Thank the makers

Science, Technology

Helping my child transform a solid block of wood into a race car for this past weekend’s Cub Scout pinewood derby, one thing became clear about the time I split the chassis in two while mounting the axle:

I am not a maker.

I’m not disowning my child — I did make him. It’s more accurate to say I’m not handy. My creativity stops short of the physical realm. I’m just not a part of the maker movement.

Not familiar with the maker movement? Think of all the DIY geeks out there building their own PCs, then take it a step forward and mix in elements of traditional crafting and wild invention. The maker movement is represented online by Make magazine and the Maker Faire, by the online craft marketplace Etsy and the workshop website Instructables. It’s about Schuyler St. Leger, the Arizona boy who became a YouTube sensation (in a positive way) when his presentation “Why I LOVE My 3D Printer” from February’s Ignite Phoenix event went viral:

The maker movement is about  “do it yourself” — but also “do it with others.” And it all comes together in local “hackerspaces,” where such tinkerers gather to share tools and tips.

HeatSync machining class
A machining class at HeatSync Labs (via the group's Flickr)

The East Valley is home to one of the best examples of this concept in the nation: HeatSync Labs boasts 3-D printing, laser cutting, robotics and many other geeky projects. It’s outgrowing its home at the Gangplank co-op workspace in Chandler and is looking for new digs — and the prospect that the nonprofit could choose Mesa has dominated one of that city’s recent initiatives. The iMesa program lets residents propose and vote on ideas for innovation. Funding a tech incubator — specifically HeatSync — is leading the polls.

I may not be able to master the wheel, but even I can see what a treasure we have in our own backyard.

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