Maker Faire Milwaukee promotes stem in family fun event


A giant hydraulic mechanical hand in action at the Maker Faire.

The Betty Brinn Children’s Museum in Milwaukee has played an integral role in expanding the “maker” movement and project-based learning opportunities in the community.

In partnership with Milwaukee Makerspace, the museum produces Maker Faire Milwaukee, a multi-day destination event that celebrates technology, education, science, art, engineering, food and sustainability.

“The museum’s core mission is to promote hands-on educational experiences and early learning in children of all ages,” said Carrie Wettstein, chief operating officer of Betty Brinn and producer of Maker Faire Milwaukee.

“The impact of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) has been shown in classroom after classroom,” she noted. “Students are motivated to learn on their own, to problem-solve and to be collaborative and creative. The museum and the Faire are helping to develop skills in students for the jobs of the future.”

Research indicates children begin forming likes and dislikes at a very early age. Exposing students to STEM activities and experiences early can develop their interests in related careers later on.

Maker Faire Milwaukee, now in its fourth year, is held annually at Wisconsin State Fair Park.

According to Wettstein, the Milwaukee event is one of approximately 12 in the U.S. and has quickly grown to be one of the largest, with nearly 50,000 attendees in 2016. All events are family-friendly and encourage learning at all levels. Other featured Faires are held in Detroit, New York, Berlin, Paris, Taipei City and Shenzen, China.

The Maker Faire welcomes companies, makers, tech enthusiasts, inventors, crafters, educators and tinkerers of all ages to exhibit work and share with the maker community, Wettstein said.

Last year, Maker Faire Milwaukee featured a Drone Xperience exhibit, Tesla Coils, a Power Racing Series and demonstrations of The Hand of Man, a giant, hydraulic mechanical hand controlled using a glove.

The Faire also has brought the Life Size Mousetrap to the region, in addition to workshops with NASA and demonstrations by local robotics teams and STEM students and teachers.

Beyond promoting project-based learning in children, Betty Brinn Children’s Museum seeks to educate adults about how students learn and the value of a project-based education. Maker Faire Milwaukee has helped promote that initiative.

“The maker movement encourages learning by doing, sharing and collaboration, self-motivation and experimentation,” Wettstein said. “In addition to work being done by Milwaukee Makerspace, Betty Brinn Children’s Museum and our other collaborative partners, the Maker Faire promotes that experience in the form of a fun, family-friendly event for people of all ages.”  

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