April 2008
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the Maker Movement

I’ve been ruminating on the subject of personal liberation/gratification/independence that comes as a result of the do-it-yourself attitude. With sites such as Instructables, magazines like MAKE, radical changes in class structure occurring at major universities and development in the third (rural) world, together with the ready availability of raw materials, all a person really needs to join in the hobby fun is a) the knowledge and b) the machines, oh and a healthy dose of time and commitment. But, because enthusiasm and creativity hinge on the network effect (the lone inventor is a myth), what’s really needed is a local Maker Shop/Hobby Shop/Fab Lab in which you can get everyone together.

Once you have such a gathering, how then do you generate a self-sustaining profit?

  1. Provide education.
  2. Provide a community-oriented repair/manufacture shop for one-off and custom items.
  3. Host an online service for the fabrication of hobbiest stuff (custom pcb etching, machine mech parts, etc..)

Here, I’m going to address the Education aspect, because I think they’d be the easiest to convince as investors (esp. considering the proven success of Gershenfeld’s class). Besides, vocational training is an area in which the American Educational system is very weak.

    Argument from Education:

  • student must provide a short document sketching:
    • the general idea/product
    • step-by-step plan for construction
    • the list of materials/equipment
    • estimated amount of time needed and will be graded on the accuracy of said documents
      ( why this is a good thing: http://www.joelonsoftware.com/items/2007/10/26.html )
  • student will build/construct/implement above project
  • student will document the process and revise original documents accordingly
    (ex: note material substitutions and any schedule/procedure changes that occurred)
  • student will produce a final document that contains:
    • actual list of materials used
    • actual procedure followed, with commentary about why (some results, and time spent on each step)
      (ex: we found that hard drive magnet were really difficult to remove from their backing because they were so brittle. In our experience, it was best to put one end of the backing in a vice, and bend the magnet assembly using a sturdy wrench. This causes the magnet to pop off into a cloth waiting to catch it. Only about 1 out of every 5 magnets broke using this method. <photo of magnet mounted in vice with cloth catch> )
    • other people should be able to follow the final document and reproduce the work (further examples of this kind of documentation can be seen on the instructables website)
    • most of the grade should center around the completeness of the final work, rather than the inaccuracy of initial docs some of the discrepancies will even be good: improv use of new methods based of materials available at the time
  • there should also be a grading system for when student chooses to build something that another student had done, or something that the found instructions for online
  • should probably also make it a policy that a mini training course needs to be completed for each machine (lathe, mill, cutter, …). The course can consist of a set of small projects that demonstrate how each part of the machine works ( should be completeable in less than a day (full day max) )

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