Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Maker Movement

Jason Boryszewski
What is a Makerspace and the Maker Movement?
The "maker movement," as it is known, is a movement towards creation and collaboration that has taken place over the past five years or so.  To understand what the maker movement is though, we first need to define what a "makerspace" is.  A makerspace is any environment in which people, whether they be children, teens or adults can collaborate with one another to create something.  The purpose of a makerspace is to allow people access to knowledge (other people, resources) and technologies (a 3d printer, expensive editing software) that they would not have access to individually.  For example, the 3d printer we have in the ORHS makerspace costs around three thousand dollars, far too much for most individuals to purchase themselves, but in the makerspace this 3d printer is available to whoever would like to use it.  There are also other individuals in the ORHS makerspace willing and able to teach new users how to make use of the available equipment.  This combination of technology and knowledge allows users of the makerspace to create, design and innovate in ways that would not be possible without an environment dedicated to this.
Makerspaces have been showing up all over America in the past few years, whether they be in libraries, schools, or places of business.  The makerspaces themselves also vary wildly in their capabilities.  Some makerspaces have thousands of dollars of equipment that allow users to work with wood or metal, design and print 3d objects, or build robots, while others are much lower tech and allow users to sew, make jewelry, build LEGOS, or just about anything else you can think of.  The point is, makerspaces allow people to collaborate and build with one another no matter the amount of money involved.
If I had to describe the maker movement I would say just what I did at the beginning of this blog post, that it is a movement towards creation and collaboration.  In our modern world, people rarely make things with their own two hands.  I think this is due to the availability of mass produced items, rather than people not wanting to make an item themselves. It is much easier to go the store and buy something than it is to make it yourself.  Also consider the sense of wonder and excitement you may (or may not) have had putting together LEGOS as a kid.  This sense of wonder and excitement is inside of us all, but there are few easily accessible outlets for it.  The maker movement seeks to change this by making tools and knowledge accessible to whomever so that people are able to rediscover their passion for creation.
The ORHS makerspace (the Hack Shack) is important to our school for the same reason makerspaces are important to any community.  The Hack Shack allows people to create objects with their own hands and explore their own passion for discovery and innovation using technology that few would have access to otherwise.  The Hack Shack also provides technological help to students and teachers alike, and teaches members of the school about the technology the Hack Shack has available.  For example, last week members of the Hack Shack taught freshman and sophomore classes how to use the green screen for video projects they are doing.  There are also Hack Shack employees in the Hack Shack most periods of the day so that anyone looking for help with technology is able to find it.
Successful Maker Spaces
Monticello High School in Albemarle County, Virginia did something few high schools would do: they allowed students to take over parts of the library to use for whatever they wanted.  Students went much further with this than expected.  They built a music studio, a room for computer programming, and a "genius bar" where students can fix and work on one anothers devices.  What made this makerspace successful was the fact that students got to design and make everything themselves.  No one knows better what students want than the students themselves.
The Port City Makerspace, located on 68 Morning Street in Portsmouth, NH specializes in metal and woodworking, electronics, and bicycles.  What makes this makerspace successful is the wide variety of tools they have available and the large community.  Using this makerspace requires a small fee which goes towards maintaining the space and buying or repairing tools.  The small fee makes for a more useful and well maintained makerspace.  The Port City Makerspace also holds classes which allows new members to learn how to properly use the available tools.  This is key to the success of this makerspace.  Walking into a makerspace with no knowledge of how to use the tools is intimidating, so classes make the space much more accessible to new members.
Boston Makers Incorporated is a seven hundred square foot makerspace located on Washington St, in Boston, MA.  What makes Boston Makers Incorporated a successful makerspace is the team of volunteers that run the space and the sheer size of the maker space.  Boston Makers Incorporated is run on a much larger scale than most other makerspaces with a Board of Directors, advisors and many volunteers.  The directors and many of the advisors and volunteers have degrees and have worked in the engineering and design fields, which insures that this makerspace is a true professional environment.  This makerspace is also huge, has a wide variety of tools and supports many interests, from 3d design tools and electronics to sewing machines and textile arts to woodworking machines.  Boston Makers Incorporated is the makerspace of dreams.
Examples of Things Created in Makerspaces

Photo by Thatcher Ervin
On the left is probably the coolest thing to be created in the ORHS Hack Shack this semester: a 3d printed marble run designed and built by Thatcher Ervin.  Thatcher used SketchUp to design all the pieces for the run and printed them using the 3d printer.  Each piece takes multiple hours to print, and just as long to design.

A popular specialty for makerspaces are bicycles, as they require special tools that are often expensive, or impractical to buy as you will only use them once.  Makerspaces are also often located in urban areas in which bikes are more practical and common.

Tools and materials necessary for making jewelry are also common in makerspaces, as making jewelry is simple, low cost, and fun.  Many makerspaces are used to create jewelry to be sold on websites such as Etsy.

Woodworking is another very popular activity in makerspaces as many of the necessary tools are expensive and dangerous, thus require training and supervision as you learn to use them.  Woodworking allows you to create many useful and personalized objects, such as furniture or boxes.

Further Reading/Information
The Maker Camp is a free, virtual camp that teaches teens basic makerspace skills and allows them to collaborate with one another.
The Maker Movement Manifesto is a book by Mark Hatch that outlines the Maker Movement in much more detail than this blog post, and includes information for starting your own makerspace.
Makezine is a website/magazine that details everything about the Maker Movement.  There are enough articles here to keep you busy for years.
This article by Gary Stager explains the cultural importance of makerspaces and their importance in schools.

Works Cited
Bajarin, Tim. Why the Maker Movement Is Important to America's Future. Time. Time Incorporated, 19 May 2014. Web. 06 June 2016.
Bruder, Patricia. Make YOUR Space: The Maker Movement in Education. NJEA.org. New Jersey Education Association, Mar. 2014. Web. 06 June 2016.

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