Two weeks ago, the National Maker Faire covered the University of D.C.'s lawn with more than two hundred booths where twenty thousand children and families created a giant, chaotic Rube Goldberg machine, printed their own programmable robots and explored every science and tech museum exhibit you can imagine. The event was an outstanding kickoff for the National Week of Making, a celebration of the power of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) learning in inspiring enthusiasm in learning, both in and out of schools. The Maker movement marries digital technologies to our tangible world, in the best of cases connecting student innovation to physical need. At the University of Maryland, Amy Hurst and colleagues invented GripFab, a software system for using wet clay to mould writing device holders for users with muscular dystrophy, modeling the resulting models with 3D laser scanning, and then creating hard tools through 3D printing. In Spokane, Washington, BioThreads designs knitted hats for individuals with cochlear implants, which make standard, mass-produced hats difficult to wear and poor performing. Making can even have globally positive impact when digital sharing and 3D printing combine forces with deep community dives. Enablingthefuture.org shares 3D printed custom prosthetic designs with 3D printing locales around the world, connecting printers to real prosthetic need for children in hundreds of cities worldwide.
To celebrate socially positive making, we announced a new campaign at the National Maker Faire: Make for Humanity. Making has gone global, and with it the potential to trigger positive social impact through innovation and creation. Make for Humanity celebrates this potential to focus digital engineering on social good through three core ideas:
- Go Hyperlocal: Find a community nearby, and learn intimately about the culture, the successes and the challenges specific to a place and a people.
- Create Parnership: Make your hyperlocal community first-class partners in your effort to innovate for social good, so that you have a true peer relationship rather than a producer-consumer power disparity.
- Become Transparent: Use the social web to openly publish the story of your new relationships, the challenges you have discovered, and the solutions you are deploying. Inspire us all, worldwide, with your story of effective making.
A community Make for Humanity Facebook page invites all to tell their stories, as does Make4Humanity on twitter and the hashtag, #m4h. Making is a ground-up movement that meets the top-down desire for STEM and digital learning. If we bend the pathway of Making toward social good, this entire plan just might authentically improve the world.