faire. On Friday night, September 25th, we gathered our many displays and trekked to the Hall of Science to set up our booth. This year, I (Dr. Christopher "Kerm Martian" Mitchell) was joined by Thomas "elfprince13" Dickerson, Cemetech administrator, Tim "geekboy1011" Keller, Cemetech global moderator and Omnimaga administrator, Nathaniel "eeems" van Diepen, Omnimaga administrator, and Alec "qazz42" Szigeti, long-time Cemetech member. Like our very first year at the Faire, we were under a huge tent, the Maker Pavilion. We occupied the tent alongside many other booths, in this case, almost entirely companies. In the midst of finding our spot, setting up, and figuring out what components we might have forgotten, we also got to enjoy paella and libations provided by the Faire organizers, as is now World Maker Faire tradition. Around 9pm, we finally had everything set up, and disconnecting our calculators, we headed back to my apartment. Thanks to fortuitous circumstances, Tim, Nathaniel, and Thomas all were able to stay over at my apartment, saving Tim and Nathaniel a late-night trek on New Jersey Transit. Therefore, bright and early on Saturday, we were ready to begin two busy days of Maker Faire. Despite a few setbacks, it was great fun, and we hope we inspired many budding computer scientists and their educators.
Among the many, many highlights of our weekend:
On Saturday morning, we were sufficiently tired as to forget our calculators, and didn't realize until we arrived at the Faire half an hour before it opened. A pair of expensive Uber rides to go fetch them saved the day. On the plus side, Cemetech member Ivoah visited with donuts, and the weather was lovely.
Our new Whack-a-Mole demonstration was a big hit. Powered by a TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition, a TI MSP432 Launchpad, and a custom-fabricated PCB, it met one of our goals, to demonstrate the cool things you can create with a calculator and TI-BASIC. To make it extra-original, we used RGB LEDs and light sensors instead of buttons or actual moles. We'll soon be publishing more information on this project, including a build log and instructions and schematics for recreating the project.
Below: The Whack-a-Mole display.
We brought a new "Program a Game in 60 Seconds" board to immerse interested visitors in creating their first program. It used a computer, Cemetech's jsTIfied emulator, and a TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition acting as a USB keyboard to effectively give a TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition a 10" screen. Visitors were given detailed instructions on how to write a 9-line number guessing game that they could try playing when they finished. We had quite a few kids and adults give it a try.
Below: our "Program a Game in 60 Seconds" display, along with budding computer scientists of all ages who wrote a guessing game on it.
We spent our downtime improving our displays, including making new FloppyTunes songs, trying to adapt the Game Boy Camera demo (ArTICam) to work better in sunlight, and fixing up old games for our hands-on calculators. I got to experience what it would be like to have my room be Cemetech's main office. We woke up early for the Faire, we went to bed late, and we worked hard, but I think I speak for all of us when I say we had a great time.
We spoke to a great many people, and gave out hundreds of Cemetech bookmarks, "Learn to Program" handouts, and "Teach Programming" pamphlets, all focused on graphing calculators. We talked to a mother and son who first learned about calculator programming from us last year, and are now working on learning it together. We chatted with a math teacher turned makerspace leader and computer science teacher looking for a cheap and readily available platform on which to teach programming. We even evangelized programming to a pair of journalists, an asset manager at Facebook, and two families with kids, all while riding the New York City subway and carrying our displays.
You can see our displays below: we brought our floppy drive + calculator and speakers + calculator music demos, four hands-on graphing calculators loaded with popular calculator games, Nathaniel's wooden TI-82 made by Cemetech member Caleb Hansberry, our Whack-a-Mole game, calculators interfaced to GPS and camera modules, calculators networked together to make a "multi-monitor" display, my books about using and programming graphing calculators, and the previously-mentioned "Program a Game in 60 Seconds" activity. You can browse our photo album from World Maker Faire 2015 to see photos of our displays in development and of the weekend, including more views of all of our displays. We were thrilled to share programming, especially graphing calculator programming, with such a wide audience. Here's hoping that we inspired some of the engineers and computer scientists of tomorrow, not to mention new Cemetech members and calculator programmers of today!