Making Waves

Way back in 2006, Maker Faire was conceived of as a chance for the growing community of makers involved with MAKE Magazine to get together.  That first Faire in San Mateo drew 22,000 people. Five years later in 2011, “flagship” Maker Faires occured in New York and Detroit as well as in the San Francisco Bay Area, and all together 175,000 people participated.

That’s a whole lot of people!  But add in Mini Maker Faires—community-based,  independently-organized, smaller scale celebrations of do-it-yourself and do-it-together creativity that are popping up around the globe— and by our estimates, the Maker Faire population will just about double by the end of 2012, and likely will eclipse “maxi” Faires in attendance by 2013.

Maker Faire is not the only place to witness the momentum of the Maker Movement.  TechShop was pitched at Maker Faire 2006, and now has four locations around the U.S., and is working on four more. built enough following and momentum to be acquired this year by Autodesk. Check out Radio Shack coming back to its roots with campaigns featuring Maker Faire stalwarts like Meredith Scheff on a new website,  Big companies are wanting in the mix—a strong indicator of critical mass.

Mainstream media attention is another bellwether.  One of the best of many excellent pieces this year was Miles O’Brien’s 10 minute feature for PBS’ News Hour on making as a remedy for the U.S.’s decline in math and science achievement.  “Maker Faire:  Mad Science for the Masses” came out after World Maker Faire New York in the Christian Science Monitor.  Or hoMakerFaireGrowth.SM copyw about the fact that now has a column called “The Makers,” written by Kitsap Mini Maker Faire producer and journalist TJ McCue!

The White House has increasingly also been in the Maker Faire mix, with high-ups like Tom Kalil (Deputy Director for Policy for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy) hosting gatherings of educators at Maker Faire.  And Dale Dougherty, the founder of MAKE Magazine and Maker Faire was honored by the White House in October as a “Champion of Change.”

Most importantly, though, maker community is growing.  More conversations are happening and more connections being made.  Just one example of what happens:  two years ago, two teachers from Louisville, KY came out to Maker Faire Bay Area.   They saw what was going on and became determined to set up a hackerspace in Louisville.    Last year, LVLone was born.   This year, at Maker Faire Detroit, a group of makers (ages 17-24) who met at LVLone were showing their project to build a helium balloon to make a trans-Atlantic crossing, which has not been done successfully.   Full circle!

Maker Faire seems to be filling a very big hole in our cultural fabric, satisfying a strong desire to celebrate creativity and innovation in our communities.  We’re a movement of enthusiasts, of fun-seeking and fun-making people, who bring passion to what they do and inspiration to those looking on.  We can’t wait to see what happens in 2012.