An DIU Telebot demonstration at the Miami Mini Maker Faire on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013. Photos by MARSHA HALPER / MIAMI HERALD STAFF
By Ric Herrero
“Is the Maker Movement real or just a really cool fad?” Several people asked me this after the huge success of our first Miami Mini Maker Faire last November. There, regional inventors and entrepreneurs both young and old showcased over 60 innovative projects, products and services they conjured up using technology such as 3D printers, desktop tools, design software and good old-fashioned craftsmanship.
Seeing the creativity of our local makers was energizing, and the Miami Mini Maker Faire proved it had the potential to be a hugely popular community event for years to come. But beyond the undeniable gee-whiz factor of these gatherings, some asked, could the ideas in display actually spawn effective solutions to real-world problems?
I wish those people could have joined me at the San Francisco Bay Area and White House Maker Faires earlier this year. Either event would have made a believer out of the most hardened skeptic.
Aside from the communal sense of wonder, the most exciting quality of Maker Faires is to witness how the tools and thinking behind many of the projects found in them are rapidly evolving and being applied in fascinating new ways to improve lives and revolutionize industries.
In the Bay Area (host of the world’s largest Maker Faire with over 130,000 attendees and 1,100 makers), architects and engineers used 3D software Sketch Up and CNC mills to produce components that could be latched together to construct custom-made houses and otherworldly living spaces. I was also moved by the MakerNurse initiative, which tracks DIY health technologies created by hospital nurses around the country and shares them with the medical community at large.
Less than one month later, at the very first White House Maker Faire, it was surreal to see a 3D printed bust of President Obama among the many presidential busts lining the State Floor. I was particularly blown away by SolePower, a Pittsburgh-based startup that invented a shoe insole that charges portable electronics by walking, and OpenROV, a low-cost open source underwater robot that links users to a community of ocean explorers around the world.
In a proclamation declaring June 18 a National Day of Making, the President Obama called “upon all Americans to observe this day with programs, ceremonies and activities that encourage a new generation of makers and manufacturers to share their talents and hone their skills… This event celebrates every maker -- from students learning STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) skills to entrepreneurs launching new businesses to innovators powering the renaissance in American manufacturing." The President went on to announce a series of new initiatives led by 13 federal agencies and companies such as Etsy and Kickstarter to help makers launch new businesses and create jobs, expand the number of students that have the opportunity to become makers, and challenge makers to tackle the nations most pressing problems.
The President’s message was deeply gratifying because creating “programs, ceremonies and activities that encourage a new generation of makers and manufacturers” is what MIAMade is all about. Since our launch in 2013, MIAMade has been connecting local DIY innovators to the wider maker community. This year, with the support of the Knight Foundation, we launched the Miami Makers Initiative (“MMI”), a three-part series of events to bolster awareness, engagement and support for local makers in South Florida.
The MMI kicked off with our ten-week Wynwood Maker Camp, launched earlier this month at The LAB Miami to introduce local elementary and high school students to many of the same tools and projects showcased at Maker Faires and enhance their interest and confidence in pursuing careers in STEM fields.
Following the Camp, MIAMade will host the DesignLife Make-a-thon, which will invite local engineers, coders and industrial designers to develop prototypes for home & lifestyle products using various maker technologies such as 3D printers, micro-controllers and CNC machines.
Capping it all off, the 2nd annual Miami Mini Maker Faire will once again take over Wynwood on Nov. 8, 2014. This year we’re having a full-on street festival where Camp and Make-a-thon participants will join over 100 makers of all stripes (artists, engineers, entrepreneurs and educators) to show what they’ve made and share what they’ve learned to an expected audience of close to 4,000 attendees.
As if that weren’t enough to dispel doubts about the viability of the Maker Movement, AmeriCorps and the Maker Education Initiative have selected MIAMade to host the three-year Maker VISTA program, which assigns volunteers to help develop “maker hubs” in underserved areas. Starting this July, our VISTAs will make it easier for Miami’s inner city youth to have access to these same groundbreaking tools and programs the President got to tinker with at the White House.
I strongly encourage anyone who wishes to exhibit his or her DIY creations at the Miami Mini Maker Faire to complete our online application by Sept. 30 at http://www.makerfairemiami.com.
Ric Herrero is the co-founder of MIAMade. On twitter at @MIA_Made.
"Swamp Thing" robot, demonstrated at the Miami Mini Maker Faire in Wynwood on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013, is part of Children of the Swamp, which mentors more than 3,000 robotics teams globally.
Read previous Miami Herald stories about the maker movement in South Florida and the first Mini Maker Faire here.