Colin Mills: Celebrating Reston’s Spirit of Innovation

Colin Mills/File photoReston’s 50th anniversary is at hand. Lately, I’ve been at several meetings where the focus has been on Reston’s history. There are a series of exciting events planned for this year that will take a look back at our past. I’m excited about attending as many of them as my schedule will allow.

But you know me; I like to look forward. I like to think about the future, and where our community is headed.  Fortunately, just around the corner, we have an event in Reston that’s all about the future, and about fostering the spirit of experimentation and innovation that makes Reston special. And it comes as no surprise that this event is being put together by one of my favorite organizations: Nova Labs.

I’ve written about this terrific Reston-based nonprofit before.  In case you don’t know, Nova Labs is a makerspace.  That means that it provides space for people to create and build things, a place to collaborate with like-minded people, and an opportunity to learn about new technologies, tools, and skills. Basically, it’s a dream come true for people who like to make things.  I’m proud that Reston is home to a creative and exciting venture as this.

At last week’s RCA Board meeting, we received a presentation from Nova Labs. We learned all about the projects that they’ve been doing, such as using drones to do an aerial survey of the Wiehle Metro station and hosting programs designed to get kids interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math).   We learned about their plans to move into a larger space within the near future.  And most interesting of all, we learned about their plans to hold a Mini Maker Faire, right here in Reston next month.

What’s a Maker Faire?   Basically, it’s the coolest show-and-tell you can imagine. It’s a gathering for engineers, crafters, tech types, and other makers to display and talk about their projects. The idea was hatched in the Bay Area by MAKE Magazine back in 2006. Since then, Maker Faires and Mini Maker Faires have been held across the country, and even internationally; combined, they’ve had over 1.5 million attendees.

What will you see at the Mini Maker Faire?  It all depends on the exhibitors, and what they choose to display. That’s part of the excitement; you never know what you’re going to going to see. The focus is often on displaying new technologies, but you might also see innovative projects in science, engineering, or the arts as well. You might see some robotics projects, a 3D printing demonstration, exciting new apps, breathtaking Lego sculptures, artisanal crafts, performance art demonstrations, inventions, and more. And you won’t just be able to see what other people are making; you’ll have the chance to learn how to create things too!

I love the idea of the Maker Faire for the same reason that I love the idea of Nova Labs.  Reston is all about creativity and innovation, and has been since the very beginning.  Bob Simon created a New Town that was one big experiment, a new way to build and organize a community.  Bob’s vision attracted open-minded and forward-thinking citizens, who formed groups like RCA to embrace that creativity and use it to help build a community.  This innovative spirit no doubt helped Reston become a hub for the tech industry in later years.

Even though Reston is now a mature community, we still want to live in a place that’s creative, innovative, and forward-looking. That’s why Nova Labs and the Mini Maker Faire are such a boon to Reston. The maker movement encourages creativity at the individual level, and Maker Faires are a great way to celebrate and develop creativity at the community level.

Mini Maker Faires don’t just celebrate the do-it-yourself spirit; they are true DIY events. The event is being organized and run by Nova Labs, along with a collection of local sponsors and volunteers. The Mini Maker Faire isn’t just being done in our community, it’s being done by our community as well.

Excited?  Me too!  The Maker Faire is being held on Sunday, March 16 at South Lakes and Langston Hughes. If you’d like to go, you’ll need to get a ticket, which can be purchased through the Nova Mini Maker Faire website. And if you’d like to volunteer, they can always use a few more helping hands; you can sign up to help out through the site as well.

Reston  has always been a creative and forward-looking community. I’m very proud that a cool makerspace like Nova Labs calls Reston home.I hope that they’ll be here for decades to come, fostering creativity, incubating cutting-edge small businesses, and inspiring our children to experiment and create and learn. And I hope that this year’s Mini Maker Faire is the first of many here in Reston.As we prepare for a year of celebrating Reston’s history, I’m glad that we have events like these to help us keep our eye on the road ahead.
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Are you interested in Reston’s future?  Want to have a hands-on role in shaping how our community develops?  Then join the RCA Board!  We’re now accepting applications for open seats on our Board of Directors. 

You can go to our website to download the form; fill it out and return it no later than February 17th. Help us serve Reston’s citizens and plan for Reston’s next 50 years.

Colin Mills is the president of Reston Citizens Association.

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