Today President Obama announced the beginning of a National Week of Making, part of a larger initiative to get more K-12 and higher education students inventing, tinkering, building, and creating.
The event will last from June 12 to 18. It coincides with the first National Maker Faire, held here at the University of the District of Columbia.
Maker Faires, the first of which was organized by the publishers of Make magazine in 2006, have proliferated around the country. They showcase the efforts of children and adults who are using a do-it-yourself approach to create projects that bridge art and science, often using new technologies, such as 3-D printers and laser cutters.
A year ago, the White House hosted its own Maker Faire with more than 100 makers (not to be confused with the White House’s annual science fair, which is more focused on students’ scientific experiments and inventions).
Robots and Sculptures
This year’s first National Maker Faire, held today and tomorrow, features 130 makers from around the country. Students and adults are showing off creations such as Lego robots that solve Rubik’s cubes, dinosaur sculptures made of paper, and 3-D printed prosthetics. Companies and universities are also touting their maker spaces, which provide tools and a place for students to create.
Several government agencies, including Homeland Security and NASA, are in attendance as well, demonstrating the ways making is contributing to their work. For instance, a Homeland Security representative showed me a new device called FINDER that detects heartbeats in rubble to help rescue victims of disasters.
In a panel discussion, representatives from nonprofit and for-profit organizations that promote making talked about the importance of having maker spaces in both formal and informal settings (i.e., schools and libraries, museums, and after-school programs). Gene Sherman, founder and CEO of the for-profit company Vocademy: The Makerspace, located in Riverside, Calif., said the maker movement should capitalize on the the fact that making has now become cool. “Don’t call it shop class, don’t call it arts, call it ‘maker class,’” he said.
“The world is finally listening to us,” he added.
Brita Muller, a spokeswoman for the National Maker Faire, said about 10,000 attendees are expected over the two days.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.