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5 Questions on "Making" and the White House Maker Faire

President Obama is hosting the first-ever White House Maker Faire. In advance of that, Phil Larson of the White House Office of Science and Technology sat down with Dale Dougherty, CEO of Maker Media, to answer a few questions on what makes making, Making.

As OK Go helped us announce last week, President Obama is hosting the first-ever White House Maker Faire this coming Wednesday. In advance of that, I sat down with Dale Dougherty, CEO of Maker Media, to answer a few questions on what makes making, Making. Also, here are a few ways you can join in on a Day of Making in conjunction with the White House Maker Faire on June 18, including following and tweeting #NationOfMakers.

Phil Larson: What is “Making”?

Dale Dougherty: Making can be called creating, producing, crafting, shaping, tinkering, composing, and building. It covers many areas of interest and many skills, and projects often combine several of each. Making sits at the intersection of art and science, and at the crossroads of technology and design.

Today, Making is where hardware and software are re-connecting with each other, increasing our ability to sense the physical world and initiate actions that interact with us. This is what a robot does -- or autonomous vehicle or a solar-powered toy that comes alive by day.

When we Make things, we learn to gain control over tools and materials. Makers are using new tools and technologies that are democratizing production. With better tools, more people can make things because it is easier to take an idea and develop it into a physical thing.

Phil: Where did the “Maker Movement” start?

Dale: With the publication of Make Magazine in 2005, we introduced the term Maker as a broadly defined identity for people, mostly amateurs, who enjoy making things. We launched Maker Faire Bay Area in 2006 and began to organize Makers and celebrate their projects. Both Make Magazine and Maker Faire were catalysts for the Maker Movement, but the movement took shape because of the independent efforts of many people who saw themselves as Makers and began organizing with other Makers. They shared their projects online and they formed makerspaces or created businesses to develop products. The Maker Movement, like the Internet, is a distributed social network that anyone can join and so it has spread freely around the globe. At the heart of the Maker Movement are the enthusiasts and the DIY learners who are curious and playful.

Once we understand who Makers are, we can find them in history. People like Benjamin Franklin and Henry Ford might be considered Makers. Apple founders Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs were also tinkerers and designers, creating a personal computer that grew out of the Homebrew Computer Club and was first showcased at the West Coast Computer Faire. We consider them Makers. Today, we have a new generation of inventors, tinkerers, and product designers who will also become known for what they make.

Phil: Who is involved?

Dale: We can find Makers everywhere in our community. Makers themselves can be as varied as their interests. They may be found in a number of different occupations from artists and designers, to engineers and computer scientists, educators, crafters, and mechanics. For many, Making is more of a hobby that can be enjoyed over many years. It’s an excuse to learn something new like making cheese or bread or making an electronic bracelet whose lights respond to your heartbeats. Making is a great way for parents to engage with their kids in an activity that is both fun and educational — rockets, robots, or homemade roller coasters. What’s true of all Makers is that what they do opens new doors and often leads to new relationships and unexpected opportunities. For instance, some Makers who started out as hobbyists have become entrepreneurs, starting their own businesses to make things that they sell.

Phil: How can I get involved in Making?

Dale: There are many ways to get involved in Making. In fact, once you understand the idea, you might realize that you already make things — you cook or garden, you work with cars or musical instruments, you do woodworking or embroidery. Making takes many forms, both new and traditional.

What’s especially exciting today is that technology is offering us new capabilities. This might require getting up to speed on a Raspberry Pi or a 3D printer. There are many ways to get started, including finding resources online that can help you learn. A good way is to find places in your community organized by Makers. These are known as makerspaces but also go by other names. At a makerspace, you can get access to tools, materials, and most importantly, mentors who can help you. You can also look for workshops in your community, which not only allow you to acquire new skills but also meet others who are learning how to make.

Going to a Maker Faire near you may also inspire you to get involved, especially when you see the amazing projects that Makers are sharing.

Phil: Why is Making important?

Dale: Making is important on many levels. On a personal level, it can be a source of satisfaction and accomplishment, as you learn to do new things. On a social level, Making can lead to discovering other Makers who share your interests in local or online communities, and re-invigorating community bonds through Making. On an economic level, Making is bolstering personalized manufacturing, local workforce development, entrepreneurship, and expanding opportunities for Americans to unleash innovations that can lead to the industries and jobs of the future. Yet it starts with each of us seeing ourselves as producers, creators, and innovators, which challenges us to lead a productive and creative life. It changes our relationship with everything around us by showing that we can help make the change we want to see in the world.

Learn more about the Maker Faire.