American ingenuity has always powered this country and fueled economic growth. Makers, builders, and tinkerers of all stripes have connected far corners of the nation, lit up the night sky, and never wavered in creating solutions to address the world’s most pressing challenges of our time.
We know that ordinary Americans are capable of unleashing the extraordinary when they have access to the tools and resources they need. That’s why in June 2014, President Obama launched the first-ever White House Maker Faire, an all-hands-on-deck call to give the country’s entrepreneurs, students, and hobbyists access to a new class of technologies – including 3D printers, laser cutters, and desktop machine tools – that are enabling more Americans to design and manufacture just about anything.
In the same way that major technology companies found their start in the original West Coast Computer Faire and Homebrew Computer Club in the 1970s, the rise of the “Maker Movement” represents a significant opportunity for the United States today.
The rapid deployment of these advanced tools, and their precipitous drop in price, is empowering entrepreneurs and companies to transform an idea into a working prototype faster than ever before. And as we bear witness to the Internet and cloud computing lowering barriers to entry for digital startups—new tools for democratized production are creating the foundation for new processes that can accelerate the revitalization of American manufacturing.
We have already seen that in the last two years, the number of new factories and manufacturing firms setting up shop in the United States has risen in two consecutive years for the first time in more than 10 years. We must foster the growth of manufacturing entrepreneurship and the culture of making, and the increased accessibility to manufacturers tools are are critical components to spurring new heights of entrepreneurship.
These new manufacturing establishments are building everything from customized, low-cost 3D-printed stents to straighten bones in infants; to collapsible, portable shelters for the homeless; to viral-resistant medical gear for front-line Ebola responders.
That’s why last year, the President called on leaders around our nation to join in sparking a grassroots renaissance in American making and manufacturing. Since then, more than 100 cities have stepped up, taking action to increase access to the tools and support that help today’s tangible dreamers turn a good idea into reality. And this week, to kick off the National Week of Making (June 12th – 18th), hundreds of events and partnerships are being unveiled around the country in libraries, museums, schools, universities, and community spaces to enable our citizen-makers.
This Administration also remains committed to creating opportunities for anyone with an idea who is willing to take a chance by increasing access to capital, shared innovation and maker spaces, and manufacturing-specific curricula for emerging entrepreneurs — including more than $5 billion worth of federal support. And by investing in regional manufacturing hubs, we are bringing together private industry, leading universities, and public agencies to develop cutting-edge technology and train workers in the capital intensive equipment critical to animating even more manufacturing entrepreneurship and unlocking new American industries.
Partners from across the federal government to local communities are continuing to step up. For example, the Department of Education will launch the CTE Makeover Challenge this year to create and transform new maker spaces in conjunction with their career and technical education programs. Those spaces will service districts like Lincoln Public Schools—accounting for 40,000 students near Lincoln, Nebraska—and aim to deploy maker kits that can travel between school libraries.
And because hands-on learning and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education are critical to building a nation of makers, we are dedicated to providing students at every level with the high-quality education they need to excel in STEM fields.
That’s why more than 100 school leaders of K-12 districts and schools, representing more than 3 million students, are committing to the creation of dedicated maker spaces in their schools and offering professional development opportunities for teachers. And why more than 50 leaders in higher education representing more than 900,000 students – including Ivy League universities, community colleges, HBCUs, major public universities and small private colleges – are deepening their efforts to expand making opportunities on their campuses.
By making it easier for students to learn 21st-century design and fabrication skills and by animating opportunities for manufacturing in communities across our country, we can unleash new jobs, unlock game changing industries, and bring to life the products of tomorrow, today.