What makes a Maker?
Makerspaces serve as gathering points where communities of new and experienced makers connect to work on real and personally meaningful projects, informed by helpful mentors and expertise, using new technologies and traditional tools.
Makers believe that if you can imagine it, you can make it. We see ourselves as more than consumers — we are productive; we are creative. Everyone is a Maker, and our world is what we make it. ? Makers seek out opportunities to learn to do new things, especially through hands-on, DIY (do-ityourself) interactions. ? Makers surprise and delight those who see their projects, even though the projects can be a bit rough-edged, messy and, at times, over-stimulating. (Think punk rock.) ? Makers comprise a community of creative and technical people that help one another do better. They are open, inclusive, encouraging and generous in spirit. ? Makers are generally not in it for the money. This isn’t about filing patents or making a profit. ? At the same time, we’re not anti-commercial— Makers sometimes start businesses, and we celebrate that…but we don’t make it a focus as it would change the spirit of the movement. ? Makers celebrate other Makers — what they make, how they make it and the enthusiasm and passion that drives them.
The Maker movement continues to gain momentum. We can see the growth of maker communities online as well as the development of physical community workspaces, called Makerspaces, and the spread of Maker Faire around the world. The Maker movement is spurred by the introduction of new technologies such as 3D printing and the Arduino microcontroller; new opportunities created by faster prototyping and fabrication tools as well as easier sourcing of parts and direct distribution of physical products online; and the increasing participation of all kinds of people in interconnected communities, defined by interests and skills online as well as local efforts to convene those who share common goals.
The origin of the Maker movement is found in something quite personal: what we might call experimental play. Makers are enthusiasts who play with technology to learn about it. A new technology presents an invitation to play, and makers regard this kind of play as highly satisfying. Makers give it a try; they take things apart; and they try to do things that even the manufacturer didn’t think of doing. Whether it’s figuring out what you can do with a 3D printer or an autonomous drone aircraft, makers are exploring what they can do and learning as they explore. Out of that process emerges new ideas, which may lead to realworld applications or new business ventures. Making is a source of innovation.
A Different Approach
Makerspaces follow in a long tradition of learning by making and through apprenticeship, adding emerging tools for personal fabrication, community sharing, and project collaboration and research. They share some things in common with CTE (career technical education), vocational education, hackerspaces, and FabLabs, but differ in certain ways as well.
Makerspaces borrow somewhat from the tradition of career
technical ed ucation or vocational ed ucation , but they diverge by metaphorically, sometimes literally, tearing down the walls between the silos of classes in woodshop, computer science, home economics, automotive repair, etc. in pursuit of a more interdisciplinary goal. Makerspaces also recognize that making enriches the educational experience of students who are motivated to different extent in school. Sadly, technical education gained some stigma as the academic track to which guidance counselors sent failing students, and this led many schools to get rid of thousands of dollars worth of valuable equipment. We should mention here that our friends at ITEEA ask us to emphasize, “Shop class isn’t dead”!” CTE (career technical education) changes with the times, and many shop teachers welcome the Makerspace approach.
DIY to DIT
The 2010 President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology Report states that “the problem is not just a lack of proficiency among American students; there is also a lack of interest in STEM fields among many students.” When students and teachers develop personal connections with the ideas and excitement of STEM fields, their learning is most successful.
We often use the phrase “DIY movement” as a synonym for the “Maker movement”, but we find that “doing it together” is a lot better than DIY, doing it yourself. Making begins as something very personal, because it starts with your own interests. Those interests and your work connect you to other people, and so it is also very social. We’d like to celebrate each Maker’s initiative and creative inspiration within that collaborative context. Saul Griffith wrote about this topic in MAKE Magazine.
While we feel that community collaboration is a critical piece of any Makerspace, we also want to avoid the pitfalls of doing it together. School is too often simply about doing things together. We all take the same subject, taught to us as a group and assessed the same way. A lot of hands-on learning is pushed out for everyone to do the same thing. It’s not personalized. Collaboration is a good thing but we’re also interested in how personal engagement drives us and connects us to a community.