The making of a maker

How the Maker Movement is changing the future

When Dale Dougherty launched MAKE Magazine in 2005, it was more than the creation of a new magazine – it was the catalyst of a movement: the Maker Movement.

“Makers,” according to Dougherty, the founder, president and CEO of Maker Media, Inc., are “people who make things for lots of different reasons using lots of different technologies and techniques.” (Watch our video interview with Dougherty)

“I believe we are all makers,” says Dougherty. “We can find all kinds of makers in our communities. Yet we also want to help create more makers. Through education and community outreach, we can offer the opportunity to make things to more people, but particularly children. They might find these opportunities at school but also at community centers, summer camps and science centers, or even at home. My goal is that all people, young and old, come to see themselves as makers, creators and doers because I know that the people who have the skills and knowledge to make things have the power to make the world a better place.” (Watch Dougherty’s TED Talk)

In its essence, the Maker Movement is about bridging the gap between “manual” and “mental;” it encourages people to think of themselves as producers, creators and/or makers, rather than just consumers. Makers take practical skills and apply them creatively. Invention, innovation and prototyping are paramount. “We use our hands and we use our minds,” says Dougherty.

Where the makers make

As the Maker Movement has gained momentum, more and more makerspaces (aka hackerspaces, hacklabs or hackspaces) have been popping up around the world. A makerspace is a local workspace where people with common interests get together to brainstorm, socialize, collaborate and, of course, to build and make things.

“On the surface it may appear that a makerspace is just a collection of like-minded people looking for a place to work and tools to work with, but in actuality the purpose runs much deeper,” says Greg Needel, Director of the Innovation Gymnasium, Lyle School of Engineering, Southern Methodist University. “Makerspaces serve as the centralized location for people to gather and share ideas.”

Again, the key to a makerspace is collaboration. According to Needel, the people that seek out makerspaces are those who are interested in getting the most out of their lives, and are fully committed to seeking out ways to bring their ideas to life. Often, their ideas are beyond the ability of a single person and depend on the collaborative nature of the makerspace

“Through this collaboration, skills and knowledge are transferred from maker to maker in a non-traditional educational setting,” says Needel. “Anyone can create new things, and if you create you are a maker. In this community, everyone has something to share and gain at the same time. The door to creativity is open and the only limitation to a person’s achievements as a maker is the limit of their imagination."

Reinventing the county fair

Another place makers can meet is the Maker Faire, the “Greatest Show (and Tell) on Earth.” These events were launched by Dougherty and the Maker Media team in 2006 and are family-friendly festivals of invention, creativity and resourcefulness – a true celebration of the Maker Movement. A myriad of makers flock to Maker Faires to show what they have made and to share what they have learned. In 2013, over 60 community-driven Mini Maker Faires are expected around the world, including ones in Tokyo and Rome. A Maker Faire features innovation and experimentation across the spectrum of science, engineering, art, performance and craft.

"The Maker Faire reinvents the county fair,” says Dougherty. “But instead of bringing pigs and pies, we’re bringing rockets and robots.”

Becoming a maker

Becoming a maker may seem like something only a highly technological person can do, but in actuality, anyone can become a maker. Helping to overcome this fear is part of the reason Dougherty chose the term “maker” over “hacker.”

“A lot of people don’t see themselves as ‘hackers,’” says Dougherty. “But we can make them see themselves as ‘makers.’”

To get started, all you have to do is start making. Research “making” online and you’ll find a host of projects and ideas. Or find a makerspace or Maker Faire in your area. But even if there isn’t one of those in your community, there’s always one to be found in the cyber community.

“Even makers without makerspaces nearby can use the internet,” says Needel. “Sites such as instructables.com and thingiverse.com feature inspiring projects and share the spark that can further fuel the fire of what is possible.”

Bottom line, as Dougherty says, we are all makers – anyone and everyone can do it.

“Makers can be in robotics or electronics,” says Dougherty. “But they can also be carpenters, cooks, textile embroiderers … anything!”

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