The Maker Movement

Performer at 2012 Detroit Maker Faire

Image source unknown. Please contact us if you know the artist.
Performer at 2012 Detroit Maker Faire

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.

"Make" spelled in red blocks

Cardboard sculpture and photo by Bartholomew T

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. 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.”

A family of makers in the East Bay

Photo by Sabrina Merlo
A family of makers in the East Bay

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.

Adam Savage's Maker Faire 2012 Talk: Why We Make

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!


By Kimbriel Dean


1. Kenneth

November 9, 2013 at 5:58 PM

I went to a magnet high school program for my junior and senior year, in NC, called the NC School of Science and Mathematics. It was the first of this type of school in the country, but I believe most states have adopted similar programs.

Pulling together the best and the brightest from the State, those two years were some of the most creative, intellectually stimulating that I've ever experienced. Each school year, we had something called Special Projects Week. It was a week with no classes in which each student worked on a project of their own design. The level of creativity and expression was amazing. I remember one friend in particular making a functioning robotic hand that would mimic the actions of someone wearing a specialized glove. Projects could be complex or simple - one year, I just made a blanket, teaching myself to knit and crochet, a skill I've carried with me.

When I reminisce about these experiences, sometimes, people see it as something outside of their possible life experience- selection for the school was intense, etc., etc. But I really disagree more and more. The only thing different about that point in my life was that these people were all brought together in one place.

Increasingly, with the great equalizer that is technology and the Internet, people of like creative minds can find one another. Making spectacular, inspiring, or just plain crazy things is doable, and a lot more fun when you have people of similar ideologies working right along with you. Places like SecondLife can bring us together virtually (where every year, they have a corollary to Burning Man called Burning Life) and more and more people are able to come together in real life at events like Burning Man and Maker Faire's.

I'd really like to see something like Special Projects Week brought to all schools, and it would be great to see more and wider spread Maker Faire's.

Sorry, waxed a bit nostalgic there. I feel like getting started on a sweater for my mom for Christmas now!

Go out and have fun creating!

2. Tunak

November 9, 2013 at 6:03 PM

I'm a huge fan of Make magazine and am always inspired by what people are able to create. I think the DIY movement is stronger than ever. I usually depend on and Pinterest for ideas that inspire me. Also, I highly recommend checking out Make Magazine.


3. Darcy Harris

November 9, 2013 at 6:10 PM

Although I am not the author of this article, I feel as if I assisted in its writing. I am often frustrated by the "dumbness" of modern, American culture. I'm a former school teacher but it's not even the lack of basic knowledge possessed by school kids which scares me; it's the fact that their parents are just as clueless. I feel as if we are slowly displacing "real life" with a constant flow of "fake life," or entertainment. All you have to do is look around to see that people are constantly consuming entertainment. Whether it's music, TV, movies, or clicking away at some mobile device, it seems like people are doing everything in their power to stay away from real life, real work, real production, real emotion, or anything that will pop the technologically-produced bubble in which our society seems to exist. I like this article because I'm heartened to hear that the Maker Movement exists and consists of people who aren't actually afraid to produce things on their own. The fact is that there really are only two sort of people: producers and consumers. I feel that most people aren't interested in producing anything because it's hard; it's so much easier just to use something which someone else has created. I hope the Maker Movement grows and helps to empower young people to view themselves as producers because ultimately the path to success is based upon what one produces, not uses.

4. jasmine K

November 9, 2013 at 7:02 PM

This article has piqued my interest. I am one of those people who is not interested in how things work. I feel the explanations would be too complicated and I don't have the extra time. But I still read a lot and seek information, so I never thought of myself as devolving. Bust after reading this article, I realize I really don't know anything. If the lights went out, i would just stumble around in the dark. If something happened to the grocery stores, I would starve.

Me and my friends claim to be independent, yet we are very dependent on companies. For everything from food, to clothing to shelter. If something happened to this Earth, we would not last more than a week. So I am inspired to set aside some time to learn something.

5. Ben

November 9, 2013 at 7:44 PM

This is a discussion I have often had with my brother. We have become too dependent on both technology and others to do our thinking for us. I would be helpless if I had to build my own house or grow food. Most humans lack basic survival skills. We have our creatures comforts though. I think something the article should mention but doesn't are patent laws. They are absolutely stymieing innovation. Pretty much every new great idea is built on the shoulders of an older idea. We need to revamp patent laws and stop patent trolls from bringing frivolous cases to court. This will without a doubt help innovators produce. The article also mentions 3-D printing. It absolutely is a means to create new ideas. I just saw an article the other day about a man with no formal training who is working on developing a 3-D printer that will cost around 100 dollars. That could go a long way to stimulating new creations.

6. Jesse Martinez

November 9, 2013 at 7:45 PM

This idea, the Maker Movement, is very interesting. I am into art. My house is decorated solely by personal photographs, paintings done with traditional media and computer art. I also have this desire to know that the things we accept as fact are indeed true. I test and prove a lot of things. I figure if I pick a "fact" every now and prove or disprove it, my belief in the world will be verified. Two examples: Jupiter has 4 big moons visible through a small telescope. I verified that and also verified their orbits and orbital rates. Water draining from a sink always goes counter-clockwise in the northern hemisphere. Wrong. It is quite random.

This challenge "facts" attitude of mine makes me curious to see if DIY would help me further understand "facts". Making my own beer, getting a chicken coop, having a vegetable garden, are things I will probably do in the near future. I have already invented or independently done quite a few things. I developed the easiest and best looking way to tie a tie (if you don't mind that everything except the knot and the front are reversed) is one example. It is also easy to undo. You just pull on the tail end until it comes apart. I am going to strive to be a more active maker and will definitely check out the sites.

7. Bonnie

November 11, 2013 at 3:12 AM

It is completely refreshing to see people utilizing their brains rather than mindlessly surfing through apps on their phones. I, for one, strive to be as self sufficient as I can be. Knowing that I can survive if the economy collapses and the world as I know it changes gives me much peace of mind. I think this country would benefit from more of that type of thinking.

8. Jessica

November 11, 2013 at 3:22 AM

I have always believed in the importance of encouraging creativity, especially within our children. With schools eliminating programs like physical education and art, the burden falls on the parents do make sure that children are exposed to all different kinds of creativity. While it may involve more workspace and clean up, there is nothing more satisfying that giving my daughter a table's worth of craft materials and watching her go to town. By allowing her to use all kinds of materials to create her own story, I am encouraging her to think outside of the box and come up with new and innovative ways to use every day materials. Sure, right now she is 5 and only using yarn and popsicle sticks... but if this is the kind of foundation she is getting now, more and more doors will be open to her as she gets older and expands her horizons. She is already delving into the world of action vs. reaction as we have conducted several simple science experiments in our backyard. This kind of creativity is the foundation for future knowledge.

9. Sherrod Wall

November 11, 2013 at 6:01 AM

As an author and a father of four I can definitely see the importance of a intellectual catalyst such as The Maker Movement. My step daughter and I discuss the issues raised in this article on a daily basis. She is ridiculed by ten people a day because she reads books in her spare time at school while everyone else is dying to get their smart phones out of their lockers to get on their social networks. Not that I am against smart phones or social networking, both are amazing innovations that when used in the right way and in moderation can enhance not only your life but the lives of those you connect with. But, there comes a time when you should look at yourself and realize the hours you've spent texting or tweeting or facebooking could be used for something more stimulating. To those of you who think you can't write novels: how much do you text on a weekly basis? Add that word count up and tell me you can't do an 80-100k word novel in a few months.

10. Mike

November 12, 2013 at 10:54 PM

Great article, hits the nail on the head. As we continue throwing more and more money into our education system, our kids are falling farther behind the rest of the world. There is not enough emphasis on basic and fundamental core learning skills. The Maker Movement seems to be tapping into the curiosity and creativity of minds, young and old, to actually think independently and reason. This is an encouraging article and gives hope for our future generations.

11. Elena Olson

November 12, 2013 at 11:03 PM

I have two very precocious little boys. Their ability to grasp new information and think creatively has kept me from ever thinking that innovation will stagnate in the US.
I do most of my innovation in my own kitchen. I'm baking 10 grain bread as I write this! I can food from my garden. I create recipes and cook nearly everything from scratch. I've never thought that I was part of a movement, though I do see lots of people I know who are trying to do the same. I'm blessed to be part of the real food movement. It also feels good knowing that I'm giving my kids better nutrition and teaching them to value food which is unprocessed and created with love.

12. Kali

November 19, 2013 at 9:24 PM

I grew up with a mother that liked to DIY, mainly crafts and home decor. I never really gave it another thought until I myself became an adult, a mother and wife. With all the technology we have we have become accustomed to just driving to the store grabbing what we need or we forgetting simple things like math and turning to the internet for the quick answer. Which is all great but it's not helping me help my child when she needs help on homework. So in the recent years I have turned more to DIYing to help educate myself on how things are made or make something that costs twice as much in the store. I hope that I will be able to pass this along to my children and instill confidence in them that they can do things on their own and they can survive if something was to ever happen.

13. MiQueso

November 19, 2013 at 11:51 PM

I think the Maker Movement is an awesome cerebral step forward if we can get more people involved in that type of forward thinking. Not only is it generally a more "green" option, it will definitely reduce individual carbon foot prints.

14. Josh

November 24, 2013 at 11:44 PM

While I love the Maker movement, and I think that it is a necessary subculture, and quite an interesting one as well, I can't help but wonder if it's a culture that has gained a lot of its current momentum in the wake of the global recession. Yes, as a culture, Americans have moved beyond the idea that we can make anything in our garages, and we've lost a lot of our innovative drive there. But I think we can track this gain in popularity in the Maker movement directly to the fact that luxury goods aren't as readily available to everyday people. The credit crunch made short work of that. So it's forcing us to redefine our concepts of "luxury" and "Accomplishment," and, in the absence of easily attained Cadillacs and Rolexes, we have to turn to things that ARE easily accessible--like Maker technologies.