This September 21st, the Adventure Science Center will be hosting the first annual Nashville Maker Faire. It’s a celebration of creativity and ingenuity that will feature the amazing, fun, and sometimes wild creations of area inventors and Makers. This free event is part of what is known as the Maker Movement, which many believe is one of the most important trends in the U.S. and around the world.
So what is the Maker Movement? To answer that, we first need to explore what a Maker is. This is something that is obvious to some of our most experienced neighbors. Many of them remember a time when, if you wanted something, you had to make it for yourself.
My grandfather was a man who worked for the same railroad his whole life and probably did nearly every job they had at some point in his long career. I remember once we were working on fixing a pump. We discovered that a metal part deep within the motor had been damaged. I exclaimed dejectedly that we would have to buy a new motor and he just laughed. He showed me how you could mill your own parts, sometimes with greater precision than the mass-manufactured parts made in far-away places. He was a Maker.
In the years since I learned that lesson, globalization meant more manufacturing was done overseas and most of my friends grew more and more used to buying cheap manufactured goods that broke easily and got discarded often. It just didn’t make economic sense to bother to make things here or to make them durable or fixable. Or did it?
Meanwhile, product design was largely done at large multinational corporations whose greatest concern was ensuring that costs were kept low and profits were high. While a few of these companies showed occasional bursts of inspired design, few had a strong long-term track record of creativity.
Against that backdrop, the entrepreneurial spirit and creativity of individual Makers has been gaining strength in this country. Just as the computer industry saw its beginnings in the garages of its founders, modern product design is being powerfully influenced by thousands of Makers, working alone or in groups, without the resources of large corporations. Just as the machines created by the industrial revolution once allowed men like my grandfather to make their own parts, modern rapid prototyping devices have gotten cheaper, allowing even students to create amazing things for very little cost. The number one resource that Americans have in abundance, creativity, can once again be unleashed to create a new wave of prosperity. Things such as 3-D printing, computer-controlled milling machines and lathes, laser cutters, and inexpensive plastics molding are creating what some are calling a manufacturing revolution in which products can be designed, created, and delivered locally. That is the Maker Movement, and it will change the world as we know it.
You can find out more about the event and how to participate or become a sponsor by visiting http://www.nashvillemakerfaire.com. To learn more about how to support the Maker Movement, visit http://www.makenashville.com. To learn more about the ASC, visit http://www.adventuresci.org.