LEWISTON — About 400 people filled Museum L-A Saturday for the museum’s first Maine Innovation Expo, touring exhibitions and doing craft projects set up by about 30 schools, businesses and community groups there to show off local talent and creativity.

“It’s fun. Very, Very fun,” said 9-year-old Emma Mills, of Lewiston, as she hammered together a mini bowling game at the Home Depot booth Saturday afternoon. 

The expo replaced the museum’s annual Maker Faire, which started in 2012 as a way to showcase area inventors, artists, hobbyists and do-it-yourselfers. Museum Executive Director Rachel Desgrosseilliers said in April that the faire had been licensed through the national Maker Faire and she “couldn’t bring in our local businesses the way I wanted to.”

Visitors on Saturday wandered through three floors filled with tables that showed off things like shadow puppets, robots, shoe making, bed building, do-it-yourself craft projects and drone testing. 

“The drones kept very busy,” Desgrosseilliers said.

At the table manned by the Open Bench Project, a shared learn/work facility for makers in Portland, visitors could solder together a badge that looked like a circuit board or learn how a AA battery, a few tiny magnets and some twisted copper wire could make a cool kinetic toy.

“It’s just a doodler that gets kids to be like, ‘What the?’ Then you get to say, ‘Lorentz effect! Magnetic, electric, physical force!'” said Jake Ryan, founder and director of the open Bench Project. “Vitamins and cupcakes, I like to refer to it as. They don’t know that they’re getting science.”

By 2 p.m., Ryan had given out some 40 of his solder-it-yourself badges, about half the supply he’d brought with him.

One of those badges went to 11-year-old Dominic Anderson, of Lewiston, who proudly wore it pinned to his shirt. When asked what he enjoyed about making it, he said, “Not burning myself like I do with most hot objects.”

Nearby, the chief marketing officer for Don’t Panic Consulting in Lewiston talked with visitors about drift racing and the Drift the Streets event scheduled for Lewiston next year. He explained it to bewildered visitors by referencing the “Fast and the Furious” movies.

“But legal,” Benjamin Santos said.

If race talk wasn’t enough to draw people to his table, he also offered turns with a pair of virtual reality goggles. They proved popular, drawing clusters of people throughout the day. 

“Everybody who has been here has had a lot of fun,” Santos said of the expo. “They really seemed to enjoy it.”

 It looks like the expo won’t be a one-time event.

Before the expo ended, Desgrosseilliers had already heard from three new groups who wanted tables in 2018. She said all of this year’s exhibitors seemed to want to return as well.

“It’s a definite yes for next year,” she said.

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Zelda Wright, 7, left and her brother Danny, 6, of Lewiston, work on a project under the watchful eye of Bike Part Art’s Ann Thompson at one of the booths at Saturday’s Maine Innovation Expo at the Bates Mill Complex in Lewiston. The event was organized by Museum L-A.


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