Three secondary school students built a sleek, fuel-efficient sports car. Design engineer Kyle Doerksen developed Onewheel, a self-balancing electric skateboard, and raised over $630,000 to market it. The students, Doerksen and thousands of other do-it-yourself enthusiasts use all kinds of tools — traditional ones, but also 3D printers, laser cutters and open-source software. They display their work at public “faires,” and some start new businesses to develop and sell their work. It’s a “maker movement,” and even President Obama has taken notice.
What is the “maker movement”?
America has always been a nation of tinkerers, inventors and entrepreneurs. Makers combine all three. They repurpose parts and materials, sometimes from computers and other electronic products. Some makers follow instructions that other makers publish on the Internet. One simple example is MintyBoost — a battery-powered USB charger that makers can manufacture using an Altoids mint tin. Other popular creations include art objects, toys and any number of innovative devices.
It’s a movement because makers build communities of like-minded people. They meet in warehouses, libraries and community centers. And they come together at Maker Faires — convention-sized events where educators, engineers, tech enthusiasts and just plain hobbyists gather to show what they have made and to share what they have learned. (Watch a video from a San Francisco Bay Area faire.)
“The maker movement is about sharing,” said Jesse Harrington Au of Autodesk Inc., a software company that caters to makers. “The cross-pollination effects are huge.”
President Obama recently hosted the first White House Maker Faire and proclaimed a National Day of Making. The faire, Obama proclaimed, “celebrates every maker — from students learning STEM skills to entrepreneurs launching new businesses.”
Maker Faires began in the U.S. and spread globally, with recent faires held in Tokyo, Rome, Santiago and Oslo. The U.S. Department of State has introduced “maker spaces” at U.S. diplomatic missions in Italy, Portugal, Cyprus, Greece, Paraguay, South Africa, Egypt and Russia. See how to make a Maker Faire in your city. And, as President Obama says, “continue on the path of discovery, experimentation and innovation.”