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If you build it… : Chicago Southland Mini Maker Faire a social hub for creators, innovators

For one day, the creators and innovators of the world descended upon Mokena to take part in the fourth annual Chicago Southland Mini Maker Faire.

The event held Saturday, Aug. 19, at Pipefitters Local 597 Training Center was meant to create a social hub for individuals and families dedicated to technology and craftsmanship from all around the Chicagoland area to demonstrate their craft.

“It’s just an exciting time,” said Tim Ozinga, an event coordinator for Chicago Southland Mini Maker Faire. “We like to think of it as a giant show and tell. It’s part-science fair, part-arts and crafts. The whole maker movement is just all about people coming together and really embracing making things with their hands, and we’re just kind of celebrating that here today.”

More than 40 exhibitors were on hand this time around to share their love for creativity and innovation, bringing together everything from robotics and woodworking to hands-on activities.

“I know it continues to grow every year,” Ozinga said.

The mini maker faire strives to encourage young people to get interested in science, technology, engineering and math — STEM.

“We think events like this are really important to support the community,” Ozinga said.

Many of the booths were manned by schools, businesses or other organizations from around the area, who demonstrated 3D printing and drone racing on site.

Of the exhibitors at the mini maker faire was Brandon Koller, a member of a LEGO User Group.

“What we do is we get a team of people, we build LEGOs and we go to places like a convention in Schaumburg, known as Brick World, that goes every year,” Koller said. “They set a theme … Each year, we build something new. We like to keep our displays. We go and build what we have in our mind.”

Koller and fellow members brought in several LEGO creations, including a tank, a smart house, planes, and a group of R2D2 figures from the Star Wars franchise.

The hope, Koller said, is people will realize — if they don’t already believe — the amount of creativity and craftsmanship it takes to build with LEGOs.

“I think that even with all the technology we have today, and all the coding, and the people who are going into either the game industry or technology industry or art industry, I think LEGOs is popular among all these,” he said. “I think it’s a nice tool that people will use growing up either [to learn] or [use] their creative mindsets.”

Ellie Malinowski, 13, of Downers Grove, was roaming the faire grounds from inside a robot brought in by one of the exhibitors.

“It was really fun because all the kids were really interested in what was happening,” she said. “It was fun doing the controls and stuff.”

Ellie’s father, Michael Malinowski, said this was his family’s third year dropping in for the mini maker faire.

“I love the exposure to all the science [and] art,” he said. “It’s just all this creativity. You never know what’s going to spark with somebody, including myself. I think it’s great exposure.”

When Ellie first climbed inside the robot, she said it was a tight fit, but she made an adjustment.

“I love the robots and stuff,” she said. “It’s really fun.”

Michael said he is glad he and his daughters decided to come out for the mini maker faire.

“I think we exceeded our goal,” he said.

The mini maker faire drew in roughly 750 attendees last year, Ozinga said. This year, organizers were hoping to bring in 1,000 people.

“We’re starting to attract people from surrounding areas,” Ozinga said.

Ozinga said it is great to see the way the community comes together year after year.

“I think it’s definitely a very unique event,” he said. “There’s not much that I know of that’s like this around the [Mokena] area.”

Lily Fisher, of Chicago, said her decision to come out for the mini maker faire was easy because she is a big fan of anything and everything technology.

“I study computer science at DePaul [University],” Fisher said. “I had hopes to do robotics. I was on the robotics team.”

Fisher said she is trying to start a makerspace at DePaul.

“We have sections with sewing machines with carbon fiber 3D printers, laser cutters, all different machines,” Fisher said.

“Basically, you can do craft works with soft materials, build hard materials, 3D print, all those things. As well, we have a stop-motion studio for the animation students, so literally anything you would ever want to create, you could probably go to that space.”

Fisher said she and her classmates had found a lot of inspiration for their makerspace at the mini maker faire and added that they might set up a booth next year.

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