My Maker Moment

Yesterday, Phil Shapiro shared two of what he calls Maker Moments in his life.

People who are makers are sometimes blessed with a moment in their lives that gives them great pride in being a maker.

His first moment was during the early nineties, when he got into a classroom with slightly retarded kids glued to the computer screen, playing his puzzle game.

When the bell rang at the end of class, the students refused to leave the computer lab, even though another class was waiting to come into the computer lab. They wanted to play “just one more puzzle.”

The second moment he shares is when someone  emails him out of the blue to tell that:

“Our school in India loves your children’s storiesand we’ve printed them all out in braille.” […]

I tried visualizing these students passing their fingers over the braille pages, reading stories I had written. Half a world away, students whom I’ll never meet were enjoying stories I conjured up in my mind. That realization gave me great joy and pride of craftsmanship.

Phil’s stories triggered  some memories of my own. I wouldn’t coin myself a maker (yet), but I am a creator, so I know the feeling he refers to. My most recent experience with creating something special for others was when I organized the event Make Stuff that Matters together with my husband last June.

We invited friends, colleagues, clients and family to our home to introduce them to all the cool tools that can create almost anything and inspire them to become makers. We hosted over 40 people during that day and since most of them had only read about 3D-printers and laser cutters, but never used one, we designed a process to get them from non-makers to makers within one day. It’s what we hoped to achieve, but we’d never done this before, so we felt very nervous whether we could pull it off.

My Maker Moment was around 4:30PM that day.

The build up to my moment starts just after lunch.

We arranged for five 3D-printers and a mobile FabLab to give people ample opportunity to actually make something themselves. During the morning we took time for people to get to know each other and create persona’s in small groups that they could design things for. It was only after lunch that we were finally ready to start using the cool tools.

We hooked up Doodle 3D to all the printers as a easy starting point for people to create their first objects. Doodle 3D is a very easy to use interface to draw something and send it to the 3D-printer. It resembles drawing on paper and works particularly good on tablets. The software allows you to determine the height and rotation of your drawing, which results in a printed object that can stand on its own.

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‘Harry’ needed love, so someone Doodled a heart for him.

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Typical Doodle 3D objects.

It only took about an hour after the group first started making things, when the first participants asked me about the software they could use to create proper 3D-models. A little while after that, the first person showed up with a SD-card and asked me how to print the file. Of course they didn’t know about using Cura to translate the 3D-model into a printable object, so I showed them where to download the software and how to load and save the model for printing.

More and more people were tackling more complex things within hours of their first sketches. The knowledge what software to use, and which files to export to for printing, spread through the group rapidly and one by one, the Doodle 3D’s needed to be removed from the printers so people could print proper 3D-models.

It was around 4:30PM, having spent most afternoon explaining how to use the software, the 3D-printer, fixing design issues and solving printer issues, that I stood still for a moment in the middle of my home and looked around. Everywhere around me I saw people buried in their screen, fixing details on their designs, either on their own or in pairs. People were printing cool things, and handling the machines without even asking for my help. People were smiling. People were chatting. Adults were proudly showing what they created, as if they wanted to share their delight with their teacher.

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I stood there for a moment, looking at my friends, colleagues, family members, new friends (there are always wonderful people showing up whom I’ve never met before, but are in our online circles). We actually got them from non-makers to makers within a day and that was the moment that I realized our plan worked. It brought tears to my eyes then, and it brings tears to my eyes now.

My best Maker Moment so far.

What is yours?

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