Meeting a Nation of Makers
Our Experience at the White House OSTP Makerspace Organizers Meeting — and more!
We were honored to be invited to the White House by Andrew Coy from the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to discuss the state of America’s Maker Movement, and share ideas on how we can collectively collaborate to grow the movement together. Aside from getting insights from the various breakout sessions organized by the OSTP, meeting Makerspace founders from across the country provided invaluable reassurance that a.) We all have similar challenges, and b.) There’s alot of people out there who are working hard to grow the movement. Here’s a recap of our trip:
It seemed a bit surreal. But we’re sure everyone felt a similar sense of uplift. The often thankless and hard work doesn’t just mean something to us but to our whole Nation. It is important work that has now moved from research to action and has proven itself to be an important aspect for the future of our society — We knew this all along in our hearts but now its being confirmed by our government. It was a huge sense of elation — until we realized… we have to figure out how to fly to DC in under two weeks! But thanks to friends, family, and the sharing economy, we were able to make proper arrangements on a Maker budget.
a day early and decide to walk the National Mall. The strong urban plan, the magestic historic architecture, and the weight of the symbolism of the various monuments gives us a renewed sense of pride in our Nation. Its easy to become cynical with our government, but if we’re to think of the overwhelming task at hand: Unifying a nation of many, many different people with varying needs, wants and beliefs — its no wonder it is so difficult to make change happen… and yet throughout history, we have done just that. Everyone might not agree with everything that has been done but nonetheless, we have continued to progress through agreements, disagreements, and compromise, to act on the needs of our collective body of citizens. It was the perfect preface to our trip and a reminder of the responsibility we all bear.
The Meetings Begin
Over 170 Makerspace founders line up to enter and are presented with an itinerary of the various speakers and breakout sessions we’ll be experiencing throughout the day. Its impressive to see we have the opportunity of meeting representatives from NASA, the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Small Business Administration, the U.S. Economic Development Administration, the U.S. Department of Labor, the National Endowment for the Arts, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, as well as various leaders in the Maker Movement who are doing incredible things in their communities. The topics were all extremely relevant, ranging from: Going big to avoid burnout, Intellectual Property, Building Entrepreneurial Ecosystems, Making Educational Opportunities More Like Making, Making the World A Better Place Through Citizen Science and Open Innovation, Impact Research, Making in Higher Education, and Equity By Design For Intentional Inclusion, to name a few.
The speakers were also very inspiring. Because of our background in Architecture, we were particularly moved by Emily Pilloton of Project H. It was so exciting to meet her in person after having watched the Netflix documentary on their educational program about a year ago. We highly recommend you all watch the film, called If You Build It. Combining Maker skills with a purpose driven community project can be extremely transformative for impressionable High School students and we’ve always been a fan of their approach! Check out the update they presented on their work at the meeting:
All the other talks were also recorded and can be viewed online here.
Some of the other major takeaways:
Documenting the work and research that is done in our labs is extremely important.
Partnerships with educational institutions, museums, and other cultural organizations are essential to building community.
Connect with research labs in our region.
Sharing resources with other labs helps accelerate the movement — and will empower more people with the maker mindset.
We represent the future of education, industry, and economic development.
In true maker spirit, after the meeting concluded, there was a flurry of follow-up activity. Immediately a Slack channel formed, Facebook group created, talks of a website are in the air, and a strategic action plan has been set in motion by Andrew Coy, the organizer of the event. All of this in an effort to build on the momentum and to unify our Nation of Makerspaces to work together towards common goals. The tasks at hand of revitalizing local industry, transforming education, and solving the UN’s Global Goals are nearly impossible for any one organization to take on, but is possible when we all come together and act in unison. One thing is very clear — the Maker movement DOES have the power to transform all of these things and bring about significant positive change. Our mission is even clearer and we’re glad to be connected to a strong core group of people to help make it happen.
We’ll be announcing some exciting new initiatives and programs based on what we learned here very soon! Stay tuned for whats next!
We got to visit FIU DC, Fablab DC, TechShop DC-Arlington, SparkLabs, The Building Museum and Local Motors during our stay. We toured the office of FIU DC and met the people who work hard to represent the initiatives from Miami on Capitol Hill. It was an interesting perspective into how larger initiatives are supported at the Federal level. We then carpooled over together to meet the creative minds who founded FabLab DC. Phyllis and her husband were very kind hosts and shared with us their experience in running a Fablab for the past few years. On display, they had some awesome community projects like Shelter 2.0, a flat-pack CNC milled temporary home for emergency relief, as well as a sculptural installation that visualized median education levels in the DC area.
The Building Museum had an incredible installation about Icebergs by James Corner | Field Operations. It featured large abstracted structures that you can inhabit and helped visitors visualize just how massive the bases of an iceberg really are — along with facts and figures about the changing icebergs of today! On the second floor, there was an interactive “Play, Learn, Build” area that immersed kids in hands-on activities for them to create both with physical tools and materials, as well as digital interfaces.
Lastly, we visited Local Motors — which was incredibly inspiring. The massive scale of the digital fabrication tools was overwhelming and their latest project — Olli, a smart autonomous bus, is a transformative and disruptive technology that we’re very excited about. They also had a few examples of their experimental work including a 3D printed skateboard, some furniture pieces, an exotic car concept, and a motorcycle. The implications of their research and production are profound. Its a good preview of how digital manufacturing will impact the future of our cities.
We’re happy to be back and continue our work — we’re charged up with inspiration and excitement and will be building even more ways to transform our city with our empowered community of makers.
For more pictures of the different spaces we visited, see our Facebook album “Nation of Makers.”