Tinkerfest 5 at Amazeum


This past weekend I returned to Amazeum to finish up this year’s maker residency with a bang at the fifth annual Tinkerfest event. It was great to contribute to this celebration of all things tinkering and get the chance to joing the community of makers in Northwest Arkansas.

I planned to continue some of the experiments with automata workshops and computational tinkering extensions and I also wanted to take the opportunity to try a new motion bot experiment that we’ve been developing with Lodestar Charter School for a project supported by Cognizant.


I arrived a day early and joined in the hub of activity in the exhibit shop where staff, artists and visiting makers we’re preparing installations and workshops for the event.


We planned to run the Fire the Inventor ensemble automata kit workshop from the Cabaret Mechanical Theater exhibition again with a circus theme. To contribute to the environment, I constructed a cardboard circus tent for the giant honeycomb cardboard automata from the past visit.

For the little motion bot, Joel helped me cut out a bunch of different shaped hubs for the DAGU motors. I made a little tinkerfest sign to attach to the wobbley bot, thinknig that it would become a little mascot for the event.


That evening we had a big group dinner with all of the partners contributing to the event. Along with staff from Amazeum and local schools, there were makers from AMOS, Chabot Space and Science Center, Thinkery, Oklahoma Children’s Museum, Science Museum Oklahoma, Museum of Discovery, Doseum and more! It was really special to connect with so many passionate makers.

We got to the museum early next morning, excited for the day of tinkering and started getting ready for the ensemble kit. As soon as the museum opened, we were full with families testing out mechanisms, creating unique characters and adding their automata to the collaborative installation.

It was awesome to see some of the littlest makers getting up close and personal with the giant automata. There’s something really nice about the larger-than-life scale of the cam connections to give learners the chance to see things in a new way.

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At the back of the tinkering hub we also set up a space for kids and adults to test out some of the microbit automata experiments that we built during past visits.


After a couple hours, we realized that we were going to have many more visitors than automata kits so we started resetting the ensemble, but saving all the toppers so we could have a record of the unique circus characters.


Over the course of the day, I got the chance to walk around a bit and see some of the other activity stations. There were so many great ideas around that I want to borrow, steal and adapt for future experiments. A few of my favorites were a simple ball run activity for early childhood learners, a dissection activity that doubled as a scavenger hunt for reusable parts and a experiment station with photosensitive panels.


And it was great to see favorite tinkerfest activities like car dissection, learn to solder and welding station alongside new classics like glow-in-the-dark art machines.

By the end of the day we had an amazing collection of ensemble automata. I counted all the finished machines and the remaining toppers and over the course of the day visitors built ninety-six automata.


Tinkerfest at Amazeum was a wonderful chance to learn alongside passionate makers, test out new ideas and connect with the growing local tinkering community with artists and educators from around the country.