It’s a toss-up who’s more passionated about the MakerSpace: Bill Derry, or the thousands of people of all ages who have embraced it as their own.
Derry is the Westport Library’s director of innovation. The MakerSpace is the large area in its Great Hall where an eclectic, ever-changing group gathers for creation, collaboration and entrepreneurship.
The Library’s MakerSpace has a prominent position in the midst of the Great Hall.
Many folks — devoted users and head-scratching passersby alike — see technology and construction in the MakerSpace, and think of it as a place for “things.” But it’s also a tight-knit community — and a place where lives are changed.
Age does not matter there. Youngsters teach adults — including some old enough to be their great-grandparents — how to use 3-D printers and gaming consoles. Doing so, they gain important skills like public speaking. By thinking about how to teach, they crystallize their own ideas.
They also gain plenty of confidence.
A middle school MakerSpace aficionado spent 2 days teaching librarians how to create and print 3D models.
An older teenager built a gaming computer in front of an audience, then was invited to teach (for pay) at Southern Connecticut State University.
A boy who has difficulty speaking stands eagerly in front of an inter-generational audience. His speech problem vanishes at the MakerSpace.
Young people teach — and learn from — older ones in the MakerSpace.
That collaborative, across-age-lines sharing excites Derry. “Big companies talk about new ways of working — bringing together a musician and an engineer, for example,” the innovation guru says.
“That’s exactly what we’re doing here.”
The MakerSpace has been around long enough — 3 years — that some of its most avid users have moved on. One is studying engineering at NYU; another attends Lehigh University.
“It’s like any graduation,” Derry says. “We’re sad to see them go, and there’s a real feeling of leaving a community. But we’re happy they’re in a new and challenging place.”
MakerSpace users are not the only ones leaving the Westport Library. On October 31, Derry himself retires.
He’s had an “incredible” run, he says. His fulfilling career at the Library followed 3 years as information technology coordinator for the Westport school system, and 6 as library media coordinator at Greens Farms Elementary School.
Now he’s ready for the next challenge.
Before he goes though, there’s one more big event. On Thursday and Friday, September 24-25, the Westport Library sponsors “MakerSpace 3.0: Retinkering Libraries.” Panels will focus on imagination, education, economic development, and community engagement. On Saturday, September 26, there’s an optional bus trip to the New York World Maker Faire.
The public is invited to the bus trip (registration required). Including, of course, all the young people who make the MakerSpace such an exciting and innovative place.
She’s a Westport teacher from Minnesota who majored in art. He’s a Brooklyn computer programmer, born in India.
They met through OkCupid — how else would their paths have crossed? Despite their disparate backgrounds, they fell in love.
Unsurprisingly, their wedding Monday afternoon at Longshore was — well, different.
Some of the actors at Kerstin’s wedding. They’re part of her improv group. (Photo/Pam Einarsen)
The theme was “The Princess Bride.” Sure, any couple can have a wedding based on the Rob Reiner-directed love/adventure/story-within-a-story movie.
But Kerstin and Vijay are not “any couple.”
“We’re so far down the nerd rabbit hole, it’s amazing,” the Bedford Middle School instructor laughs.
She nailed it.
David Pogue played the narrator. He read the “Princess Bride” story to his son Jeffrey. (Photo/Pam Einarsen)
They got the original movie script, and edited it down to 30 minutes. They enlisted the help of friends like David Pogue, who played the father reading the love story to his son Jeffrey.
Then everyone changed — did I mention the couple rented costumes for the “cast”?– and the actual wedding took place outside.
Kerstin and Vijay spent weeks making an enormous mockup of places from the movie: The Cliffs of Insanity, the Fire Swamp, Miracle Max’s Hut, the Castle of Florence. It served as a cake stand. Where else would you put it?
Kerstin and Vijay cut the cake. They created the “Princess Bride” tableau themselves. (Photo/Pam Einarsen)
There was a sword fight too. It was not really planned out. Well, Kerstin and Vijay knew about it. But many guests were members of her improv group, so…
Bill Derry as the Impressive Clergyman. He also performed the actual ceremony. (Photo/Pam Einarsen)
Bill Derry — the Westport Library‘s assistant director of innovation and user experience — served as officiant. He was not some random choice. He’s the visionary behind the “MakerSpace” at the library.
This was very much a “Maker Wedding.” The Maker movement brought Vijay and Kerstin closer. It introduced them to David, Bill and Mark Mathias (another member of the wedding). And the wedding combined elements of the Maker movement: model-making, Arduino programming, improv comedy, costumes, old-fashioned calligraphy, modern Photoshop editing and Etsy craft vendors.
Even the choice of day and time — Monday afternoon — was unique.
“We’re not rolling in dough,” Kerstin says. “We wanted a beautiful venue in the fall, and Longshore is less expensive on non-weekends. We looked at the calendar, and chose Columbus Day.”
But — oops! — in March, the Board of Education decided school would be in session that holiday.
Kerstin took a personal day to get married. A few fellow-teacher guests worried they’d be late, because of a faculty meeting.
It all turned out fine. The affair went as perfectly as any improv-filled, “Princess Bride”-themed wedding between an Indian programmer and a Westport teacher should go.
No word on what they’ve planned for their honeymoon.
Kerstin and Vijay walking back down the aisle. The ceremony included both American and Hindu traditions. (Photo/Katherine Hooper)
Posted onMarch 26, 2012|Comments Off on If You Build It,They Will Come To The Maker Faire
Last September, Mark Mathias took his kids to the New York Maker Faire. The event — an exhibition/showcase/festival where techies, crafters, educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, musicians, engineers, artists, students and anyone else entertains, informs and connects with kindred spirits of all ages and backgrounds — inspired the entire family.
Mark’s son was especially impressed with the marshmallow shooter, made from PVC pipe.
Three months later, for his 7th birthday, he and his friends build a similar contraption. “They learned about plumbing, projectiles and air flow,” Mark says. “And they had fun.”
Alan Winick will exhibit his personal submersible yellow submarine at the Maker Faire. Eight feet long and 2300 pounds, it has gone 120 feet deep in Long Island Sound.
On Saturday, April 28 the Maker Faire comes to Westport. The 1st event of its kind in Connecticut, it will fill the Westport Library and Jesup Green with contraptions, crafts, art, engineering, food, music, robots, rockets, magicians, jugglers, and whatever the cat drags in.
Over 50 exhibitors will provide demonstrations, hands-on-workshops and do-it-yourself resources. Anyone and everyone is invited to make, build, design, hack, eat, drink, listen, create and play.
The Maker Faire has already inspired a number of people. When Mathias asked the library for use of the McManus Room, Bill Derry — assistant director for innovation and user experience (!) — did more. He offered the Great Hall and Children’s Library too.
A Rube Goldberg Competition begins with a pile of stuff (maybe a lawn chair, tubes, marbles — whatever the aforementioned cat drags in). Participants then construct a contraption in true Goldberg fashion.
You could call Westport’s Maker Faire a celebration of invention, creativity and resourcefulness.
Or you could just call it “way cool.”
(The free Westport Mini Maker Faire is set for Saturday, April 28, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the Library and Jesup Green. All are welcome. For more information, email email@example.com or call 203-856-4321. The deadline to apply as an exhibiting “Maker” is April 1; click here for a form.In honor of their 30th anniversary, CLASP Homes is a co-presenter.)
Mike Ogrinz is a longtime robot builder. The one on the left was constructed with cardboard and tin foil. His B9 robot (right, from "Lost in Space") will be on display at the Westport Maker Faire.
Comments Off on If You Build It,They Will Come To The Maker Faire
If you’re not a teenager, you may not have heard of The Hunger Games.
But Jaina Lewis and Bill Derry have. And that’s good news for Westport’s youth.
Jaina (the Westport Library‘s young teen librarian) and Bill (the much-0lder but quite savvy “assistant director for innovation and user experience”) are collaborating on a unique, and very cool, event — for 12- to 18-year-olds only.
On Friday, March 9 (7:30-10 p.m.), the 74th Annual Hunger Games take place in the stacks.
No, you did not miss the first 73. The 74th Games are where The Hunger Games — the 1st novel in a young adult trilogy by Ridgefield author Suzanne Collins — begins.
Set in a post-apocalyptic world in the country of Panem — the former North America — the dark story portrays 12 districts, all slaves to the capital, where citizens are kept hungry and isolated.
In the Hunger Games, 2 “tributes” — 1 boy and 1 girl from each district — compete in a televised fight to the death in a dangerous arena. Eventually, only 1 remains.
The books — translated into 26 languages — are a worldwide phenomenon. A movie of the same name will be released on March 23.
Seizing on the intense interest — and, in Bill’s words, “showing an experiential side of the library, supporting reading and learning, by really moving inside of it” — Westport’s Hunger Games are set to begin.
The publicity is as stark as Collins’ Games themselves. “Food rations will be given,” the flyer says. “Only Tributes in grades 6-12 are eligible to attend. Parents will not be in attendance: parents must entrust their children to the Capitol.”
Tributes can earn prizes for themselves and their District by training in survival skills, testing their Hunger Games trivia, and competing in a Tribute costume contest (it’s important to look great before the battles).
Plenty of planning has gone into the event. Many high school and middle school students have helped with sets and lighting. Local vendors have donated food. Two bands — Disabled Time and Amplitude — will play.
The library’s Hunger Games are attracting a wide range of participants, Bill says. Some were avid readers of the trilogy; others found out about it from friends.
A gladiatorial battle to the death in a post-apocalyptic world. Costumes, food, music — all in the library stacks.
What’s not to like?
(Registration costs $18, and ends Tuesday, March 6. Click here to register. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org)
In early 20th century America, youngsters in the new country had an advantage over their immigrant parents: the kids learned English. They translated for their parents, some of whom clung to their native tongues and never assimilated.
In the early 21st century, young people again have an edge: They’ve mastered tech-speak. This time though, the old folks have no choice. To live in today’s world, they have to learn the language.
“It’s not like just a few years ago, when you could wait for some 12-year-old to program your VCR,” says Westport Library director Maxine Bleiweis. “Now, every day, there are technological problems people have to solve.”
And — for more and more people — the library is the place to solve them.
What's on Maxine Bleiweis and Bill Derry's iPads? The library's website, of course.
Libraries have always been a center for learning, Bleiweis says. But many Westporters don’t realize it’s a hub for not only books, periodicals and author talks, but technological knowledge too.
The Westport Library offers 3 types of technology education. One is through regularly scheduled events.
“Tech Tuesdays,” for example, are held from 2-4 p.m. through August 3. Bring a tablet — or a question, like how to download music. Staff members are on hand to help.
“Jobseekers” programs — held Wednesdays throughout the summer — highlight topics like using LinkedIn and Twitter. “If you’re out of a job, you might have missed out on hearing about things like this,” Bleiweis says. “The workplace changes quickly, and this is a great way to keep up.”
The 2nd type of education takes place every day. “We’re not a repair shop,” Bleiweis cautions. “But if you’ve got a new eReader and don’t know the features, or you’re having problems attaching a photo file to send to your grandchildren, we can help.”
Reference librarians — best known for answering questions about obscure Mongolian dynasties, or pointing people to perfect online databases — are a tremendous technological resource. If you’re searching for printers, say, or software or synching programs, reference librarians are happy to help.
The 3rd type of education involves teaching people things they didn’t know they needed to know.
In case you wondered: These are tags. The library explains how to use them.
“Tags” are an example. They’re those words of various sizes you see on various websites — the library’s, for instance. They’re an entree to more information on a particular topic; their size indicates relative popularity — but you have to click them to use them. If you didn’t know that, you’d likely overlook them. Mentioning them in the library’s newsletter — a friendly, familiar format — is a good way to teach non-native tech speakers about them.
The same with podcasts. At every library lecture, someone announces it’s also available as a podcast. You may have heard the term, but ignored it as just another newfangled word. By explaining what a podcast is — and how you can download it — the library provides an important, but subtle, education in tech-talk.
The Westport Library also provides hardware. They’ve got 30 computers, with color printing; scanners; a MacBook Pro; Kindles for a 7-day loan (loaded with titles); an iPad, plus Nook and Sony e-readers for sampling, and wireless printing from laptops.
Library cardholders can also download music from Freegal. What’s that? Just ask!
The library’s tech cred got a big boost recently. Bill Derry – formerly coordinator of info and technology literacy for the Westport school district — joined Bleiweis’ staff as assistant director for innovation and user experience.
Children instinctively know the language of 21st-century technology. The rest of us have to be taught.
He knows what students know — and what adults don’t. Bleiweis uses the analogy of parents who get frustrated when they can’t help kids with their “new math” homework.
Derry has the skills — and patience, and energy — to teach the older generation the language the younger one instinctively knows.
And the Westport Library is the place to do it.
“It’s intimidating to ask a 20-year-old geek at a store some question you’re embarrassed you don’t know the answer to,” Bleiweis says.
“It’s much easier to do it in the familiar setting of the library.”
A library, she says, is “a place to learn — no matter what you need to know.”
(In the works: an iPad users group. Got another idea for a a tech service that will serve and support the Westport community at the library? Email Bill Derry at email@example.com, or call him: 203-291-4846.)
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