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Makers and Hackers and Faires...(oh my!)

Updated on November 15, 2014
Maker Awards
Maker Awards | Source

Creating a DIY future

Wanted: Curious, creative people with wild ideas, that like to tinker with stuff and laugh off the notion that "it can't be done".

If you'd jump at that kind of job opportunity you're well-prepared to navigate the turbulence of the coming decades.

Coders, Hackers, and Makers are the pioneers of the new global Networked Economy. Collaboration, creativity, crowd-funding and open source philosophy are driving the new economy wagon train. Oh, and we're changing course - from economic growth to sustainability.

The 2008 economic crisis marked the beginning of Extreme Makeover: Global Edition.

Pogo Stilts
Pogo Stilts | Source

Disruptive innovation

Crisis leads to better ways of doing things

The 2008 economic crisis wasn't only inevitable - it was necessary.

I know that sounds cruel if you're one of the millions of suddenly unemployed, caught in the aftershock of the Great Recession. Our education goals, financial systems and business models are still based on a hundred-year-old industrial model that's no longer relevant in a globally-networked world.

Kinda like watching Blu-ray movies - on VHS tape.

The internet has enabled rapid globalization of knowledge. Information that was previously known only to the well-educated, or the well-off in first-world countries, is now available through technology to poor villagers half-way round the world who still may not have running water. Developing countries don't have to evolve through the technological changes that took us decades - they're leaping right to today's tech.

World leaders are uncertain how to move forward - caught between soaring youth unemployment, a changing climate and industrial-era corporations lobbying hard to prevent the change that must come.

That change is happening: it's your choice whether you fear it or embrace it.

Electronics sculpture
Electronics sculpture | Source

The Maker movement

Crowd-sourced creativity

It's understandable if you haven't heard of the maker movement. It's a technology-based extension of the DIY culture, mostly comprised of engineering type innovations like robotics, 3-D printing, CNC machining and electronics alongside traditional arts & crafts, metalworking and woodworking.

Makers (aka fabbers) are taking full advantage of information sharing and cross-pollination between disciplines to encourage creativity, invention and prototyping.

DIY web sites like Instructables and Makezine are online spaces where makers and hackers share their how-to knowledge. You can learn to make, fix or hack just about anything you can imagine on these sites. They're building an archive of ideas and knowledge available for free that show people around the world how to do things they've never done before - enabling them to become makers as well.

Makers take charge

There's little doubt that we're in the midst of a transformational period of global change - from our climate to our economy. One of the early shoots of the coming change is the Maker movement. Enabled by the communication network that now allows us instant access to information around the world - more and more people a innovating and creating by sharing ideas and techniques in real time.

I call it production for the masses.

Makers: The New Industrial Revolution
Makers: The New Industrial Revolution
Chris Anderson is the editor of Wired magazine and a DIY aerial robotics enthusiast.

So what do makers make? - Anything and everything. From warrior robots to wearable tech.

Want to turn that old VCR into an automatic cat feeder? Here's how to do it. There's never been more innovation happening in the world than there is right now. Shared ideas that are hacked, improved, sliced and diced - spawning new and different innovations. YouTube is loaded with people sharing their projects and inventions - good, bad and ugly.

This Youtube video highlighting DIY robotics is a great example of how Makers are developing the skills and inventions that will play an integral role in future technological advances.

Around 3:45 in the video there's a battle between two robot vehicles designed and built to do just that - fight. Watching how nimbly they turn, reverse and flip, you forget that these things weigh over 200 pounds. Not only is the winner brilliantly designed, the operator has to be incredibly skilled to make that thing dance like that. Awesome.

I can imagine using a vehicle like this, scaled-up to clear downed trees off roads, enabling emergency responders to get into hard-hit areas after a devastating storm.

What do you think?

Are hackers and makers the movers and shakers of the future?

See results

Creative problem solving - Hacking everyday things

Car Lumber Rack Headrest Hack
Car Lumber Rack Headrest Hack | Source

I like to make stuff out of wood. But trying to get long lengths of materials home from the lumberyard or building center without gouging the surface can be a challenge.

So I came up with a solution. I built a couple of simple racks that fit in the in the headrest slots. They keep my hand-selected pine boards scar-free, and I can tie them down securely for the drive home. You can find out how to make your own here on my StonehavenLife blog.

Watching a LEGO print on MakerBot
Watching a LEGO print on MakerBot | Source


Sharing the wealth of knowledge

What was once a lonely (and sometimes secretive) endeavor by the "inventors" of the industrial age is now a giant sandbox of creativity that everyone can play in, learn from and likely find a passion to pursue - whether it's just for fun or to try to earn income. Hackerspaces are springing up around the world, as enthusiasts gather to share workspace, tools, talents and ideas.

Apple is a prime example of what a couple of imaginative college dropouts can create in a garage workshop. And that was back in the 1970s - the dawn of the personal computer age.

With today's connectivity - innovation is lighting-fast and growing exponentially as millions of "inventors" share what they learn with each other - in real-time.

Hackerspaces allow virtual ideas to become real things and enable people to learn critical hands-on skills and solve design problems. Useful real-world skills like woodworking, welding, and soldering have fallen off school curriculums and haven't been passed down from parent to child through recent generations. That's changing for a good reason. More locally-sourced products and services and "repairability" will be coming (back) to the community level.

Freeduino: Completed
Freeduino: Completed | Source

Code it and set it free

Open source and arduino

Patents and copyright are on the critical list and not expected to survive in their current form for much longer.

The open source project that rose along with the internet has been a booster rocket for technological innovation. Your Android phone might not exist without open source.

Arduino is an open-source micro-controller computer board and it's played a crucial enabling role in the development of multi-disciplinary projects such as robotics and other computer controlled devices. The wave of 3-D printers coming to market was fuelled by cheap and easy-to-learn open source hardware, software and shared coding to create 3-D models for downloading. More recently, open-source single board computers are hitting the market with delicious names like Raspberry Pi.

And just because it's open source doesn't mean there's no way to profit from it. Just make it smaller or better - and sell your own version.

Lifesize Mousetrap Game
Lifesize Mousetrap Game | Source

The rise of the Maker Faire

Fabbers having fun!

Like many industries, interest groups and subcultures, the maker movement has started organizing "trade fairs" to showcase their inventions, art and prototypes, attend workshops and network with others.

The obsolete spelling is also an appropriately clever reference to the word's etymology - "faire" as a transitive verb (french) means "to make", or "to do".

You'll also find a healthy dose of Steampunk woven through the maker movement - creating retro-futuristic contraptions that evoke the Victorian era writings of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne

The first Maker Faire, created by Make magazine, was held in April, 2006 in San Mateo County, California to celebrate the art, engineering, science and craft projects stemming from a DIY mindset .

In 2013, Maker Faires are scheduled in Jerusalem, Scotland, UK., Germany, Norway, Canada, Texas, and California.

Expect this relatively new exploration in DIY and DIWO (do it with others) creativity and collaboration to grow in the coming years.

Knowledge is power - Plug yourself in

The New Digital Age: Reshaping the Future of People, Nations and Business
The New Digital Age: Reshaping the Future of People, Nations and Business
A collaboration of two top minds in the world of technology. Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google and Jared Cohen, director of Google Ideas and former advisor to Condeleeza Rice and Hillary Clinton. Release Date: April, 23, 2013. Pre-order now.

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