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Local News

Makers fair in Mokena celebrates those who create and innovate

MOKENA – Logan Brandon of Plainfield has an interest in electronics, and with his grandfather Fred Bussean of Mokena by his side, takes robotics classes at Joliet Junior College to further his knowledge.

It’s that love of electronics and robotics that led his grandfather to bring Logan, his mother Jennifer Brandon and wife Nancy Bussean on Saturday to the third annual Chicago Southland Mini Maker Faire held in Mokena.

“I figured he would be interested in this event because he likes robotics. He’s interested in taking courses in robotics, but most require an adult, so I’m his designated driver,” Fred said.

More than 800 spectators walked through the doors of the Mokena Pipefitters Local 597 Training Center to a room full of homemade technology-based innovation and hands-on opportunities. This mini faire stems from the global celebration of makers started by Make: Magazine in 2006.

This event was a collaboration of Jay Margalus, Jim Richmond and Tim Ozinga. Margalus, who works as a game design professor at DePaul University, and is president of makerspace SpaceLab in Mokena, wanted to bring this makers faire event to the south suburbs where he saw a lack of electronic opportunity.

“I wanted my family to live in a learning community, where we work together to forward education with hands-on learning, which is constructionism. This type of learning doesn’t exist in our schools here yet,” Margalus said.

Margalus said this event focuses on the importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields, or STEM, and a makerspace offers a place where all walks of life can meet to create do-it-yourself technology projects.

Margalus said there were 30 exhibitors and 50 exhibits on Saturday, most affiliated with a makerspace in their area, and colleges or universities. Each exhibitor had a hands-on learning project for toddlers and senior citizens alike. Video games, dance games and computer games were popular among the younger population. Stations with computer-run robots, drones, solder stations and telescopes held the attention of the tweens.

“It’s neat that all of this stuff was homemade-made by the people here, and it’s even more fun that we get to feel it and try things out,” said Nate Dion, 9, of Mokena.

At the solder station, Chris Vroman taught 12-year-old Lucas Comerford and 8-year-old Jonas Paben the basics of soldering on computer panels. He said his dad taught him this skill, which set him into motion to open a computer repair business, so he wants to share this skill.

“This builds the boys’ brain power and it’s hands-on, which is the best way to learn,” Lucas’ mother Terra Comerford said.

Robin Moseley of SouthWorks MakerLab Network in Park Forest said these events are important because our world has shown a great migration toward technology in every facet.

“People can see where our future is going in a lot of ways, and how technology is growing fast,” Moseley said. “Drones are going to be used to deliver packages by Amazon and within 10 years I believe robots will be used in the home to help around the house, and be connected to the Internet to ask questions.”

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