Tag Archives: education

Meet the Maker: Ellie Willingham, of Frontier Furs

20 Mar

Ellie This year we have a Heritage Craft  area, highlighting Makers of a different kind: People with traditional skills and expertise in fields that at one time were the cutting edge of technology, expanding trade and exploration, and improving life in myriad ways.  One of these Heritage Crafters is Ellie Willingham,  of Frontier Furs, unusual both for her skills, and for her gender in her field,  which has traditionally been male dominated.    Ms. Willingham’s exhibit was among our most popular last year, and this year she’s expanded her booth to offer a broader educational experience at Gulf Coast Maker Con 2014.

We asked her to tell more about what she does and why she does it.  We hope you enjoy her insights as much as we did!

GCMC: What do you do?

FF: I am a furrier – I make all kinds of things out of fur! Everything from hats and other winter accessories, to costuming and re-enactment attire. I Fontier Furstrap and process many of the furs myself, and others I obtain by trading with other trappers or fur crafters. I sell my furs at many local events and also online. Clients will also send me their own pelts to have made into a customized product of choice.

GCMC: How long have you been doing it?

FF: I skinned my first animal – a road killed squirrel – in my early teens and decided then I wanted to become a professional taxidermist. I did taxidermy for years until it later proved too costly to continue. So I switched to fur crafting and have enjoyed it ever since!

GCMC: What do you like about your work?

FF: I love fur crafting for countless reasons. There are so many beautiful and practical items that can be made from fur and leather, the possibilities are endless. I’m a very outdoorsy person, and during the winter I enjoy spending almost every morning out on my trapline (an area of woods set with a number of traps for furbearing species)  I have a deep respect for these animals and all they provide. I use their fur, eat their meat, and take to heart everything I can learn from tracking and observing them in their habitats. For me, it is a very natural way of being.

GCMC: Why do you think what you do is important?

FF: Much of what I do tends to get a bad rap from the media and the animal rights communities, mainly because people simply don’t understand it or have no real experience with it. And people often fear or dislike what they don’t understand. So by openly sharing my craft and teaching others about what I do, it will help the general public gain a better knowledge of this trade and to understand that it’s not all about “killing”. More so, it’s about responsibly utilizing and managing our natural resources, and preserving a traditional way of life.

Natural fur is a very renewable resource. Animals reproduce constantly, and they produce an excess in order to keep their populations stable. However if the excess is not kept in check, either through natural depredation or human harvests, many species will begin to overpopulate, which inevitably leads to spread of disease or inbreeding. In some areas where there are little or no natural predators, hunting and trapping is the most effective means of managing prolific species such as raccoons, coyotes, foxes, beavers, opossums and others.

Also, real fur is a completely natural and biodegradable product, even when processed and tanned. If discarded in a landfill, a piece of real fur or leather will eventually break down and disintegrate from the weather. Faux fur on the other hand, as well as synthetic leathers, are comprised of man-made materials, typically containing petroleum and plastics, which will never decompose in our lifetimes.

GCMC: The “Maker”community is often equated with high tech topics, but we believe the makers of heritage traditions are equally important. Why do you think what you do and make has value to the DIY community?

FF: In this high-tech world, I think it’s very important for people to see the simpler side of things, to know that many traditional methods and crafts still exist and are still being used today because of their timeless reliability. The only way we can pass on these heritage traditions, and to keep them going, is to expose and teach them to our future generations.

GCMC: What kind of demonstrations will you be doing at GCMC?

I will be demonstrating how to process fur from start to finish, and will also give a few tips on how to properly prepare wild game meat. Using a freshly harvested raccoon and opossum, I will show how to skin these animals and dress the meat, then get the pelts prepared for tanning. You will also get to try a taste of my special raccoon jerky!

GCMC: Will you have any interactive components?

I will have a “touch table” with all kinds of fur pelts and examples of products that I’ve made out of fur, along with the above-mentioned samples of raccoon jerky for anyone to try. It’s surprisingly tasty!

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You can meet Ms. Willingham and learn more about her timeless craft at Gulf Coast MakerCon April 5th & 6th.  Advanced discount tickets are available now - eventbrite button

 

Meet the Maker: Daniel Flisek, Mr. Home Scientist

10 Mar

Daniel FlisekHome ScientistDaniel Flisek is a civilian Physicist working for the US Navy with a self-professed ” strong interest in chemistry on the side.”

We  asked him to tell us a bit about himself and what he’s bringing to Gulf Coast MakerCon.

DF: “I have a Bachelor’s degree in physics from Virginia Tech, and I really got interested in chemistry only after I graduated. I originally got into amateur chemistry when I read Theodore Gray’s amazing website on his periodic table collection, and I decided I wanted to start my own.

“At first chemistry was a way to isolate elements for my collection by freeing them from their compounds, but my interest quickly grew to encompass all of the amazing things that can be done with the science. I’m particularly interested in inorganic chemistry and metallurgy.”

Daniel hosts a YouTube channel and blog, where he posts videos and write-ups of the experiments he does in his home laboratory.  (What? You don’t have a home laboratory?)

” The goal of all this,” says Daniel, ” is that I want to spread excitement and interest in science. Too often, kids get turned off to science (particularly chemistry) in school because the teachers either don’t have the background and aren’t aware of any exciting demos, aren’t able to do them because of lack of funds, or are too worried about liability. I’m trying to rekindle the spark of the scientist in people young and old by sharing what I do, and showing off some of the amazing things that can be done if you just put your mind to it.”

Look for some real sparks, at Gulf Coast MakerCon, too.  In addition to a static exhibit (which may have static) that will feature an Element display, Daniel will also be creating some showy chemical reactions for us.

“I think community maker events are a great opportunity for people to share the cool things they do with others,” says Daniel. “It’s also a terrific thing to demonstrate the incredible things people can do at home, and that you don’t need fancy equipment, a huge bank account, or a PhD to accomplish some pretty amazing things.”

If you want to see Daniel, and some fine chemistry, in action, get your tickets today

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Gulf Coast MakerCon for Educators

9 Mar
GCMC educator cover

Click on the image to download a copy of the Gulf Coast MakerCon Educators Guide.

The “maker” movement is simply the DIY creative spirit reignited for the 21st century. It’s a return to self-sufficiency, self-reliance and creativity, providing engaging and hands-on opportunities to inspire, educate, and entertain curious and creative learners of all ages. It celebrates arts, crafts, engineering, food, green design, music, science and technology and brings together communities who embrace the DIY (do-it-yourself) spirit.  There are lots of ways to “make” education happen in this very active learning experience, and to engage students in active learning at Gulf Coast MakerCon.

We’ve compiled some resources for educators interested in visiting Gulf Coast MakerCon with their students, or just looking for classroom take-aways.  The weekend will be rich with hands on learning opportunities for all ages, and will hopefully inspire some ideas for classroom enrichment in the process.

The overall goal of Gulf Coast MakerCon is to help people of all ages become empowered creators of their future and ours, to feel capable of creating, repairing, inventing, adapting, handling, trying , and becoming active and engaged producers instead of passive consumers . To that end we hope that both youth and adults will take the opportunity of Gulf Coast MakerCon to:

  • Meet and interact with all our Makers, who are sharing their unique passions and projects.deconstruction
  • Explore the wide variety of exhibits and presentations that will be available throughout the weekend.
  •  Experience a live performance or demonstration.
  • Engage in a hands-on project or activity that you can take home.
  •  Collaborate on a project or share experiences with people of all ages.
  • Learn about the power of the Maker community.
  • Be inspired, as a student or member of the public, to try at least one new idea at home or at school.
  • Be inspired, as a teacher, to bring at least one new idea for active making into the classroom.
  • Get a sense of the wonder and value of following your passion!
  • Inspire Curiosity in the world around you!

If you’re a public school teacher in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, or Polk county and would like to bring groups of ten or more students to Gulf Coast MakerCon, please drop us a line at info@learningis4everyone.org so we can provide you with a classroom rate, and help maximize the educational impact of your visit.

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Happy Holidays from Gulf Coast Makers!

24 Dec

Holiday greeting

Gulf Coast MakerCon Early Bird Tickets Now on Sale!

19 Dec

Take advantage of our Early Bird ticket sales for Gulf Coast MakerCon, and get admission for the full weekend at half the rate of a one day pass, paid the day of, at the gate! Early Bird tickets will be on sale now through Feb. 28th.

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Click here to Buy Tickets!

Interested in being a Maker? Click the button!apply button

Gulf Coast MakerCon Comes to Florida Fairgrounds, April 5 & 6

26 Nov

fb iconLearning is for Everyone (LI4E.org) hosted the area’s  first ever Tampa Bay Mini Maker Faire in 2012. 2013 logoIn 2013, our event nearly doubled in size, drawing more than 500 attendees. For 2014, LI4E is dialing up our annual DIY Celebration of the Inventive Spirit with a two day Gulf Coast MakerCon, at the Florida Fairgrounds Special Events Center April 5& 6, 2014.

With an emphasis on technical, creative and professional workshops and sessions covering everything from patent development and the inventive process, to 3D printing, programming, mechanical and electrical design, green tech and open source technologies, Gulf Coast MakerCon will provide added value for adult attendees, with a special Young Makers section for kids and families, as well. There will be a wide variety of creative nd interactive vendors, exhibitors, and entertainment that includes everything from robotics and metalsmithing, to recycled instruments, ham radio, RC modeling, automotive tech, gaming, inventions, innovations, future tech and much more.

So save the date and look for more details soon!

LI4E Heads to Pasco EcoFest with Artist and Maker Chuck Stephens & LearningMan

6 Nov

Tampa artist and maker,  and  Learning is for Everyone volunteer, Chuck Stephens, is bringing  his concept art,  “LearningMan”to Pasco EcoFest, in keeping with LI4Es mission to support “the ecofestCuriosity Driven Life.”

“LearningMan is a participatory interactive sculpture designed to bring attention to the plastic cycle and encourage discussion of better and more efficient recycling solutions,” says Chuck.

Inspired by the annual Burning Man Festival, our large human shaped sculpture will be constructed of bamboo with an LED lighting system (reused from our Red Bull challenge project!). Festival attendees will be encouraged to tie empty plastic drink bottles and other plastic waste to the frame throughout the day Friday and Saturday. Saturday evening the sculpture will be raised and lit up. The plastic will diffuse the light of the LEDs creating an eye catching display that will flash and change color with the music from the festival stage. After the festival the sculpture will be disassembled and properly recycled.

Besides being a fun and interactive art project at EcoFest, the purpose of this project is to increase awareness of plastic and its place in our world.

“Plastic is everywhere but few of us know how it is made or what happens to it after we put it in the recycling bin,” Chuck notes. ” With the rise of the maker movement and the advent and growth of 3D printing, the role of plastic is changing. I see a future where consumers will have access to closed loop home recycling systems where waste plastic will be turned into the raw materials for home manufacturing to create an endless array of goods. Someday, hopefully, throwing away an empty plastic bottle will be as foolish as throwing away perfectly good printer ink.

“The first steps toward this change is awareness and consumer education and LearningMan is meant to be a fun way of engaging this issue.”

Come out and indulge your curiosity with Chuck and Learning is for Everyone, at Sims Park in New Port Richey this weekend!

Robot Hack Meet Up at John F. Germany Library Sunday Nov. 3, 1pm

2 Nov

Capture As development of the  new Learning is for Everyone (LI4E)  Community Innovation Center gets underway at the John F. Germany Library in downtown Tampa, some early projects are getting underway, staring with a  Robot Hack team.

If you want to join in the fun, come out to the John F. Germany Library this coming Sunday, Nov. 3, at 1pm, to join in the first G+ session on how to build an open source robot.  The LI4E Robot Hack team is meeting in the Carmen Manis meeting room on the 2nd floor of the Library at 900 N Ashley Drive in Tampa.

The team’s Robot Hack kit arrives next week, after which they’ll be embarking on a project of musical dimensions.  Join them Sunday to learn more, and get ready to play with robots!

 

GadgitKids and the Power of Reverse Mentoring

31 Jul

Gadgitkids logoHere’s an awesome idea! GadgitKids works “to create a society of mobile device users whose capabilities keep pace with the sophistication of technology.” – They do this through “reverse mentoring”  - a collaborative intergenerational win-win process of employing high school and college students as “GadgitKids”  giving them the tools and training to be effective communicators with a passion for helping others learn technology.

“Young people, our future leaders, need confidence and support,” says GadgitKids. “You need their technical knowledge. The end result of effective reverse mentoring is a working relationship between a young person and an adult which is mutually beneficial. “

GadgitKids invites college students, or high school students entering their junior or senior year, to review the position descriptions on their website and submit an application to become a GadgitKid.  Currently, applications from Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas and Polk counties are being considered.

Visit  GadgitKids at http://gadgitkids.com/apply-to-be-a-GadgitKid to apply or learn more.

In Celebration of Competitive Creativeness

14 Jul
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LI4E Makerspace Project team working on Red Bull Creation 2013 contest build.

A couple of years ago the America Competes Reauthorization Act was approved granting federal agencies broad authority to host contests to spur innovation. In How Contests Spur Innovation, Inventors Daily reported, at the time, that this signature event was critical to invention and economic development in America.

“In short,” Inventors Daily wrote, ” invention contests and prizes work. In fact, when applied to big problems, contests can deliver big solutions with big economic impact.

“…The Act provides a “clear and simple legal path” for Uncle Sam to run invention contests, much like the private sector. The U.S. public sector, it should be noted, accounts for approximately 25% of our $15 trillion economy.”

From America Competes was born Challenge.gov , “an online challenge platform administered by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) in partnership with ChallengePost that empowers the U.S. Government and the public to bring the best ideas and top talent to bear on our nation’s most pressing challenges.”

So if you like making stuff – mechanical stuff, 3D stuff, coded stuff, design stuff – there’s no shortage of federal and private industry nationwide competitions to in which to try your hand and your head.  If the incentive of a cause, or a prize are your best inspiration, start with  Challenge.gov and Challenge Post.

And there’s plenty of other resources.

Visit back here often for announcements about contests both local and national that we learn about throughout the year.   And share your news about contests, both entered in and hosted! We’d love to feature your stories and photos!

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