Do you worry that we’re becoming a culture of technology consumers, rather than a society of creators? Well, so does Larry Magid, a technology journalist who writes for the San Jose Mercury News.
“I don’t expect everyone to be designing the next electric vehicle, killer tablet or even smartphone app or Web page, but I do like it when people – especially children and teens – are actively engaged in creating their own innovations,” Magid opined in a recent Mercury article.
“It doesn’t have to be complicated. It could be as simple as creating your own blog or posting impressive graphics on Pinterest or using some of your digital photographs to create a calendar or picture book. Even posting cool comments on Twitter or Facebook is an act of creation, if you put some thought into it.”
Magid says he is particularly encouraged by the Maker Movement which seems to be growing exponentially by taking advantage of 3D printers, inexpensive microcontrollers, robotics, CAD and the ability to control machines with computers, tablets and smartphones.
As previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, thousands of hackers, modders, makers and veteran DIYs recently gathered in Silicon Valley to showcase their creations, many of which are powered by Atmel microcontrollers. What did every exhibit have in common? The notion that people can “make” their own things.
“What I liked most about the Faire were all the school and youth projects on display,” he explained. “Working with the UC Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science, the Tech Museum of Innovation and the Bay School, the organizers of the Faire this year showed off their ‘Young Makers’ projects that included student-made microscopes, toys, balloon projects, solar vehicles and much more.”
Magid also highlighted a new book written by Sylvia Libow Martinez and Gary Stager titled “Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering and Engineering in the Classroom,” which he described as a “part philosophical treatise, part hands-on recipes and part inspirational.”
Projects outlined in the Maker book range from creating customized projects to programming computers and mobile devices to designing wearable computers such as a biking sweatshirt with flashing turn signals. There is also a section on how to build LEGO robots and advice about incorporating Atmel-powered Arduinos into a wide range of DIY devices. The truth is, we are all Makers to a certain extent, even if some of us don’t know it yet.
“All of us – even Leonardo da Vinci – were late comers as far as the Maker movement is concerned. Our prehistoric ancestors millions of years ago, figured out how to turn stones into tools so that they could make things. Only they didn’t have fairs, books and websites to document the process,” he concluded.