Bringing do-it-yourself science to the masses

This past Saturday, the New York Hall of Science, a Dana grantee, hosted the Maker Faire in Queens, NY. The Faire, in its fifth year, is a do-it-yourself wonderland of science gadgets and experiments presented by “Makers.”  As defined on the event’s website,, Makers are “a growing community of highly imaginative and resourceful people who undertake amazing projects in their backyards, basements, and garages.”

Exhibits ranged from the playful to the practical, and many invited viewers to participate, which Saturday's crowd was eager to do. One of my favorites was the BioBus, a mobile science lab where people could test their DNA to see if it carries the bitter taste gene. We took our own saliva samples and after some hands-on processing and a half-hour wait, could discover whether we were among the 70 percent of the population who carry the gene.

BioBus; credit; Ann WhitmanThe BioBus gives attendees the chance to participate in a genotyping project.

Many of the more than 500 exhibitors emphasized how important it is to share information beyond just answering the in-person questions of the day. Instructables, for example, offers instructions for thousands of projects on its Web site, from how to make chocolate truffles (yum!), to how to build a computer mouse out of a taxidermied mouse (no thanks!). One table promoted DIY reflective covers for bike helmets so night riders would be more easily visible to car drivers, decreasing the chance of accidents (take note, Brain Injury Awareness Month organizers).

With so much going on, the event was a little overwhelming at times, but just when I felt like my brain might explode, I stumbled upon the soothing sounds of the Amygdaloids, a brain science-themed rock band led by Dana Alliance member Joe LeDoux, playing on the Science Stage.

LeDoux; credit Ann WhitmanScientist rocker, Joe LeDoux (far right), sings "Mind over Matter" on the Science Stage.

The Faire had something for everyone, but one of my most rewarding experiences of the day came afterward — listening to the animated conversations of a group of teens on the subway ride home, discussing the science they learned that day.

–Ann L. Whitman

2 responses

  1. Wow! This is great! I’ve never encountered anything like this before, it looks fun. I hope I can visit too. I would love to explore on stuff like that. It’s great that they used a bus for the exhibit. Their way of bringing science to the mass is very creative, and there’s a band too! It’s amazing how they made it fun and at the same time full of learning. I’m glad that I found your site. I enjoyed reading it. Thank you very much for sharing your experience with us. I would love to read more blog entries from you!

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