This past weekend, more than 65,000 people converged on the New York Hall of Science for World Maker Faire, an international event that speaks its own unique language: makerspaces, hackerspaces, 3D printing, CNC routers and Raspberry Pi.
World Maker Faire is one of 60 events sponsored by MAKE magazine this year to showcase the energy and creativity of a new generation of inventors, hobbyists and programmers. Makers combine cutting-edge technologies and old-fashioned ingenuity in projects spanning robotics, electronics, knitting, photography, rocketry, food and computing.
And this year for the first time, Abilene Christian University was on stage.
Dr. Kyle Dickson (’92) and Dr. James Langford (’78) were reporting at World Maker Faire on work that began last spring to bring a makerspace into the Margaret and Herman Brown Library. Dr. John Weaver, dean of library services and educational technology, led a group of faculty, librarians and technologists that asked how to provide access to maker technologies at ACU.
The first step in this process was the production of We Are Makers, a short documentary to introduce the campus to the values of making. ACU’s AT&T Learning Studio conducted interviews in March with key voices in the Maker Movement in Austin and in New York, including representatives from MAKE magazine, Etsy, and maker companies such as MakerBot and Twine.
The team visited makerspaces in museums, schools and community workshops and heard about their role as learning communities. “The main tool of this place isn’t really whether we have a 3D printer or a laser cutter or the right set of hand tools or something, but it’s having people around in the room with you and being able to bounce ideas off each other and to share knowledge,” said Raphael Abrams of NYC Resistor.
The film was directed by Nathan Driskell (’07) and Mathew Bardwell in the Learning Studio with interviews conducted by Dickson and Langford.
Since its premiere in June, We Are Makers has been viewed online more than 15,000 times in more than 120 countries, with almost two-thirds of those views from outside the U.S.
And today, the film will have its first international screening (with subtitles) at the Tokyo Art Book Fair.
A key component of Abilene Christian’s presentation at World Maker Faire was the design progress that will lead a Maker Lab grand opening during Homecoming in October. Langford and Lyndell Lee (’05) from ACU’s Adams Center for Teaching and Learning have worked closely on the project with Dr. Ken Olree and Dr. Jeff Arrington (’82) in the Department of Engineering and Physics and Dr. Nil Santana (’00 M.S.) and Brandon Young (’97) in the Department of Art and Design.
The pressing need this summer was to outfit a 6,000-square foot space previously occupied by Brown Library’s Special Collections for use by classes in engineering, physics and art this fall. This particular combination provides an early experiment in how inter-disciplinary or cross-disciplinary collaborations can be encouraged while still delivering high-quality programs within each major.
From its beginning, the makerspace project has truly been a collaboration, between teams across campus and many of the voices in the maker community who helped jump-start the project. When team members returned to World Maker Faire this past weekend, it was to the site of one of the makerspaces they visited in the New York Hall of Science.
It was Eric Siegel, the director and chief content officer at NYSCI, who crystalized this idea. “The American ideal of the lone inventor has always been a myth,” Siegel said. “If you talk about people like Edison, Einstein or Jobs, they worked in a social environment. … and they learned from their peers. That’s how science progresses.”
The significant opportunity the new Maker Lab brings to students at ACU is the opportunity to develop skills in invention, creativity and collaboration that allow them to fully participate in shaping the world around them.
To hear more from the makers in the film, visit its website for additional interview footage in which Dale Dougherty and Alan Chochinov reflect on the importance of maker culture to STEM and design education, and the future of the public library.
Watch We Are Makers: