Summer Makerquests, Workshop, Camps, and Ask the Parent’s Panel, May 9th, 7pm

Find out about kids and teens activities at Nova Labs. Summer Camps, workshop, and classes. Our kid’s programming show case will be on May 8th, at 7pm. Sign up here:

Does your son or daughter have a passion for taking things apart, building things, or working with tools? Have you been wondering how to best encourage your young maker? Want to learn the best ways to include Nova Labs in your child’s learning this summer? Want to know more about Makerquests?

This event will answer those questions and more. Bring your questions!

– How to leverage Nova Labs to Make a Young Maker who makes
– Makerquests this summer
– Q&A with Nova Labs parents panel! We have assembled parents from our maker community who have successfully fostered their children’s love of innovation through the programs available at Nova Labs. Learn from the experiences of these makers of makers
– Upcoming summer camps. Speak to the camp organizers. Drones, all girls drones, robotics, programming, internships, maker workshops with equipment sign offs.

August 2017 Newsletter


LFP-featureimg“Team Ethiopia needed a hex driver so I borrowed one from Team Bahamas.” Maria, one of the teen volunteers from Nova Labs, was problem solving at the 2017 FIRST Global inaugural international robotics challenge for youth at DAR Constitution Hall. Maria was aware that there was a spare parts station with a line (staffed by yet another Nova Labs volunteer). Yet she recognized that this inter-team swap was a quicker solution, leveraging relationships she had just formed with these international teams. This is just one exchange illustrating the value that volunteering at FIRST Global brings to teens – teens who rose before dawn to arrive at the competition by 6:30 a.m., five days in a row – and were exhausted, yet eager, for more after the closing ceremony.

At the inaugural FIRST Global challenge, there were robotics teams representing nearly 160 countries, all under the same roof, for four intense days this July. Nova Labs provided hundreds of volunteer hours from dozens of teens and adults over the last several months, culminating in the competition. This newsletter highlights a sampling of the latest efforts. Over the years, Nova Labs, which places a high value on outreach, has fostered collaboration with mentors and robotics teams at area schools, positioning us to step up to this amazing service opportunity. The opportunity shines well-deserved national attention on Marshall High School teens who went above and beyond to make this a success.

FIRST Global President, Joe Sestek, recently shared with the volunteers, “Please know that without you, FIRST Global would not have been the measure it was…you made its reach go beyond our grasp, and I will always be beholden to you for that.” I echo the sentiments of this former Navy admiral and statesman, who expresses so elegantly for FIRST Global, the gratitude I feel for Nova Labs volunteers. Volunteering is what Nova Labs does best. I am humbled by the strength and quality of Nova Labs volunteers that come through for our fledgling organization, time and again, and allow us to realize more than I can imagine.





This month, the board continued the effort to hire Nova Labs’ first paid position. As you’ll see in this month’s newsletter, we’ve posted the job description. We’re very excited about taking this first step into our next phase of the nonprofit world.

This month, Nova Labs made two capital acquisitions – a new flammables cabinet for the woodshop and a new industrial sewing machine for the Crafter’s Cove. Both should be setup in short order. In addition, the board also approved the purchase of a defibrillator (AED) for emergency situations.

As for internal board news, Jim Sweeney is working with Jim Girardi to transition the treasurer office in the coming months. Also, there is an additional open board position, stay tuned for more updates on that.

As always, please feel free to reach out to the board members on Slack, e-mail, or in person if you have any questions, concerns, or creative ideas (that’s a given!).

>>> provided by Jim Girardi


HAPPENINGS: Industrial Sewing Machine Arriving

IndustrialSewing_img2The Crafters Cove just got an incredible upgrade, we are expanding our capabilities in multiple areas…with one new device.

The Consew 206RB-5 industrial sewing machine is capable of sewing a wide range of materials from regular fabrics to almost a 1/2 inch of leather. Other materials include all weights of canvas, multiple layers of the heaviest denim, any cordura nylon fabric, neoprene, thick quilts, etc. Basically, whatever that can fit under the foot can be sewn with a few exceptions, of course. So you will be able to tackle and complete a wide variety of interesting projects.

Classes on the use of the new sewing machine will commence around mid-August.

IndustrialSewing_img1Since this machine is able to sew leather, beginning leather working classes using the sewing machine will start before the end of August.

Leather working is a broad area and one class, broken into two sessions, will in no way cover the gamut. It will, however, provide a space for those interested in exploring the wide world of leather work.

>>> provided by Kirk Slowe (including LEATHERWORK)

[ Kirk Slowe, Nova Labs Associate, previously a member Tinkermill, a larger makerspace in Colorado (they have over 450 paying members).]


HAPPENINGS: Dog Days of Summer with Nova Labs’ own Robotics Workshops

>>> Provided by Elena Bachman, Workshop Lead and FRC Team Captain 5549

Lead Mentor Elena is in her third year volunteering with Nova Labs Robotics. FRC Team 5549 received national news coverage for their work mentoring Team Iran for the inaugural FIRST Global Challenge this July.

NBC Now:

NBC Washington:


HAPPENINGS: Marshall High FRC Team 5549 Mentors Team Iran at Nova Labs

TeamIran_img1Over the course of the FIRST Global happenings at the makerspace, it was brought to the attention of the volunteers that it was impossible to ship a kit of parts to Team Iran due to tight security and sanctions. Thankfully, local FIRST Robotics Competition Team 5549 from Marshall High school stepped up to lend a hand. Through a series of Skype calls, pictures of designs, and late nights, the team built a robot from the FIRST Global kit according to the designs and strategy of Team Iran.

TeamIran_img2After weeks of work in their school as well as the Robot Corral, they finally welcomed Team Iran at the airport on July 11th. The teams returned to the corral for a Persian feast generously donated by Amoo’s Restaurant of McLean and a happy introduction to the robot. Over the course of the competition, members of Team 5549, volunteering for FIRST global, continued to help out the team as well as the whole event. Team Iran departed on July 25th, having witnessed the experience of a lifetime.

>>> Provided by Elena Bachman, Captain, FRC Team 5549

HAPPENINGS: Volunteering behind the scenes with FIRST Global

Volunteering at GlobalFIRST Global brought to Nova Labs an official competition field in early summer for use in training and demonstration. Not only did officials train on the field in the Robot Corral, it was also used for Team Afghanistan who was denied a visa until days before the competition. Afghan Americans practiced running Team Afghanistan’s robot in the Robot Corral in preparation to stand in for the Afghan team.

A hardy team of volunteers battled the sun, heat, humidity, and birds to install the practice fields on the south veranda of DAR Constitution Hall. It was teamwork of the highest degree (figuratively and actually). There was even a volunteer who answered the Meetup call for volunteers and trekked downtown to assist.

There was a slight delay because the foundation platform on the veranda was not wide enough. We pressed forward to assemble all of the pieces we could, and positioned them for final assembly when the platform was widened. It took a solid team of build professionals to make it all work. Despite the heat, we accomplished much in a few hours. We stayed hydrated and got way cool FIRST Global water bottles.

During breaks, we cooled off inside Constitution Hall. Lots of activity to ready the venue. Country banners galore and serious activity to set up the main stage. Note: the AC works really well inside – it was comfy cool inside.

>>> Provided by David Link

Field Leaves Nova Labs  |   Set-Up Practice Field  |  Inside Field Setup  |  Competition

HAPPENINGS: Portable Magic – Nikki Rooney, Seed Grant Awardee

Have you ever been to an escape room? If so, you’ve probably see the myriad ticks, puzzles, codes, and technology that make them fun and engaging. Nikki Rooney, one of Nova Labs’ seed grant awardees, became involved in puzzle solving and puzzle making almost 10 years ago – this love of code breaking, clue finding, and problem solving inspired her to moonlight at an escape room (right in Herndon!) where she gained experience running the rooms, brainstorming puzzles, and even working on some of the electronics.

Through her work, she realized that the same puzzle theories, combined with available technology, could be utilized to help kids learn, explore, and improve critical thinking and problem-solving skills while, at the same time, having a “magical” experience. Since no such thing existed, she took it upon herself to use what she had learned to create interactive puzzles for her children. And what’s even better? Her kids don’t have to go to an escape room as she’s made them portable – and as anyone who’s traveled with kids knows, mobile entertainment is always a challenge. Like an actual escape room, all the puzzles are connected through content, but unlike an escape room, they are all physically modular. For example, one of her projects, a jigsaw puzzle, when completed, lights up and gives a clue to the next puzzle.

Nikki’s creations use multiple technologies that’s she’s learned about through her work experience as well as through Nova Labs classes. These include Arduino, Raspberry Pi, RFID, reed switches (reacts to the presence of a magnetic field), and more. We’re excited to see the final versions of her imaginative designs.

UPDATE: Board of Directors Service Opportunity

Nova Labs is currently seeking a volunteer to serve as secretary on the Board of Directors with skills in communications. Responsibilities include community building, strategic communications, and strategic planning. Before starting board service, the selected individual must agree to key membership, if not already.

The open term is through 2018, to complete the term of Kelli Kedis Ogborn, who recently resigned. Lieselot Whitbeck is serving as secretary in the interim.

Interested individuals will have an opportunity for a conversation with Nova Labs community leaders, facilitated by Callye Keen. To nominate a candidate, or volunteer yourself, please contact Callye or one of the directors:

Contact Info for Board of Directors  |  Callye Keen

UPDATE: Nova Labs is Hiring!

Nova Labs is hiring its first paid position – a makerspace coordinator! This is an important moment for any non-profit – the hiring of its first paid staff. We’re looking for a customer service superstar who can coordinate events at the makerspace, ensure they run smoothly, make everyone feel welcome, and assist the President with membership management tasks.

Initially, this will be a part-time position of roughly 20 hours per week (position may be shared). We’re excited about this important step as Nova Labs continues to grow and prosper.

Direct Referrals  |  Job Description

>>> Provided by Jim Girardi

July 2017 Newsletter


“Here is the original 3D printed prosthetic hand.” 3D Printer build group lead Paul Chase demonstrated the working prosthetic as we prepared for the FIRST Global Innovation Awards. Next Paul pulled out a newer model hand with missing components that didn’t work. “Why would I want to bring that?” I asked. Paul answered my question with a question “Is there value to iteration?” So I packed the hand to showcase the progressive nature of innovation the next day with young entrepreneurs (John Link pictured leading the demo). All of the participating teams presented innovative ideas that won a spot in the final rounds of the international pitch contest. I asked if anything had changed since the regional competition that led up to this event; Every team had improved on their design.

In addition to Nova Labs encouraging young entrepreneurs at the FIRST Global Innovation Awards, Nova Labs hosted Launch100 — our inaugural pitch event to foster entrepreneurship in the broader community served by Nova Labs. Launch100 is featured in this issue with the focus on the entrepreneurship called out in our mission.

The value placed on iteration is serving Nova Labs well as we continue with the initiative to roll out policy in an iterative fashion, learning and listening as we go. A Safety Policy and Code of Conduct have been approved. The shop is reorganized to better serve our growing needs — a huge effort that affirms the wonderful commitment of the volunteer membership to keeping our space beautiful and functional.


The Board is pleased to welcome Jim Girardi to the Board of Directors following a search to fill the vacancy from the previous treasurer’s resignation. Jim, an enthusiastic maker and member of Nova Labs, brings financial skills and a love of entrepreneurship. Jim Sweeney and Jim Girardi will work on transitioning the treasurer role over the coming months. Please join us in welcoming Jim Girardi to this leadership role.





Continue reading

June 2017 Newsletter


Lieselot with her marquetry project.

Lieselot shows off what she accomplished at the french marquetry session.

Nova Labs was honored to co-host with the Washington Woodworkers Guild a full weekend of Marquetry in May. The course was co-led by a wonderful father-daughter team who brought complementary skills. One of my favorite parts was the self-discovery in the early morning hours before the second full day of instruction. I arrived early and worked through combinations of the pieces I had cut out the day before. I was pleasantly surprised to discover a creative side as I experimented with the color choices. This first exploratory course was well-received by all — and an in-depth view is provided in this issue.

Nova Labs welcomes partnerships to create new opportunities for discovery. More ventures are underway as a result of longtime relationships between members of the Nova Labs community and partner organizations. In Launch100, corporate sponsors are joining forces with the makerspace to foster entrepreneurship. In partnership with FIRST Global and FIRST Robotics teams, Nova Labs is making an impact around the globe in STEM outreach.

Along with fostering partnerships, Nova Labs continues to work on systems to support innovative programming. Nova Labs is pleased to host an upgraded network with many thanks to the perseverance and dedication of John Hoskins, Michael Douglas, Robert Scullin, Corey Sheldon and colleagues. In a separate effort, the Board is pleased to introduce a comprehensive safety policy crafted by an ad hoc committee led by Patrick Waters. These are successful outcomes resulting from significant efforts that will enrich our working environment.


The stewards team welcome John Seamen with the Lathe and Connor Bacon with Plastics / Composites. On the Nova Labs Board, Lieselot Whitbeck is assuming the responsibilities of Secretary. Kelli Kedis Ogborn resigned her position on the Board for family and career reasons. She will continue her work on the TOM / Hackathon Planning Committee. Kelli was a valued contributor to the Board and we thank her for sharing her talents.



It’s getting better all the time.

At the May board meeting, in addition our regular activities like voting in new members (welcome Siobhan!), reviewing financials (our books are balanced – Thanks Jim!), and approving major expenditures (the new laser cutter is paid for and will be delivered soon!), the Board also reviewed the results of major efforts going on throughout the labs – many of which will be released soon. Coming attractions include a “Nova Labs Safety Program & Policy Manual”, a new board member, a new “composites” steward, and a redesigned instructor incentives program. In addition, the board has started to discuss the idea of hiring our first paid staff member. We are still VERY early in that process – working towards writing a job description.

As always – we love to hear from you. If you think there is something that needs our attention, if you have a question, or if just want to chat, come find one of us on slack, on email, or around the lab.

Happy Making!

>>> provided by Lieselot (on behalf of the board)



UPDATE: The Network Upgrade

The network team, Michael Douglas and Robert Scullin, started to spend a lot of time documenting the Nova Labs network when it became apparent how the relatively old equipment was straining under the load. In some cases, they were limited in the troubleshooting tools available from the legacy hardware. That’s all behind us now!

In April, they (with John Hoskins and Corey Sheldon providing cabling support) completed the network update, replacing all the old network hardware (router, firewall, switches) with new(er) models. We’re now supporting IPv6 addressing on wired Ethernet connections and are working to extend that through the wireless network as well. The DNS and DHCP services have been moved to a virtual machine on new hardware, which should make them much more reliable.

In related news, we’re now hosting a RIPE (, the European network registry) network probe, available at While helping RIPE get more data about general Internet reachability and latency, we’re able to use it to watch our network connection continuously.

>>> provided by Brian Jacoby

HAPPENINGS: TOM DC Booth at the 2017 AIPAC Conference


June03In April The TOM DC group, based out of Nova Labs, presented its work with the TOM Global Group, based out of Israel, at the 2017 AIPAC Policy Conference. The goal of the conference was to show how people are supporting the effort to build a better world. The TOM DC group had a huge booth where we demonstrated some the of tools and technologies that were developed at last year’s TOM DC event, held at Nova Labs. 

The 2016 TOM DC event was a 72 hour makeathon was geared towards working with people with disabilities to understand their challenges and to build solutions to make their lives easier, more independant, and more productive. During that event 7 teams of over 60 makers built some great tools including an automatic shelf that moved up and down for the mobility limited, a series of devices to help people who wear an oxygen tube, and even some VR software designed to help the hearing impaired see the direction of sounds.

June04Currently, the TOM DC group is planning an even larger TOM event, to be held at the Smithsonian in Washington DC in February of 2018. We look forward to finalizing the venue and sponsors and opening up the recruitment process to gather more amazing and talented designers to continue the tradition of helping others and making the world a better place for everyone.

>>> provided by Bo Wernick


FIRST Global

Nova Labs is partnering with FIRST Global, a new endeavor of the FIRST organization. The inaugural FIRST Global tournament is coming to DAR Constitution Hall in July with teams from 161 countries participating. Nova Labs is coordinating with area FIRST teams to provide critical training materials for teams preparing for the tournament.

FIRST GlobalThe Education and Outreach of FIRST Global is gathering an international following and beginning to have a global impact. Several countries have built robots from published, open-source designs developed at Nova Labs. Teams Libya, Burundi, Philippines, and others, have designed innovative solutions that have expanded upon the original concepts developed at Nova Labs. 

FIRST GlobalDavid Levy, mentor with FIRST, shares…

“Reflecting back to the first weeks when Nova Labs pulled together the documentation that is now in play around the globe – I look at the accomplishments and I am amazed that we accomplished so much in such a short period. I have attached a photo from our very first meeting when we cracked open the first box, which was just 11 days ago! (Although it seem like a lot longer.) Thanks to Nova Labs FTC teams, FTC teams from Herndon High, South Lakes High, and Langston Hughes Middle, as well as the FRC team from Marshall High.”


Marvo the Magnificent

Ed. Note: Blog post contributed by [Nick Carter], Maker, retired electrical engineer, who is active in the Robotics Meetup, DIYBio Meetup, Artificial Intelligence Meetup, and pitches in with STEM programs whenever needed.

I had wanted to play with voice recognition for a long time, ever since the group I was in at ITT Research Center, many years ago, did some telephony voice related applications – a dial by voice system and an automatic switchboard attendant (U.S. patent 4608460 – I may be partly to blame for the ”Press 1 for..” menus  J). I have also held a long interest in robots and have an interest in making machines act somewhat human-like in responses, so when I saw the EasyVR VR-3 speech recognition shield for the Arduino I decided this was my chance.

The shield was around $50 (sadly, now out of stock?), and provides a reasonable functionality and a very nice graphical programming interface for the Arduino.  The VR-3 needed some soldering assembly but it was not too tough, basically soldering headers and recognition board to shield board. 

Initially to teMarvo1st it I made a “magic 8 ball” toy with only speaker dependent trained commands including some holiday season fortunes and I decided it would be a wizard looking into his crystal ball, hence Marvo was born.  One time I showed it at Nova Labs, one small girl tried it and asked it if she was going to get a puppy for Christmas, and Marvo told her yes – and I think she believed him. I am probably in big trouble. With the voice operated electronics these days, it is going to be difficult getting kids who grow up with them to distinguish real responses from toy responses (and true from untrue) – especially the more they act humanlike.

Later I refined Marvo, for a maker fair in Haymarket giving him some LEDs and an actual ball (bouncy superball with embedded stars), backlit with LED. I also added a second set of commands using the “robot” speaker inMarvo2dependent set. And added responses to try to get kids engaged and try the various commands.  You can see a video here which also shows the robot training the user (me).

You can see the difficulty in recognition sometimes and how it has to train the user to speak properly for good response.  It did not really like my English accent. I also found that it is very sensitive to external noise and in the Haymarket fair environment it really had a tough time although once I moved to a quieter spot and tweaked some recognition parameters it did a bit better.

For a practical application, this would work fine in a quiet home environment and for controlling things for people with disabilities who could still talk well.

 To start, you create a speaker dependent trigger word that starts it into the program. I put “Hey, Marvo”. The speaker independent trigger is “Robot”. Each speaker dependent word/phrase has to be trained 2 times and can be tested for recognition accuracy within groups of words.Marvo3

To make the speaker dependent recognition more robust you can add additional entries in the word lists what are the same phrase spoken by different voices. The program may flag them as duplicates if the recognition template is the same.


It has a built in speaker independent Robot oriented set of command groups and you can make your own groups of speaker dependent commands that you can train to your own or multiple voices.  The key here is to only include in command groups words or phrases that are readily distinguishable.  There is 1 trigger word to get its attention and then you can use the Arduino program to choose which group of words to listen for and what actions to take.

The additional “robot” command groups are movement directions, “up”, “down” etc. and the numbers zero through nine.

It will store up to 32 voice response messages that you can record but unfortunately not save off, once you have recorded them. The program itself and the recognition templates can be stored off for reuse.

You can make quite a sophisticated system with this; it has 16 word groups that you can train. There is also a tool that you can buy for ~ $200 that will convert the speaker dependent into speaker independent. If one was using this commercially it could be worthwhile but too much for me.

Once you have trained the commands you want, the EasyVR Commander program will generate an Arduino program template file with all the setup commands and the voice recognition menus you made set up as switch/case statements so that you can add the programmed actions to them. This saves a lot of work and figuring out. If you really want, the detail level commands are provided to talk to the board.

You can also  have it store sounds from wav files. It comes with a “beep”, and there is also a feature for generating “lipsync” parameters from the recordings as they play, for animatronic mouth animation.

All in all, this is fairly easy to use and works well enough to be entertaining – well, I had fun with it.

Nova Labs Robotics team compete at FTC East!

Grey Jedi at FTC EastOver spring break, two First Team Challenge (FTC) teams who call Nova Labs home competed at FTC East, a Super-Regional Championship Tournament! The event was held at The University of Scranton from March 18-20 and hosted 72 teams from Maine to Virginia.


Grey Jedi Think AwardNova Labs Robotics Team 8702, Grey Jedi, won the Think Award for best engineering notebook.

In their rookie year, Nova Labs Robotics Team 9901, Techie Titans, represented Virginia well and won the “Inspire Aware 2”.

Techie Titans

Despite these accomplishments, neither team broke into the top 24 to secure a spot at the Worlds competition in St. Louis, Missouri, but each had an awesome experience!

Coaches from Grey Jedi remarked that FTC East was a very well run event with lots of great teams and robots. The kids enjoyed having a fun time socializing and meeting other competitors (and apparently spending hours engaged in light saber battles).

Grey Jedi at FTC EastAlthough the robot for Grey Jedi was not performing well for most of the day (only one hang from the bar) it consistently scored on the dumpers, a few times with autonomous and some zip lines.

Despite some tough matches the team performed professionally and graciously and worked extremely hard until the end to try to earn a place in the finals (including aggressive marketing to try to get onto a finalist alliance) but didn’t make it.

The judging went extremely well according to the team.

Grey Jedi at FTC EastIn the end, if the robot had scored consistently above 160 points they may have broken into the top 12 teams and potentially chosen for the finals. But there were also some extremely high combined scores in the mid 500s to contend with. Grey Jedi would have easily been a contender to progress to Nationals if the robot lived up to the expectations it set in practice and past events. Even so, they had a great time and learned a lot in the process!

Techie Titans was excited to try again next year and will definitely be back!

Mindframe Education partners with Nova Labs to offer STEM classes this summer


Mindframe education has partnered with Nova Labs to offer STEM-focused summer camps at Nova Labs. These summer camps combine fun and learning into one unforgettable experience that teaches students how to think and work like real engineers, scientists, creative designers, and developers. Students get to work on cool projects, engage in fun, hands-on activities, and develop real-world products and digital creations.


Some of the highlights of theses classes which run the gamut from programming, mobile app development, robotics, web design, 3D printing and even science are:

• Each camp includes instruction on the concepts and technologies, and fun, hands-on projects & activities
• All camps include a variety of fun break activities, indoors and outdoors, including games, challenges, and social time
• Students have access to real-world tools and the latest technologies
• Through individual and group activities, students will take part in hands-on projects that give them the opportunity to see their learning in action
• Students will grouped by age and/or skill level in each camp to allow students to learn and apply their new skills at a pace that’s suitable for them
• Students will be taught by tech-savvy, experienced designers, developers and engineers with expertise in their fields and a passion for teaching
• As the camp comes to an end, students will present their new creations and show off their skills to family and friends



The summer camps are one week in length, will run from June 22nd through August 28th and are targeted at rising grades 2-12. A complete schedule, and all of the details can be and a brochure with the camp schedule can be found at the Mindframe Education website at:

Nova Mini Maker Faire 2015

2nd Annual NoVa Mini Maker Faire, March 15, 2015

The NoVa Maker Faire is gearing up for its second annual family-friendly event that will bring more than 100 makers to a fun-filled day celebrating the diversity of makers across the region. The Faire will take place on March 15, 2015 from 10am to 5 pm at Langston Hughes Middle School and South Lakes High School in Reston, Virginia.

The Faire will include makers, activities, speakers and sponsors. Makers will share their knowledge through hands-on projects for adults and kids on topics ranging from blacksmithing and primitive skills to 3D printing, drones and robots to building customized equipment for special needs children to creative art-making. Makers will be grouped in neighborhoods by their topic. Neighborhoods include: Young Makers, Creativity Lane, Drone Zone, Robotics, 3D Printing Village, Science Lab, Flight Path, Sustainability Village, and more.

Nova Labs members will be presenting Vehicles – Flight Simulator and Go Kart, STEM4Makers, Top Drone, and others.

There are many other makers to explore. The Chaos Machine is a large marble machine that can be modified by participants. Gravity is Optional presents science experiments you can do at home. The DC Area Drone User Group will also demonstrate drone design and capabilities. Jennifer Gluck of JenmadeIt and Jade Garret will present adaptive equipment for special needs children. Artistic topics include hand spinning yarn, creating art from recycled materials, 3D printed artwork, woodworking, and creating ArtBots presented by the Children’s Science Center.

You can learn about makerspaces in area schools at Camelot ES, Kilmer MS and Falls Church HS; the STEAM program at South Lakes HS; Robotics program at Westfield HS, and the maker program at Loudoun Country Day School.

There will also be five activities for Faire-goers to try: Nerdy Derby, Catapults and Ballistas, KEVA Planks, GEMS Take Apart Zone and Demo-Vation with UpCycle Creative Reuse Center. Nerdy Derby is a no-rules miniature car building and racing competition inspired by the Cub Scouts’ Pinewood Derby. In the Catapults and Ballistas you can explore trajectory, torsion, torque, force, and materials using these safe tools. KEVA Planks are addictive small building blocks to build and explore with – fun for children and adults. In the GEMS Take Apart Zone you can disassemble machines to explore how things work. And then in the adjacent Demo-Vation with UpCycle Creative Reuse Center you can create something new out of these discarded elements.


Children building with KEVA Planks. Over 10,000 KEVA Planks will be available for building during the Faire, courtesy of KEVA Planks.

GEMS (Girls Excelling in Math & Science) Take Apart Zone


The Faire will present eight speakers this year including: Dr. Lance Bush, CEO of The Challenger Center for Space Science Education; Jennifer Gluck who creates DIY adaptive equipment for special needs children; Vicky Somma, winner 2014 White House 3D Printed Design Challenge; and Chris Vo, Chief Scientist at Sentien Robotics and President of the DC Area Drone User Group.

Vicki Somma, winner 2014 White House 3D Printed Design Challenge, will present “3D Printing Without a Printer”


Credit – Vicki Somma

Food will be available for sale on site by area food trucks including: Doug the Food Dude, Fava Pot, Hardy BBQ, Mama’s Donut Bites and Tasty Kabob.

Advance tickets are available online now. Tickets are $15 for adults and $5 for children through March 14, 2015. Tickets at the door are $20 for adults and $8 for children. Volunteer opportunities are still available which include a free admission ticket.

The Faire is thankful for the support of its sponsors including: Fairfax County Public Schools, Fairfax Connector, The Innovation Fund of the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia, Google, AOL, School for Tomorrow, Reston Association, and Merrill Lynch. Community partners include: Reston Community Center, GEMS (Girls Excelling in Math & Science), and Workhouse Arts Center. Media sponsors include Activity Rocket and Reston Association.

Free parking is available at the Wiehle-Reston East Metro station in the County garage. Free shuttle bus service will be provided from the south side of the Metro station to Langston Hughes Middle School and South Lakes High School. Only handicapped parking is available at the schools. A bike valet will be available at the event.

Check the mobile website for complete list of makers and speakers, to volunteer and to purchase tickets. The site will be finalized the week of the Faire.


Blacksmithing, Credit – Everest Gromoll


Drone from DC Area Drone Group, credit – DC Area Drone Group


Solutions for special needs by Jennifer Gluck, Maker and Speaker, Credit – Jennifer Gluck

Nova Labs Represents Makerspaces at The U.S. Science and Engineering Festival


WASHINGTON — This past weekend, Nova Labs joined Unallocated Space and HacDC in helping to represent area makerspaces. Among the exhibits were robots from Nova Labs FIRST Robotics teams, led by Tom Welsh, a 3D printer of the same design used by our current 3D printer build group, as well as drones!

Member Bob Coggeshall was on hand to represent Nova Labs’ incubator program and to spread the word about how Small Batch Assembly is lowering the cost for hardware innovators.


Nova Labs’ booth was graciously provided by Gary Mauler, organizer of RobotFestan annual event for anyone interested in the creative use of technology.


Robot Tomato Sale Seeks to Raise $5,000 for Nova Labs Robotics


Editors Note: This is a guest blog post by Beth Riddick, who grows and sells Heirloom Tomato seedlings at her home at 792 Grant St, Herndon, VA to raise money for Nova Labs FIRST Robotics teams. This year’s sale was held Saturday April 26th.

I saw first hand how Robotics benefited both my kids, even though they are very different from each other. After my son, Ian, took part in Tom Welsh’s LEGO Robotics team, he started to say how he really loved math and wanted to program robots for a living. My daughter, Leah, joined the Herndon High—NASA Headquarters Team 116, and helped establish an Animation Award hosted by Team 116. She brought her writing skills and creativity to the team.


FIRST Robotics gives young inventors a way to pursue their passion, the same way that sports programs give athletes a chance to  perform at their best. FIRST also teaches kids to work with people of different talents to create something new and exciting.

disphprepareJust as we give every kid a chance to try sports, we need to make Robotics available to every child. The best way to do this is to incorporate it into our schools, as we do with sports, art, drama, and music. Until that happens, groups like Nova Labs Robotics gives kids that opportunity.

backdeckseedlingsAnd since I can’t coach, I fundraise!

Rather than sell the tomatoes themselves, we sell the seedlings for gardeners to grow their own plants. The varieties we offer are rarely found in nurseries: dwarf tomatoes that can be grown in pots but produce full-sized, delicious fruit; blue tomatoes that produce anthocyanins in their skin.


All of them are heirlooms, so as long as you make sure they are not cross-pollinated by a different type, you can save the seeds and grow the same type next year. Of course, you’re always welcome to come back and buy new seedlings from us.

1ananas ananasnoirslice dinner Harvest2013

Each year, we offer varieties we have grown in our garden ourselves as well as some that are new to us. We mark the ones we have grown before with an asterisk, and only bring back varieties that we really love.

This pic was taken about a week ago.


Cherokee Purple is an old favorite dating back to the 1800’s. Indigo Apple is a new variety that we hope to test this year.

Along with tomato seedlings, we have seedlings for sweet and hot peppers, eggplants, and basil, over 50 varieties in total.  We suggest a $3 donation for a well-formed seedling in a 3-inch pot.

With gratitude, I invite all of you back to my front porch. Have a cup of coffee with us, chat about tomatoes, choose something special for your garden.

Beth Riddick
Robot Tomatoes