KIDfest, hosted by Bethesda’s KID Museum, is growing up. Sunday, Sept. 23 marks the sixth year for this lollapalooza for little people (and their adults). More than 90 innovators will set up shop in downtown Silver Spring and teach, create, display and define creativity for a crowd of about 15,000 people.
KIDfest brings together artists, community leaders and families for a day of activities, presentations and talks. Whether you are a “maker” who uses your hands, your mind, a keyboard, cardboard boxes or random objects, KIDfest will spark and inspire.
What’s a maker? Emma Starr, KID Museum’s communications director, addressed the “making” trend. “Being a maker is all about tinkering, exploring and creating something,” she said. “Makerspaces are popping up in libraries and schools across the country. KID Museum uses ‘making’ to tap into kids’ creativity, encourage innovative thinking and develop social and emotional skills. Through the act of making something, kids discover how to solve problems, think creatively and collaborate with others.”
“KIDfest is a celebration of creativity and innovation,” said Starr, for both the seasoned maker and makers-in-training. “[It’s] a large-scale reflection of what we do at KID Museum year-round.”
KID Museum has planned “many hands-on activities for families to enjoy — like a robotic balloon pop, a giant communal loom and a larger-than-life ball run with industrial pipes,” she added. Other highlights will include meeting a robotic seal that responds to voice and touch; trying your hand at woodworking, textiles and electronics studios; an inflatable planetarium and free coding jams with high school coding corps members.
“There will be a hundred additional activities … that range from space exploration to mashing wildflowers to creating paints,” Starr said, plus “a series of inspirational KIDtalks — like TED talks — from local innovators and industry leaders.”
The roster of KIDtalk speakers includes Dr. Crystal Icenhour, Aperiomics founder and CEO (1 p.m.); research engineer Sunny Wicks, Lockheed Martin (2 p.m.); Elizabeth Dale-Deines, Curator of Craft, Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian (2:30 p.m.); Elizabeth Hendricks North, President, Curiosity Stream (3 p.m.);, Julie Lenzer, Associate Vice President for Innovation and Economic Development, University of Maryland and Co-Director, UM Ventures (3:30 p.m.) and astrophysicist Alycia Weinberger, Carnegie Institution for Science (4 p.m.)
Despite the name, event organizers emphasize that KIDfest is for all ages. “Kids and adults alike love to try out new things and get inspired by inventions and exhibits in robotics, engineering, biotechnology, sustainability, interactive art, etc.,” Starr said. “There is no age limit to KIDfest’s appeal.”
This year’s KIDfest also marks the kickoff of the 2018-19 Invent the Future Challenge where middle school (sixth- through eighth-grade) students from around the region design an innovative solution to a community problem. Former Challenge participants will be on-hand to showcase their inventions.
Those who are or have a clever middle schooler in the family may learn how to take part in this year’s competition. Ninety-eight teams totaling 500 students from 30 area middle schools took the challenge last year. Winners are recognized in categories like Design Process, Teamwork, Originality, Presentation and Potential Impact.
Atlhough KIDfest is the KID Museum’s banner event, the museum dials up excitement daily at the Davis Public Library in Bethesda, its home since 2014. According to the museum’s mission statement, KID Museum sets out to fill “the gap between what kids learn at school and what they need to learn about creativity, cultural awareness and passion.” The result is a hands-on learning center that pulls together STEAM, culture and critical thinking. It is no surprise that the museum was founded by local parents with school-aged children.
The museum is actively looking for a permanent home with more square footage for more maker space — either a new space or renovation of an existing space. They do not have a projected opening date, nor a “short list” of possible locations at this time. They are exploring potential partnerships with no anticipated timeline.
In the meantime, the Davis Library space offers school groups, after-school camps, special events and regular drop-in weekend hours for families. The space features labs for woodworking, fabric arts and coding.
KID Museum draws some 55,000 visitors from the metropolitan area annually. The goal is to accommodate 250,000 people a year at the new site where they will offer “21st-Century learning…and high-quality programming that reaches children from across the socioeconomic spectrum,” according to a press release. More than 20,000 square feet of maker space is also on the wish list, along with room rentals for communities, individuals and professionals — further underscoring that STEAM-style learning isn’t just fun for kids.
KIDfest will take place Sunday, Sept. 23, noon to 5 p.m., at the Silver Spring Civic Center, 1 Veterans Plaza, Silver Spring. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, visit www.kidfest.org.