Meet the Makers: Tech Valley Game Space

Tech Valley Game Space is an active community of game makers based at the Tech Valley Center of Gravity. Members work individually and together to develop new games and new controllers, from retro to virtual reality and other cutting-edge technology. They also host regular classes, community workshops, game jams and other marathon events, as well as social nights.

Members of TVGS will be bringing locally made games for you to try. Come meet them, play some amazing new games, and learn more about the local independent game development scene in downtown Troy!

Attend the Troy Mini Maker Faire this Saturday, August 27, from 11 am to 6 pm. Get your free tickets  now (or just come by) and meet all our Makers. We’ll see you there!

Meet the Makers: First Robotics Competition Team 20

Maker Faires have always been a good place to go robot-watching. At the Troy Mini Maker Faire on August 27, you can meet Scorpio and other robots designed by the FIRST Robotics Competition Team 20 out of Shenendehowa High School. Their team advisor, Helen Gutelius, answered some questions for us.

What does a team in the FIRST Robotics Competition do?

The FIRST Robotics Competition is one of multiple programs offered by the FIRST organization. FIRST is actually an acronym that stands for “For Inspiration and Recognition in Science and Technology.” The founder, Dean Kamen, created FIRST with the idea that scientists and engineers should be just as revered and idolized as, say, Eli Manning or Miley Cyrus. By creating role models for kids to look up to, more kids will be interested in STEM from a young age, and want to follow -or at least have a good understanding of- math and science subjects and careers.

That being said, FRC could probably be considered the largest competition out of all the programs that FIRST offers. It is open to all high school aged kids and most teams are open to having adults from the community join as mentors, whether they’re engineers or not. With several thousand teams and millions of participants across the world, FRC is enormous and still growing at a rapid pace. Each year at the beginning of January, the Game Design Committee releases a challenge to design a robot that fits the constraints of a game that they have created. This year, the game released was called “Stronghold,” and teams had to create a robot that could cross different medieval-themed obstacles (like a drawbridge) and shoot a “boulder” (really just a large foam ball) into a tower.

What is the history of the FRC Team 20?

Team 20 has actually been around since the beginning of FIRST, which started in 1992. We are one of the last few founding teams left in the entire world, and we’re nearing almost 25 years of experience! We’re very proud of our team and have even had two of the very first members from the 1992 team come back to visit us at one of our competitions. As a matter of fact, some of the original mentors even help us out! Mr. Kane, who used to teach at our high school (Shenendehowa) still helps us with welding the robot frame every year even though he is now retired as a teacher.

How many students are involved in FRC Team 20? What backgrounds and interests do they bring to the team?

In recent years, we’ve had over a hundred students each year join our team to participate on our many subteams. Team 20 is divided by subject: programming, mechanical, CAD, animation, VEX, media, safety, spirit, branding, business, scouting, and more. Some of these groups are working all year round, and some only stay active for a few weeks of the year, but all of them are doing very important work that makes our team successful and innovative. Many of our students tend to join for just one of these subteams, often programming or mechanical, and end up staying for something entirely different, like scouting or business.

What do students get out of participating in FRC?

A lot! Not only does FIRST provide millions of dollars in scholarships, students are also gaining valuable experience as to how an actual engineering company works, and get to see where their niche might be in a real business setting. Because of FRC, we’ve had students go on to schools like MIT and Yale, and get full 4 year scholarships to schools like WPI. Above all, FRC is a fun place for many to make lasting friendships and learn skills that last a lifetime.

Have you visited any Maker Faires? What are you looking forward to at the Troy Mini Maker Faire?

This is Team 20’s first time visiting a Maker Faire! Our individual members have gone to separate events, like the Maker Faire in New York City, but we’re really excited to be able to come and present our work together at a Maker Faire for the first time. We’re also really looking forward to see what other exhibits there will be, and showing the community what we can really do (if you let us, we’ll talk your ear off about FRC and the team). It sounds like a lot of fun, and we can hardly wait for August 27th!

Get your free tickets for the Troy Mini Maker Faire now and join us on August 27 to meet all our  Makers! The Call for Makers has ended, but we may consider late applications if space allows. There’s no charge to be an exhibitor, and we are open to any kind of art/tech/science project you have in mind. Just fill out the online application form and let us know what you’d like to share with the Maker Community. We look forward to seeing you on August 27!

Meet the Makers: CMOST

Our next  featured Maker, SUNY Poly CMOST, has been a well-loved local resource for science fans for many years. At Troy Mini Maker Faire on August 27, CMOST will be bringing a favorite exhibit called Rigamajig. It’s a large-scale wooden building kit designed to spark imaginations. Child-friendly nuts and bolts allow for even the youngest builders to playfully prototype their ideas. The whole family will want to join in this hands-on building challenge!

Museum Educator Ashley Phillips answered some questions about what CMOST will be doing at Troy Mini Maker Faire:

What is a visit to CMOST like?
A visit to CMOST is a dynamic hands-on discovery experience. Exhibits are designed to let children and their families explore science concepts. In addition, scheduled events take place approximately every hour, providing a chance for children and their families to interact with our educators and dive deeper into science topics varying from engineering to animals.

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What Maker activities do you offer on a regular basis?
This summer CMOST is offering miniMake activities every Tuesday morning. Our projects are geared for children ages 6 and older. We make engineering accessible to a younger crowd as we combine new technology with familiar materials. In our upcoming Jitterbug workshop children will use craft supplies to create an insect, and then use a vibration motor and simple circuity to bring it to life.

How does the Maker Movement benefit kids, families, and the community at large?
Making changes the way that we teach science and engage children to participate with it. We invite children to be the inventors, blow the doors open on the “science lab,” and tap into their creativity and science capability. Through tinkering and innovating we are reinforcing the fact that science discovery is current and ongoing.

What are you looking forward to seeing and doing at the Troy Mini Maker Faire?
We are looking forward to collaborating with others who are as passionate about making as us. We can’t wait to see what projects local inventors have been working on, and gain some fresh ideas while meeting young makers that will join us in the Maker Movement at the museum!

If you would like to have your own Maker exhibit at this year’s Troy Mini Maker Faire, the Call for Makers is open until August 1. Just fill out the online application form and let us know what you’re like to do. It’s free!