OpenFab At The White House Maker Faire

June 30, 2014

OpenFab At The White House Maker Faire

I recently had the honor of attending the first ever White House Maker Faire! Here’s the story I was there to tell:

David Perry, a mechanical engineer living in Oregon, chose 2014 as the year to start his own business–thanks to easy access to affordable health care. David’s new venture, OpenFab PDX, strives to empower individuals with affordable “making” services, as well as to inspire existing makers and businesses with the advantages of 3D printing and open source projects. To demonstrate these advantages, David created the F-F-Fiddle, an open source electric violin made with FFF style 3D printers. With 3D printing on the rise, David has found himself as an able advocate for the technology, and helps to bring 3D printing and digital fabrication into new environments like libraries, small businesses, and children’s events.

They nailed it! The F-F-Fiddle is the perfect project to engage people around digital design, 3D printing, and making your ideas into real things, and I’m thrilled to have the project and OpenFab’s message recognized at such a high level. It was an amazing experience to listen to President Obama deliver his address at the Maker Faire, and I want to highlight a few parts of his speech. If you haven’t yet, take the time to watch the speech, it’s fantastic.

I found the President’s words both motivational and incredibly validating. President Obama starts by acknowledging the new tools and technologies (digital tools) that make it easier to get things made:

And the good news is, is that new tools and technologies are making the building of things easier than ever.  There is a democratization of manufacturing that is potentially available because of technology.  Across our country, ordinary Americans are inventing incredible things, and then they’re able to bring them to these fairs like Makers Faires.  And you never know where this kind of enthusiasm and creativity and innovation could lead.

Making things is fun! By encouraging people to play with technology, and to play by making, we’re opening the gates to innovation. More than democratizing manufacturing, we’re democratizing innovation. We all have different experiences, different passions, and different hobbies, and that makes each of us uniquely equipped to have our own great ideas.

There are kids out there, there are adults out there right now who have a great idea.  And they don’t have access to the capital they need.  They don’t have the tools they need to put together a prototype.  They don’t know how to link up with folks who could help refine those ideas.  And what the Maker movement does, what technology does, what the information revolution does is it allows all those folks to suddenly be a part of this creative process.

This is my favorite part, because I am one of those “folks who [can] help refine those ideas.” Thanks, Mr. President! I’m thrilled to be a part of a worldwide movement dedicated to empowering people to make things. Perhaps the most important effects of Making can be felt in education. The President breaks it down:

…what’s happening is, is that the young people now are able to learn by doing.  So math, science all gets incorporated into the task of actually making something, which the students tell me makes the subject matter that much more interesting.

Making things is crucially important for the future of our country, our education, and our culture. The President emphasizes in his speech how important it is for everyone to be empowered to make their ideas into real things. The process of making things, of making your ideas real, leads to innovation, it leads to creative expression, and it’s a heck of a lot of fun!

It’s time for all of us to take action. Whether that means beginning to prototype that idea you’ve been thinking about for years, implementing new programming at your school or community center, or preparing your product for mass-manufacturing — take that next step. Not sure what the step is, or how to do it? Don’t worry, just get in touch and together we’ll get it made!

I want to leave you with this last excerpt from the President’s speech, as he quotes the teenage founders of Beatty robotics:

…the Beattys say one of the main things they’ve learned over the last few years isn’t about power tools or engineering or electronics.  What they’ve learned is that, “If you can imagine it, then you can do it — whatever it is.”  And that’s a pretty good motto for America.



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