“Have you ever watched Star Wars?” A volunteer in a Maker Camp t-shirt asked a kid walking through this afternoon’s Geek Street Fair at 14th Street Park. When she paused, he whipped out a slinky, connected it to some sort of noise distortion machine, and suddenly there were the familiar laser sounds. For his efforts, he got a shy brace-faced smile.
Google hosted several geeky groups for the event this afternoon, including Maker Camp, the New York Hall of Science and the American Museum of Natural History. (The latter brought skulls!) For good measure the company invited various summer programs from around the city, so the small public space was packed with kids milling around in identifying t-shirts–the Jamaica YMCA, Medgar Evers College, ASPIRA.
Strolling through the park, we saw a group leader surrounded by campers testing a Glass-wearing Googler, demanding to know the fifth president of the United States. At the Maker Camp booth, they were taping lights to batteries then stickering the results to their chests, and the Liberty Science Center had not just a robotic arm working on a Rubik’s cube, but temporary tattoos, as well.
The event was open to passersby, as well: Local office-workers sat with their lunches at tables advertising free Wifi (courtesy of Google!), and there was even a man who’d stripped off his shirt and was stretched out on the grass, reading The Next 100 Years by Stratfor’s George Friedman, using his Converse as a pillow.
“It’s part of a larger theme that we’ve been a part of for a while, here in New York, and that’s the renaissance of technology in New York City,” explained William Floyd, Google New York’s Head of Public Affairs. From behind a pair of knock-off Wayfarers that’ve become the preferred company swag of techies nationwide, he explained: “The event proper is our way of illustrating to New Yorkers and particularly to kids that science and engineering and technology matter, and that it’s fun, but it also shows that it cuts across all sorts of other different industries.”
Hence parking the Whitney right next to the Liberty Science Center.
“For us it’s really about a mission–it’s not just about selling a product.” Not that that prevented the inclusion of a “Google Chrome Experiments” booth, featuring games called Racer and Roll It.