3 August 2011
(Odometer: 2,547 miles)
DEARBORN, Mich.–So often we bemoan how few kids are entering engineering and other technical disciplines in college. Yet so often we hear from engineers who were inspired to get into engineering because, at very young ages, they made something.
At this confluence of two forces sits the growing maker/hacker cult and Maker Faire, a cross between the Renaissance Faire and (something that doesn’t quite approach) the Consumer Electronics Show.
Thousands of people show up to Maker Faires to watch, play and build things, some technological, others simple and mechanical (learn to pick a lock, for instance).
“We are born makers. We have this ability to make things, to grasp things with our hands,” said Maker Faire founder Dale Dougherty in a TED Talk earlier this year.
To engage and make things tells us about the world around us, tells us about ourselves, he added.
It seems this resurgence in gatherings to make things (whether it’s something like Maker Faire or the countless make/hack gatherings in garages around the country) has its roots in the rapid evolution of technology. Tools (3-D printers, consumer-grade Arduino boards) are now available to average people, to kids even.
This makes technology so much more accessible and so much less mysterious and frightening. It opens up a new world in which most of the future innovation will be crowd sourced.
Despite this surge of maker enthusiasm, Maker Faire, owned by O’Reilly Media, is not backing up the Brinks truck to the bank by any stretch. Commercialism is minimal; most of those participating are volunteers and ticket prices take family numbers into consideration. The Maker Faire staff is lean and mean. Yet they’ve caught the moment. The vibe is tremendous.
“This is bigger than all of us,” says Maker in Chief Sherry Huss.
We dropped in on Maker Faire Detroit on July 30 to get caught up with Huss and find out the answer to a fundamental question: We understand why Maker Faire is in the Bay Area and New York, but why Detroit?