The Makers of Tomorrow

At our first Maker Faire in 2006 in San Mateo, we wanted to create an event that families would enjoy. We wanted makers to share their projects across categories such as science and technology, art and design, craft and engineering. In the early years, almost all of our makers were adults and mostly men. Yet walking around Maker Faire you could see how making and makers captivated kids — and adults, and not just those who already saw themselves as makers. Many were experiencing something that was new to them — and they wanted to be part of it. Yet I wondered, how could they become makers? I called it my Monday morning problem.

In other words, if we could get kids so excited at Maker Faire on the weekend that they want to become makers themselves, what do they do on Monday?Where do they go to learn to make? Many kids did not have an opportunity to engage in hands-on learning in school. They lacked access to tools and materials for making, and there weren’t teachers and mentors to help them become makers. Certainly, we hoped parents would take on the role in supporting making as an activity for their children but we needed our educational institutions to support making more broadly.

Fast forward to 2018. Over more than a dozen years, many people have helped to spread across America and throughout the world a movement that sees making as a way of learning, earning and living. It is both local and global. Today, makerspaces are in nearly every city and town. More and more, makerspaces can be found in schools, libraries, science and community centers, and even within some businesses (Google, for example, has at least one makerspace in every major office around the world). We find makerspaces at universities and community colleges. In California, a program called CCCMaker provided startup grants to 24 community colleges to develop makerspaces. Laney College, Foothill College, San Mateo College, and Cabrillo College have some version of a makerspace and City College of San Francisco is opening a new makerspace this month (May). At the University of California Berkeley, the Jacobs Design Institute has a makerspace with over 1000 students signed up as members. “Make X” is a makerspace in Palo Alto that is funded by the city and run by high school students. These spaces show the promise of the maker movement and can be powerful catalysts for change and opportunity.

During a recent visit to the makerspace at Sacramento City College, I met a young man, Cisco Vasquez, who was a graffiti artist from Texas who was arrested and given the choice to go to prison or go to college. He ended up at Sacramento City College, and even though he learned to use a computer only one year ago, he designed the banners hanging in the SCC makerspace (I asked him to create banners based on his images to display at this year’s Maker Faire). There are so many examples of inspiring young people just like Cisco.

Illustration by Cisco Vasquez

I can see this change at Maker Faire Bay Area this year as more and more schools and educators are coming as makers and many new projects are coming from young people. This year, over 50 schools applied to exhibit student projects at Maker Faire, at all levels of education: elementary, high school, community colleges and universities. The Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy from Santa Barbara will bring 40 students to Maker Faire to showcase a large, student-built interactive lab; they wear uniforms and look like a NASCAR crew. The Bay Area Discovery Museum will bring its turquoise “Try-it Truck” that promises to “supercharge a child’s creative problem-solving potential.” The Sphero Obstacle Course is an exhibit designed by the C.R.E.A.T.E studio of Roosevelt Middle School in Oakland. 1st and 3rd graders from Oak Knoll Elementary School in Menlo Park will have their Super Origami Lego Machine on display. San Francisco State’s School of Design will be coming to their first Maker Faire. One example is Aaliyah and Maddox Yu, a sister-brother team from Santa Clara who have designed and built a football helmet that measures impacts to detect concussions. She is a high school student and he’s a middle school student. (They obtained a patent, ran a successful Kickstarter and started a company.)

Now that we have more ways for students to get into making, we also need to explore the potential outcomes for those who become makers. We’re hosting our first-ever Industry, Career and College Day in partnership with Cornell University College of Engineering and San Mateo College. The speakers on the program will talk about preparing for the future of work. It will also be an opportunity for young people to meet representatives from startups, companies, colleges and universities, to explore career paths, and evaluate new possibilities for their education and future.

Fittingly, this Friday event will set the table for another blockbuster Maker Faire where this year’s attendees can see things like Duane Flatmo and Jerry Kunkel’s “Rabid Transit” a 23-foot tall sculpture made from recycled metal and aluminum scrap metal featuring rabid animals on board that are animated and shoot fire.

Rabid Transit by Duane Flatmo and Jerry Kunkel

We’ll also have Jonathan Tippet’s “Prosthesis”, the world’s first racing mech — a 13 foot tall, 7,500 pound purpose-built, off-road racing machine with a human pilot embedded in its core.

Prosthesis by Jonathan Tippet

We’ll also have a robot dress by Saura Naderi of Qualcomm’s Thinkabit Labs.

Plus, homemade R2-D2 and BB-8 Droids, a Biometric Campfire art project, and over 1200 other curated projects. We also have hands-on activities and workshops. Public Lab will be organizing an area on Community Science and another group will be showcasing “Experiments in Space.” Check out our schedule of talks, performances and workshops.

Makers apply creative processes and technical skills to become innovators and changemakers. Our hope is that Maker Faire inspires more and more people to become part of the maker community and together, we can create a better kind of future.

Join as at Maker Faire Bay Area, May 18, 19, 20 at the San Mateo Event Center.

Maker Faire Bay Area 2018, May 18–20