If, like me, you’ve been caught up in the wave of social media, information architecture, analytics and content strategy over the last few years, you may have missed the fact that there’s exciting innovation happening offline in the real word as well. I just got a crash course in the Maker Movement by reading Makers: The New Industrial Revolution by Wired’s Chris Anderson. Recommended reading for everyone who’s had their head stuck in the “cloud”.
A Maker, as you might expect, is a person who makes things. We’re all makers – building, baking, crafting and generally, tinkering; creating things with our own two hands. For most, making is a hobby, for others it’s done out of necessity to solve a problem. Recent innovations in production technology (like 3-D printers & scanners, laser cutters, CNC machines, CAD programs, etc.) have reduced the costs of many maker tools and are giving us all the ability to create pretty cool things that are high quality. Sophisticated sensors, control boards and mechanical components are not only available, but also made more accessible by vibrant online communities of makers who help each other.
In addition to more powerful tools, we also have direct access to suppliers (ie. MFG.com, Alibaba), distribution networks (ie. Etsy, Amazon) and seed funding options (ie. Kickstarter, Indiegogo) which make it easier than ever before for any maker to graduate from DIY hobbyist to entrepreneur and launch their own business.
The other thing about the Maker Movement that has me excited is the prospect of getting more kids interested in math and technology because they see real-word applications for the things they’re learning in school. Imagine the possibilities if we could tap into their creativity and inquisitive nature at an early age and give them the tools to turn their dreams into real, working things. Sure, playing with Legos is fun, but imagine building your own alarm clock or creating a sensor that sends you a text message when someone goes in your bedroom when you’re not there. Making in the 21st century is a blend of creative design and engineering.
Social media has encouraged us all to be sharers … maybe these new tools can spark our next generation of creators and innovators. One group, The Maker Education Initiative, is striving to do just that.