For this Maker Faire project I decided to create a low-cost marble maze maker project featuring recycled materials, hands-on construction, collaborative cooperation, and a large dose of fun. I enlisted the help of my seven-year-old son in constructing the maze, in order to gain insight into the process of maze-building as experienced by a child within the age range of the target audience, as well as to resolve any unforeseen difficulties in advance of actually launching a program like this at my public library.
We began by covering a large sheet of plywood with wide strips of white butcher paper, and then examined the maze-building supplies that I had collected. We had paper towel and toilet paper tubes, egg cartons, heavy cardboard corners from a shipping box, and cardboard rings to choose from, along with scissors and a plentiful supply of packing tape.
With the plywood propped up at an angle, we began at the top and worked our way to the bottom, adding one maze section at a time, and testing it frequently with marbles to troubleshoot any roadblocks as we built. Once our main path was nearly finished, we decided to make things more interesting by adding an alternate tube system that connected with the original at the halfway point. When the maze was complete, we added some paint to the background paper to highlight the path that the marbles would take, and to increase the visual appeal of the maze through color and pattern.
Testing this maze building activity revealed that packing tape is not the best option for securing the maze materials to the background, as it is extremely sticky and rather difficult to reposition. I lost count of the number of times that the tape stuck to itself before we could even attach it to the maze! Masking tape or duct tape would be a better choice when holding this event at the library. Additionally, this initial run-through established that folding tables would be preferable to sheets of plywood. Even when propped up on two sturdy chairs, the plywood shifted easily and was a slight impediment to the construction process. Folding tables, with one set of legs left folded underneath, would provide a much more stable surface for building.
A marble maze program would be relatively simple to organize and implement. Even in a small library system with limited resources and staffing, an event such as this would be a practical first step towards the realization of more technical STEM programming or Maker events. I really enjoyed creating this Maker Faire project with my son, and he had a blast racing marbles through it both during construction, and when the maze was finished. I would imagine that a room full of children all working (and learning!) together to build marble runs would be abuzz with excitement over the creative possibilities that are present in a project like this. Now that I’ve got this test run under my belt, I can’t wait to offer this maze project to the young makers in my library community!
P.S. This was really a maker project within a maker project for me: I learned how to use a stop motion app to create the first of the two videos listed at the top of this post. Hooray for new know-how!