This weekend in lieu of ISTE in Atlanta, our family attended the 2014 Maker Faire in Kansas City. Wow what an experience! Here are a few of the highlights, including some photos, videos, and audio recordings I captured as a storychaser during the action-packed day.

The first highlight was getting to meet up with my friend Eric Langhorst, who is an 8th grade teacher in Liberty, Missouri. Eric continues to teach U.S. History, as he has for many years, but he’s also teaching two journalism classes as well as a technology class which includes lots of STEM activities and learning. Eric is @ELanghorst on Twitter and blogs at “Speaking of History…” I met first Eric virtually via our blogs and podcasts in 2005, and am always inspired by his ideas, classroom technology integration strategies, and enthusiasm!

Before entering Maker Faire KC, it was interesting to “read the fine print” of their media opt-in policy. Basically, it says “If you don’t want to be on YouTube, get out!”

My first interview of the day was with the creator of the “Electric Dream Machine,” a converted 2002 Mazda Miata to an all-electric automobile. This reminded me of my August 2010 podcast, “Discussing EV (Electric Vehicle) Technology and Plugin Hybrids with Nathan Parrow of Oklahoma Robotics LLC.” It was very cool to visit with someone who’s fully converted a gas-powered car to electricity! The range on the car is 80 miles.

Check out the playlist of 41 videos detailing LOTS of behind-the-scenes details about this car for more info!

I REALLY enjoyed the “Wacky Weather” demos on the central outside stage at Maker Faire KC. This reminded me a lot of the videos of Steve Spangler, which I used for a “Kitchen Chemistry” unit in my 4th and 5th grade STEM classes last spring.

I shot a slow-motion video of the water bottle rocket launch they included early in the show. My students had a lot of fun launching similar water bottle rockets in May!

I shot a 15 second video, which I posted to Instagram, of their 2nd to last liquid nitrogen experiment. They wrapped up the show with a “Ping Pong Ball Liquid Nitrogen Explosion,” which epitomizes ending with a BANG!

The R2 Builders’ booth was one of the things we checked out next. The metal version Rachel and I posed with for this photo costs about $15,000 to create. All-plastic versions are less, around $2500 to $3000. Construction details and more info are available on Astromech.net.

I recorded a short (64 second) AudioBoo narration about the R2 Astro Droids as well.

One of the most impressive and surprising things we saw was at a Microsoft booth, where people could stand in front of a face scanner and watch as a 3D avatar version of them was created on-the-fly by a computer.

Both our girls gave it a try, and the results were pretty impressive.

The April 2014 article, “Fast Capture Makes You The Avatar,” provides more information about this technology. I’m actually not sure what game or app the simulation the girls participated in was part of. SmartBody is the open source project this technology is based on. If you know more about this, please chime in with a comment. Read and watch more videos about this on Ari Shapiro’s website.

This 54 second video shows Rachel’s final Microsoft 3D Fast Capture avatar.

Without a doubt, my favorite part of the day was in the “Young Inventors” section of the Kansas City Science Museum, downstairs, where members of Cowtown Computer Congress of Kansas City (c3kc.org) helped both my daughters learn to solder for the FIRST time! If Eric Langhorst hadn’t given us a heads-up earlier that this was a “not-to-miss” part of the Kansas City Maker Faire, I don’t think we would have found this area and had these experiences. Thank you Eric, Tom, and the other C3KC volunteers! These photos tell the story!

Plan to attend an upcoming Maker Faire or Mini-Maker Faire near your area. You won’t regret it! Use “Maker Faires Around the World” to find an upcoming event.

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