We met Jeff Sturges at Maker Fair Detroit 2010, where he introduced us to Fab Lab and its impact with urban farming in Detroit.
Jeff came back for Maker Faire Detroit 2011 and left very inspired and motivated. In this guest blog post, Jeff shares his enthusiasm and shares ideas about how anyone can get involved in the wonderful world of DIY.
Maker Faire Detroit 2011 was truly a grand celebration of creative awesomeness! From the fire breathing Gon KiRin to the handmade Paper House Dolls, the grounds of the Henry Ford were covered with exhibitions and projects that were as incredible as they were ingenious. No matter what your passion, there was something exciting for everyone.
During the drive home after Maker Faire, my mind was abuzz with romantic visions of my own future projects. I envisioned many other wide-eyed makers and makers-to-be doing the same…dreaming of such silliness as robotic quadcopters equipped with mini-marshmallow shooters, or perhaps such seriousness as the next generation of alternative fuel automobile.
My musings simmered to concerns when I considered the dreams that might fade away before making it to reality…perhaps due to busy schedules, limited resources, lack of knowledge, or loss of drive. I also considered folks that may have been been bitten by the maker “bug” at the Faire, but left without an idea of how to connect with the local maker community. How does one get involved in the maker movement? How do we keep the Maker Force surging through our hands, hearts and minds long enough for our ideas to become real?
Doing It Yourself (DIY) vs. Doing It Together (DIT) – The power of community workshops and maker networks
There is a powerful energy created when groups ofenthusiastic people work together…either as a team on a single effort, or simply side-by-side focusing on their own projects. Joining or creating a community workshop where passionate people gather to share the space, tools, and knowledge of making concentrates energy and resources. This concentration often has an exponential effect on the speed, quality and enjoyability of making. Community workshops can and do exist on various scales and for various purposes. There are many examples to consider for either participation or startup.
The Neighborhood Garage
The most creative spaces are often found in garages, basements, and even kitchens. Why not simply open yours to a few like-minded friends in your area? Perhaps meet at one location or even rotating locations if projects are portable? Maybe one evening per week, or two weekend afternoons per month?
The Back Room in The Community Center
Know of an underutilized space in a community center, school, or place of worship? Consider examples such as the Mt Elliott Makerspace in Detroit and Parts and Crafts in Cambridge, MI. Both workshops launched and continue to operate in church basements, and both focus on youth learning through making.
A Hackerspace is a collective of creative innovators that may include designers and engineers as well as artists and musicians. While In the past, the term “hacker” applied to software programmers breaking into computer mainframes, nowadays the term is associated with anyone who is involved in hands-on experimentation with materials, tools, and technologies. Participation in a hackerspace normally involves paying monthly dues to support the costs of operation, and sharing responsibilities for maintenance and upkeep. Members often range in age from 18 to 88 years, and number from 10 to over 75 people. Examples of local Michigan hackerspaces include OmniCorpDetroit in Detroit, i3Detroit in Ferndale and All Hands Active in Ann
Community workshops also exist less in the form of collectives and more in the form of a professional workspaces. Examples include the upcoming Maker Works in Ann Arbor and TechShop in Allen Park. These workshops offer a wider range of advanced tools and resources that may not be available at a typical hackerspace.
Prefer to work solo but desire some sort of a connection to other makers? Check out the various online community resources offered through Make Magazine such as their forum, community directory, newsletter, maker maps, etc. Attend local meetups such as hackerspace Open Hack nights where it is possible to mingle with local makers more about projects, organizations, and events. See the hackerspace websites listed above for schedules and details.
Small is Big – Start with small projects, and break up big projects into mini-projects
One of my all time favorite lessons…
Q. How do you eat an elephant?
A. One bite at a time.
If you are a young maker or a maker-to-be (or a parent of either), I suggest developing skills and building confidence with small projects that are simple, quick, easy and cheap. Once the basics are mastered and the taste of success is palpable, it is easier to move on to more challenging and time-intensive projects. Examples might include LED throwies as found on Make: Projects, or Sock Puppets as found on Instructables. In addition, various kit-based projects are available such as the Drawdio sold via the MakerSHED or the MintyBoost sold by Adafruit Industries. For youth ages 6-12, HowToons brilliantly uses a comic format to present tutorials for simple projects that use common household materials.
If you are ready for an ambitious project, “eating the elephant one bite at a time” is key to keeping things manageable. Set up a schedule with specific times to work on projects, perhaps once per week for a few hours. Break up the project into smaller mini-projects, map out the associated tasks necessary to accomplish each mini-project, and plug these tasks into your schedule. Most importantly, maintain a positive mental attitude. Everything will take longer than expected, and problems and obstacles will arise. All of this you can and will overcome.
Over-Thinking leads to Under-Doing – Stop thinking and DO IT!
One of the most dreadful black holes for maker energy is over-thinking. Of course, careful planning is essential for the success of any project, but at a certain point one must stop planning and dive in. I have witnessed many people, including myself, plan and design a project to death. Trying to solve every problem and address every detail in the early stages leads to “paralysis by analysis.” Rarely are all problems solved on a sketchpad, and often you will uncover new problems in the process of making anyway, so you may as well get started! Once hand and mind begin working in beautiful harmony, brilliant solutions and new discoveries will present themselves.
Celebrate Progress – Join or create events where you can share your projects and ideas
An event need not be the colossal scale of the Detroit Maker Faire in order to generate the Maker Force. Attending, joining, or creating events that involve the display of projects provide occasions share your work, develop new ideas, and connect with other makers. Community groups, galleries and hackerspaces occasionally host events that include open calls for projects. Submit your work! Check out local newspapers such as the Detroit Metro Times for details on creative events such as the upcoming DIY Street Fair in Ferndale. Feeling particularly
ambitious? Consider starting a Mini Maker Faire in your city such as the Ann Arbor Mini Maker Faire.
Keep the Maker Force strong! See you and your projects at Maker Faire Detroit 2012!