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Makerspace Organizers at the White House

 

Editor's Note: In light of the recently release report, "Making It Here: The Future of Manufacturing in New York City", we consider it worth offering news of national  events that directly pertain to high tech manufacturing in New York City.

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By Marc Levin, Collab

WASHINGTON, DC., August 31, 2016 

The White House convened the 3rd annual Nation of Makers on August 24. The founders of more than 180 Makerspaces nationwide gathered to pursue President Obama’s agenda of creating a unified structure, governance, strategic vision, core team, and long-term sustainability platform for the modern innovation economy.  

The President recognizes the Maker Movement’s ability to harness and share the future of innovation, creating 21st Century education and employment opportunities.  The Administration has gone so far as to make "making" a priority, creating a position for Andrew Coy as Senior Advisor for Making in the Executive Office of the President.  

The event consisted of a day of inspiring talks, meetings and discussions with members of the administration, such as Megan Smith, U.S. Chief Technology Officer White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Mark Walsh, Head of Investment and Innovation U.S. Small Business Administration, and  Tom Kalil, Deputy Director White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

The Maker Movement is a force for innovation, creation, and economic growth, which “encourages everyone,” as Dale Dougherty, CEO of Maker Media wrote, “to see themselves as producers, not just consumers.” The advent of remarkable technologies such as laser cutters, 3D Printers and desktop CNC routers has allowed ordinary people to devise extraordinary products, given rise to successful new businesses such as Makerbot and littleBits.  As Adina Levin, co-founder of Collab in New York City said, “makerspaces democratize new technologies and create opportunities for individuals to create, innovate, collaborate and drive social and economic change.”   

Recognizing the value the maker movement plays in U. S. economic growth, President Obama earlier this year signed a proclamation declaring the week of June 17 to June 23rd as an annual National Week of Making.  The administration has further embraced the Maker Movement by hosting a White House Maker Faire and creating the Nation of Makers initiative with Make Magazine.  

In the United States, there are more than 400 sites for making and hacking with the majority of the spaces launching in the last 8 years in response to the economic collapse of 2008.  Makerspaces are giving people across the country the ability to join forces, create communities, and access tools, equipment, resources, brainpower and space.  

Makerspaces are sometimes confused with coworking spaces and shared offices, which claim the front pages of our news, and are celebrated as “workspaces, community and services for a global network of creators.” Further investigation of coworking spaces, however, reveals the opposite.  Coworking spaces have morphed into newer versions of executive suites, dominated by a new class of corporate conglomerates that have raised hundreds of millions of dollars, promising collaboration and innovation, but in reality, offering small desk spaces, beer and ping pong to Millennials.   

Makerspaces are different.  The Maker Movement is an ecosystem created by innovators, dreamers, hackers and makers.  Makerspaces connect individuals to tools, machinery, space and talent regardless of socioeconomic factors.  As Barbara Kerr, Professor at the University of Kansas, recently wrote , “as human animals, for most of our existence, we worked four to six hours a day for food and shelter, and spent the rest of our time storytelling, playing or gaming, making love – and making things.  Makers seem to be people who are just insisting on the freedom to be humans – the naturally inquisitive, sociable, active, and adaptable primates that we are.”  

Makerspaces lay the foundation for freedom of human expression and entrepreneurship.  Which is why The White House has taken notice.  And the reason the rest of the country is starting to take notice too.

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