Maker Faire: When Gifted Clashed With 2e


Whew!  It’s over.  The Engineer is sad it’s done, I’m glad (and tired) and the younger members of the family are indifferent about the whole thing.  I blogged a few weeks ago about the Engineer’s project being accepted to the Maker Faire in Silver Springs, in the DC area.  On one hand I was excited for him, and on the other hand I was not excited about all the extra work coming my way.

He was the youngest maker there.  His own tent, sign, and table to put his stuff on.  I think he was more excited about the flag banner around the booth, but he’s 5.  His neighbor with the styrofoam drones and planes wasn’t too excited about our water hazard but we co-existed peacefully for the day.  Except for that one time that my butt knocked his plane off the table (he put it down sticking out past the edge and I didn’t see it.  Whoops!  No harm done.)

I wasn’t sure how much the Engineer could help with booth design and setup , but I was pleasantly surprised by his maturity and willingness to help out.  He drew diagrams of the couplings that we hung on the area behind the pool.   He drilled holes with the power drill for the extra sprinklers we needed.  He helped sort things, label things, and pack things up.  He trucked stuff from our car to the booth without complaining despite the annoying walk.  He helped set up the booth and hauled water for the pool.  He even demonstrated things for a few people.

And then the Faire officially opened.


A swarm of people descended on the booth.  He managed to tolerate it for about an hour, then he was overwhelmed and shut down.  I parked him with his tablet away from people until his dad got there.  For the rest of the day he wandered around checking out stuff with the family.  Exiled from his own booth.

I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time.  His giftedness got him to the faire, but his disabilities kept him from doing what he came for in the first place.  That’s our life in a nutshell.

I watched the kid next to us demonstrate his planes and talk about his work, and I was sad for my son.  He wanted to show people his project, to demonstrate it for other kids to see how amazing it was.  Instead, he was forced away from his booth because there were so many people around the pool that it was overwhelming.

Both Mr. Genius and I agonized over the simplicity of his project.  We worried that older makers would be disdainful and that kids would think it was boring.  Instead, his booth was so popular that people gave up waiting for a pump and walked away, planning to come back later.  The Engineer was happy that it was popular, and understandably proud that it was his booth.

On a side note, I am happy so many kids wanted to experiment and create.  I’m not so happy that most of them asked me how to make their system.  They were worried about doing things the “right” way, and when I said there was no right way it confused them.  They wanted direction.  By not giving it I forced them to think creatively, but most of them weren’t comfortable doing that.  I am so used to the Engineer’s creativity that it confused me at first.  A few of them asked me what the objective was, which had me scrambling for an answer (“the best sprinkler ever!”- because “understanding water pressure” just sounds so boring.)  And I completely get what sucks teachers into their profession in the first place: that lightbulb expression on a kid’s face when they figure something out is addicting.

Asking a 5-year old to stand at a booth for 5 hours is a bit much anyway, so I’m not too upset about the whole deal.  We’re his support group, his anchor.  And that meant a parent had to man the booth and keep everything running smoothly.  That’s ok.  It’s part of being a parent and a teacher.

He wants to take his system to the next Maker Faire in the spring.  We reminded him that he has plenty of time to come up with something new.  He has grand plans and ideas – I’m just hoping they don’t involve water this time!


Interested in making your own water system?  Here’s what we used:

As your kid experiments with their system, you can ask them to test what happens if they close the ball valve?  Does their sprinkler work best with a shorter system or a long, convoluted system?  How does the pump feel when you can see that it’s pushing water: hard or easy to push?  What happens if you pump really fast?

Hands-on experimentation is the best, most fun way to learn!





  1. We are definitely giving this experiment a go. My engineer, or Ninja-neer as he says,is just starting to become interested in water pressure for what it can do. Not just water play. Your guy is so very lucky to have you for his rock and foundation.


    • We call this Legos with tubes – it’s lots of fun! I found that it was really hard to explain water pressure to the Engineer, so hands-on works much better. Hope the Ninja-neer enjoys it 🙂


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