The Maker Movement
By Kimbriel Dean
Friday, November 8, 2013, Visits: 60
Have you ever looked around and wondered, “Are we devolving? Are our kids’ kids destined to be mental sloths?” If you’ve seen movies like Idiocracy, heard people talk about the “innovation deficit”, noticed our educational system’s perilous downhill slide or noticed a lack of intellectual enthusiasm in those around you, you may be worried.
Some of us are, no doubt, slipping into the abyss. It’s getting easier and easier to let computers replace our brains and hands for so many things. But there’s good news. The Maker Movement might just give you hope for humanity.
There are plenty of people out there who are becoming more curious and inspired than ever. They’re choosing to invest their free time inventing, designing and creating. These people are using technology in their homes to build incredible creations that would’ve seemed completely impossible just a few years ago. They’re working on robots, flame-throwing industrial art, invisibility capes and anything else you can fantasize about.
The Maker Movement is putting information, confidence and resources in the hands of all who are dedicated enough to learn how to use the tools. It’s empowering people to step into the legacy of DIY masters and creators like Benjamin Franklin. The dimensions of the art and tech worlds are expanding at the behest of the self-taught and ultra-educated alike, simply because the participants in this movement have the desire to push the limits.
Groningen Mini Maker Faire 2012
What is the Maker Movement?
For the past two generations, most of us relied on goods to magically appear at stores, ready for us to purchase, take home, break and replace with brand new goods that had magically appeared on the store shelf. We had disconnected from the raw materials, the process and the know-how that went into building things.
In the past decade, many have regained the desire to make. The maker culture is a subculture representing a technology-based extension of DIY culture. Typical interests enjoyed by the maker culture include engineering-oriented pursuits such as electronics, robotics, 3-D printing, and the use of CNC tools, as well as more traditional activities such as metalworking, woodworking, and traditional arts and crafts.
The subculture stresses new and unique applications of technologies, and encourages invention and prototyping. There is a strong focus on using and learning practical skills and applying them creatively.
Makerfaire.com explains, “As the movement has gathered increasing momentum, makers have created their own market ecosystem, developing new products and services. The combination of ingenious makers and innovative technologies such as the Arduino microcontroller and personal 3D printing are driving innovation in manufacturing, engineering, industrial design, hardware technology and education.
Many makers are hobbyists, enthusiasts or students (amateurs!)– but they are also a wellspring of innovation, creating new products and producing value in the community. Some makers do become entrepreneurs and start companies.”
Why do we want to make?
DIY is huge across the board. We don’t just want to build robots and industrial art; we also want to make our own beer, milk our own goats, build our own greenhouses, forage for herbs without poisoning ourselves and knit our own socks.
Perhaps there are multiple reasons for the DIY trend. Maybe you suffered a crisis of confidence as you watched Survivor and realized you wouldn’t make it a day in the wild without a car and a supermarket. Maybe you caught a glimpse of a dystopian future a la Brave New World, one in which we can no longer think or do anything for ourselves.
Perhaps you felt empowered by the near-limitless information that’s available these days due to the internet and open source. Maybe you make because you can. You can find out how to build a robot just by getting online and searching for instructions. You can find all the parts you need for cheap at junk stores. You create because it makes you feel good, dammit.
Ultimately, the Maker Movement is inspiring all of us average Joes to see ourselves as capable. Maker culture inspires independence and self-sufficiency. We are uncovering creativity and skills we didn’t know we had. As we make, we step into our own potential for greatness.
If you’re interested in becoming a maker or want to check out your neighbors’ art and inventions, find out about your nearest Maker Faire here. At Maker Faires, tech enthusiasts, crafters, educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers, science clubs, authors, artists, students, and entrepreneurs all come together to show their projects and to talk about what they have learned. It is a community-based learning event that inspires everyone to become a maker, and connect with people and projects in their local community. If you can’t find a Maker Faire close by and you’re feeling inspired, find out how to organize a Maker Faire for your community.
What’s your maker story? Please tell us in the comments section below!