Why Making Matters

971980_10151973755784115_145808677_nHave you noticed how everyone’s been talking about makers lately? Last week at the South by Southwest Interactive conference in Austin, mythbuster and maker Adam Savage gave the keynote address (you can watch it here, but beware a few bits of salty language). Hardly a week goes by without 3d printers making the news — as a tool for improved plastic surgery, an all-in-one house builder, or even a maker of lifesaving surgical implants. As we found out a few months ago, even the White House wants to get in on the making game.

Obviously, we’re pretty excited when we see so much attention given to makers and making. But it’s worth stopping to remember the bigger picture: what does the “maker movement” do for us? Among many others, I see three main reasons why making matters:

  1. It reconnects art and science under the banner of creativity. As Adam Savage noted in his keynote, “Art and science have always been the twin engines pushing us forward as a species.” Only in recent years have we seen art and science as intellectual opposites. The more we can recognize them as creative endeavors, the more likely people will be to engage with them.
  2. It empowers individuals, especially kids, to pursue their creative instincts. Caine’s Arcade was big news last year, and this amazing creative project by a young boy certainly warranted the attention. On a smaller scale, we see this kind of pride in creativity at the Science Factory every time one of our visitors or campers yells, “Look what I made!” Families with children also join Eugene Maker Space in order to pursue their own building projects that a standard school curriculum wouldn’t allow. Kids who are encouraged in their creative pursuits are likely to continue them as adults.
  3. It has the power to change lives and communities for the better. A volunteer and member recently pointed me to this video about Kelvin Doe, a 15-year-old from Sierra Leone who builds electronics from recycled and reclaimed parts. This hobby led him to create his own low-power radio station for his community, a project that earned him a visit to MIT. Kelvin’s story is just one of many, many examples of makers who have improved their communities through their creativity and ingenuity.

What do you think? How does making matter to you? How does the maker movement improve the Eugene community? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments! (And if you’re ready to show off what you’ve been making, don’t forget to get your application in to the Eugene Mini Maker Faire on June 7!)

An Educator and “Make Evangelist” Reflects on the Movement

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Jen Wyld has been a friend of the Science Factory for many years, and a friend of the Eugene Mini Maker Faire since its inception. You may have seen her at our previous Faires hosting tables on crocheting and felting (that’s her above, on the left). Or you could have caught her at last year’s Maker Faire Bay Area presenting on Montessori schools. Jen is a PhD student in the Free Choice Learning program at Oregon State University. She is also on the board of directors at MECCA, a great community resource for Eugene makers. Needless to say, we were quite interested when Jen posted some thoughts on the maker movement, and her role in it, on the Free Choice Learning Lab blog.

In her first post, Jen reveals that she is a “Make evangelist,” but does not consider herself a “Maker” in the sense that many people use it today. She does not play with electronics, 3D printers, Arduino, or other high-tech tools and toys associated with hackerspaces. (For the most part, neither do I!) I think, however, that by taking a step back to look at the whole arena of making, beyond the hot new technologies, Jen could easily claim the title of “maker.”

It may be that cutting-edge technologies like 3D printers are grabbing the headlines, but the Maker Movement depends on both old and new technologies to succeed. From what I have seen, Maker Faire has always been a celebration of all forms of human creativity and ingenuity — whether with the latest high-tech equipment or with tools as old as civilization. It’s the reason that the Eugene Mini Maker Faire has featured shoemaking and woodworking (and felting!). Some of the best Maker projects actually unite old and new technologies — like Arduino and model railroading.

In her second post, Jen highlights the many facets of the Maker Movement that make it so exciting for the world of education. Most importantly, she points out that the Maker Movement offers the chance for everyone “to become more active as producers, as well as consumers of technology.” I couldn’t agree more!

We love to hear what people in the community think about Maker Faires and the Maker Movement. Share your thoughts with us below, or get in touch by e-mail.

Welcome back! It’s on…

The Eugene Mini Maker Faire rides again! The third-annual event will take place on Saturday, June 7 from 10AM to 4PM at the Science Factory. The Call for Makers is now open, and we can’t wait to hear about your projects and ideas for this year’s event. Stay tuned right here or follow us on Facebook for the latest updates as planning for the Faire ramps up. See you soon!

Thank You!

The second annual Eugene Mini Maker Faire has wrapped up, and what an amazing day! I’ll be back in a few days to post some pictures. In the meantime, we’d like to offer a HUGE thanks to the dozens of talented makers who took part in the Faire, as well as the hundreds of visitors who participated. If you attended the Faire and enjoyed yourself, please leave a comment here or on our Facebook page. And if you have suggestions on how to improve for future years, we’d love to hear from you too! Thanks again for making the day a success.

Anticipation…

Friday afternoon at the Science Factory, and the front lawn is absolutely jam-packed with hordes of…

…geese.

Tomorrow, however, will be an entirely different story. When the Eugene Mini Maker Faire gets under way at 10, our lawn will have 3D printers, an electric motorcycle, a velomobile, paper airplanes, handcrafted shoes, delicious food from Sammitch!, and much, much more. (And that’s not even counting all the cool things *inside* the museum! Have I mentioned the frisbee-throwing robot lately?)

Most importantly, we hope that YOU will be here to meet all of our makers, see the fantastic things they have built, and perhaps be inspired to create something of your own. Tickets are only $6 for adults and children, $5 for seniors, or $3 if you’re a Science Factory member. We can’t wait to see you tomorrow!

Squishy Circuits at the Science Factory

The Science Factory is thrilled to be hosting so many makers from around the Northwest this Saturday. But we’re bringing out some maker activities of our own, too! We’ve already mentioned the role that making plays in our educational philosophy, and we think that the Eugene Mini Maker Faire is the perfect opportunity to showcase some of our favorite building and tinkering activities.

One of our big hits has been “squishy circuits,” an idea we first heard about from a TED Talk by AnnMarie Thomas. (AnnMarie is currently the executive director of the Maker Education Initiative.) Starting with the simple insight that Play-Doh conducts electricity, she and her colleagues developed a series of lesson plans that teach kids about electric circuits in a way that is fun, open-ended, and engaging — because who doesn’t like playing with Play-Doh?

We will have a table of squishy circuits at the Eugene Mini Maker Faire so that kids (and kids at heart!) can come up with their own creative circuit sculptures. You’ll be able to check out some of our fun hands-on exhibits, too, and even get tickets to a show in our Exploration Dome! All that, plus our jam-packed maker lineup, makes this an event you won’t want to miss. Advance tickets are available until tomorrow night.

Eugene Maker Space at the Eugene Mini Maker Faire

Our partners in presenting the Eugene Mini Maker Faire are the members of Eugene Maker Space. Last year, they dazzled us with 3D printers, potato cannons, and air-powered paper rockets. This year, their display promises to be just as amazing! If you’d like a sneak preview, check out the video by EMS member Rick Osgood below. This clever little “paper airplane crossbow” will be at the Faire, and YOU can make your very own airplane to launch! Get your advance tickets today, and you’ll have a chance to win a free subscription to Make magazine.

This just in! — FertiLab Thinkubator

We’re very excited to announce that FertiLab Thinkubator will have a table at our Faire! FertiLab is a brand-new enterprise that supports biotech startups in Eugene and Lane County by providing them with office and lab space, research equipment, and mentoring. Check out their website for pictures of their new home on 4th and Lincoln in downtown Eugene.

At the Maker Faire, FertiLab will provide activities all about seeing the hidden colors around us through spectrometry and chromatography. FertiLab joins 17 other makers from around the Northwest at the Eugene Mini Maker Faire on June 15th. Buy your advance tickets today, and you’ll be entered into a drawing for a free one-year subscription to Make Magazine!

Featured Maker: Jack McCornack, Kinetic Vehicles

Jack McCornack with MAX at Maker Faire Bay Area.How far would you go to get a car with better gas mileage? Would you shop for a car that meets the new fuel economy standards, required by 2016? Would you shop around for an electric hybrid? Would you convert your car to run on biodiesel?

Or would you build your own car that gets 100 MPG, using diesel or vegetable oil as fuel?

I’ll bet that last one never crossed your mind. But DIY enthusiast Jack McCornack has proven that it can be done, and he’ll gladly show off the results of his work so that you can do it, too.

Jack began his quest in 2008 on behalf of Mother Earth News. While the original intent was to compete in the Progressive Automotive X-Prize, Jack ultimately decided to pull out from the contest and strive to meet most of the same the goals independently of the contest. Jack started with the frame of an old Toyota Corolla, then added a Kubota three-cylinder engine that is normally used for tractors. The original body was based on the Lotus Seven, the classic British roadster which has been inspiring home-built versions for decades.

The end result was MAX, which saw its first successful road tests in 2008. That year, Jack participated in Escape from Berkeley, a 600-mile race from Berkeley to Las Vegas without using petroleum fuel. And at the end of the journey, nobody was more surprised than Jack that he had won! The Science Channel has an interview with Jack and footage of MAX’s first incarnation.

Version 2 of MAX updated the body to an even more streamlined design, which would push the vehicle from around 70 to 100 MPG. The body was completely reworked through careful design and lots of trial and error. By the Fall of 2012, Jack announced that he had met his goal, and after 100,000 test miles MAX is still going strong. Jack has blogged extensively for Mother Earth News and on his own site, so you can read all of the details about how the car came together.

At the Eugene Mini Maker Faire, you’ll be able to see MAX up close. You can also talk to Jack to find out more about how he designed it and what his plans are for the next 100,000 miles. Join us on June 15th to meet Jack and over 30 other makers from around the Northwest!

Featured Maker: Robert Walling, Babu Shoes


Where do your shoes come from?

It’s not a question that most people think about. But for Bob Walling, it’s a question that has defined his career and his outlook on business.

Bob has spent his career working on all aspects of the shoe industry, from manufacturing to wholesale to retail. Along the way, however, he began to sense that “the industrial model didn’t suit the shoe business” in some respects. Almost a decade ago, he sought out a new way to manufacture and sell shoes based on different assumptions about the business: that bigger isn’t always better, that workers could be trained more readily, and that it’s possible to be successful while maintaining local control over both the process and the product.

The result was Babu Shoes, a business that Bob and his son Daniel manage out of a small shop in South Eugene. All of his shoes are made by himself or one of his apprentices. To date, Bob has had 26 people pass through his shop to learn the art of making shoes. It costs nothing to become an apprentice — the only obligation is to produce a few pairs of shoes that can then be sold by Babu. Apprenticeships operate on an “alternative school” model: schedules are very flexible, and can be carried out a few hours at a time over months or years. Generally, an apprentice can be fully trained in about 180 hours, which is much faster than the traditional model of 5-10 years of training! Once trained, some of his apprentices have gone on to operate their own successful shoemaking enterprises.

Operating on a small scale also allows Bob to pursue strong customer relations. Standard industrial shoes come in standard sizes, but artisan-made shoes can be built to more precise specifications. He has reported that customers who previously could never find a proper fit with standard shoes have been “brought to tears” after experiencing the comfort that a pair of custom, handmade shoes can offer.

Bob is very excited to be part of his first Maker Faire experience here in Eugene. He especially wants visitors to see for themselves that shoes aren’t just “mysterious high-tech products that emerge from factories in China.” With just a bit of craft knowledge and practice, anyone can build a shoe! With that same knowledge shared with others, as well as a small capital investment, anyone can operate an independent, local shoe business like Babu.

Although Bob pursues a traditional craft, he shares a great deal in common with the more modern technologies that we most often associate with the Maker movement. Bob operates on a “totally open source” model — every aspect of his craft is in the public domain, and he is always willing to share his knowledge with those willing to learn. We think this makes him a perfect fit for Maker Faire!

You can find more information about Babu online, along with many more photos of his work (which also includes some hats and woodworking projects). And you can meet Bob in person to talk to him about his craft and his business model at the Eugene Mini Maker Faire on June 15th. Buy your advance tickets now, and don’t forget to use the code “early13″ before May 31 to save $1 off each ticket!