Make the Time for RVA MakerFest!

Have you seen the posters around town? Caught the listing on RVA family “must-do” calendars? Heard the talk about a special event September 27th—featuring an abundant population of homegrown artists…creators…inventors…makers?  Us, too!

Thankfully, we had the chance to chat with two amazing women on Collegiate School’s Upper School faculty…RichmondMoms who also happen to be a part of the RVA MakerFest Leadership Team, Allen Chamberlain [below left] and Melanie Barker [below right]. Here are their first-hand insights on what’s happening this Saturday from 10am-5pm at the Science Museum of Virginia…


So what IS RVA MakerFest?

Allen: The RVA MakerFest is part science fair, part shop class, part idea incubator, part entertainment, part education. To me, the real spirit of the MakerFest is what happens when you bring sixty-five talented makers together with an eager audience of participants. It’s that perfect recipe: 1. Start with conversation and inspiration. 2. Add learning something new. 3. Top it off by heading home excited about your city and what you’re going to make next!

What can visitors expect?

Melanie: Visitors can expect a little bit of everything: noise, fire, lasers, a steamroller, robots, potters, a muralist…the RVA MakerFest is a smorgasbord!  Many of the makers will offer demonstrations of their work.  RVA MakerFest guests will have many opportunities to make things themselves. You may not be able to shape your own sword at the blacksmith’s forge, but perhaps you can tie-dye a t-shirt with 2 Dye 4 or make your own RVA MakerFest passport with RVA Maker Guild.

Some makers will also be selling their wares.  Not only will you have the opportunity to buy some really beautiful, carefully crafted things, but you’ll also have the chance to talk to the people that make those things about their inspiration and process.

 ‘Fess up! What are you two most excited to see or do?

Allen: The first thing I want to do is make an LED throwie and join others in lighting up the LOVE sign at the front of the Science Museum. By the end of the Fest, those letters will be so bright you just might be able to see them from outer space!

Melanie: Hack.RVA, the local hackerspace, is offering soldering workshops.  Soldering is essential for so many electronics projects, but it’s intimidating if one has never soldered before. It’s empowering to see LEDs light up or motors run as a result of the awesome soldering you’ve done.

What made you decide YOU personally needed to be involved in the organization of the RVA MakerFest?

Melanie: I really believe in learning by doing. The experience of renovating my house [with my father] shaped some of my philosophies as a librarian [at Collegiate School]. A fellow independent school librarian once said it best when she said that libraries have always been a place for inquiry. Making things and doing things are forms of inquiry. Nurturing curious spirits is important to me as a librarian and as the mom of an almost-five-year-old.

Allen: In my work as a teacher and librarian at Collegiate, I like to have fun. It’s a good day when my students and I are surprised by something playful or challenging. When a student says, ‘I’ve got a different idea for that project assignment,’ I’m delighted. Joining the MakerFest Leadership Committee had that kind of feel—let’s do something different. I’m all in when an invitation like that comes my way. It was also an opportunity to be part of a brand new celebration of Richmond, to give a gift to the city I love, a city that has been part of my life for the past twenty-eight years.

What is the ultimate goal of the event?

Melanie: The goal of RVA MakerFest is to not only show off the talents of the city’s makers, but to give them a place to really show what goes into their work and projects.  The Fest definitely celebrates the planning, sweat, and iteration that go into making things.

Allen: The ultimate goal—short and sweet—bringing more people into the vibrant RVA maker community and celebrating the kind of creative energy that fuels our city.

Why should families attend together?

Melanie:  There’s going to be something for everyone at the RVA MakerFest. My husband and I took my four-year-old son to the Charlottesville MakerFaire last fall.  We had the best time driving robots, building wooden toy trucks, and contributing to a community-built paper rollercoaster.  The RVA MakerFest is a chance for families to get their hands on tools and toys they may not have ever considered.

Allen: It’s kind of a sentimental reason, but some of the happiest times I had with my family growing up and with my daughter all involved making—whether it was a dewberry cobbler or carving the Parthenon out of an Ivory Soap bar for a school project or a building a treehouse or molding a paper mache dog for a fourth grade book report. There’s something about being deeply engaged in a project, figuring it out, and celebrating when you step back and say, ‘I made that!’ RVA MakerFest offers families many possibilities for times like these. The MakerFest guarantees visitors will be awestruck by the creativity of local makers and be inspired to try something new.

Mark your calendars, and make a point to enjoy RVA MakerFest!

Learn more about RVA’s participating makers at — and build your excitement for the event by watching the RVA MakerFest documentary series “Made in RVA.”

RVA MakerFest
September 27, 2014
Science Museum of Virginia
2500 W Broad St, Richmond, VA 23220, USA
10AM to 5PM
Admission is FREE