Get ready to put on your top hat and hop in your dirigible, children. The inaugural S.T.E.A.M. Festival is rolling into Fillmore on steam-powered wheels this weekend bringing creativity, wonder and a whole lot of learning.
The S.T.E.A.M. Festival is an amalgamation of the steampunk culture, in which “science and science fiction” come together, as aficionados don their best Victorian-era costumes accessorized with steam-and-gear-powered trinkets. For this event, the science, technology, engineering, arts and math curriculums, also known as STEAM, are infused throughout.
The coming together of the culture and the educational aspect is a natural one, says event founder Jerrold Ridenour, also known as his steampunk character “Poplock Holmes,” an MC, entertainer and inventor himself.
“Steampunk gives [kids] the permission to be creative,” said Ridenour. “It’s user-generated, open-sourced creativity that evolves as people create.”
The festival, taking place at the Fillmore & Western Railway in Fillmore, will feature two days of workshops and events based on the theme of technological firsts. An antique-camera workshop will showcase the world’s first “selfie”; a Morse Code workshop will demonstrate the early days of telecommunication; and interactive “think stations” will feature extinct technologies, some tasking visitors to use engineering or mathematical skills. Last but not least, steam-train rides will take place throughout the weekend.
“We want to do what the circus did by bringing it to the people,” said Ridenour. “This is almost like a way to bring the science lab, the math and practical real-world applications to entertaining environments.”
The Festival will also feature several unique vendors, including Greg and Lora Price’s Steamy Tech (www.steamytech.com), a Santa Clara-based company that promotes tinkering using 3-D printing and laser cut items. Greg says that his booth at the festival will showcase “scrap mountain,” where attendees will compete to see who can make the most interesting creation out of gears, cogs and more.
Greg says that in the Bay Area, many schools are creating makers paces for students to get creative while learning real-world applicable skills.
“It’s kind of like the old woodshop but brought into the modern time,” said Greg. “There’s this whole aspect of handmade artistry in things, and people are using a lot of imagination and science in what they build; there’s definitely a nice crossover between the two.”
In Ventura, E.P. Foster Library’s makerspace features a LulzBbot TAZ 3-D Printer, as well as a miniprinter, and the library hosts weekly workshops. Saticoy’s Academy of Technology and Leadership elementary school recently installed a dedicated makerspace classroom for students to tinker with their own circuits, computer-aided design and more.
Ridenour says that the day before the festival begins, students from area schools will take a tour of the grounds and be treated to special shows and sneak peaks of the activities before they are open to the general public. Kids, he says, are hungry for education, especially when it’s entertaining.
“Kids, especially with a STEAM curriculum, are excited about being smart, excited about invention, excited about responding to inspiration,” said Ridenour. “Hopefully, through that, some will become engineers, scientists or artists. The beauty of STEAM is that it gives society and kids a safer understanding of where their future lies.”
The S.T.E.A.M. Festival will take place from Saturday, Nov. 4, through Sunday, Nov. 5, at the Fillmore & Western Railway, 364 Main St. in Fillmore, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Tickets $10-15, children under 10 free. For more information, visit www.thesteamfestival.com.