The next few columns will be a bit of a departure from computers specifically, but they will still be about the application of computer technology.
Years ago, every high school had shop classes. I remember St Lawrence High School having metal working, woodworking, automotive, drafting and a print shop. There was a wide variety of hands-on learning available to the students. Not only did you learn, you learned to create and innovate. High school shop classes provided vocational training for those who were interested in pursuing a trade upon graduation. Talents were discovered and skills were acquired via shop classes.
Having spoken with many shop teachers over the past few years, it appears that a lot of high schools reduced or eliminated their shop programs. But people still wanted to create and innovate; where could they get the tools and training, outside of going to college?
Make Magazine, a publication dedicated to builders, inventors and tinkerers, helped coordinate the Maker movement. In 2006, the first Maker Faire was held. Now, Maker Faires are held all over the world. But what is this Maker movement all about and why is it important? The Maker movement is about encouraging people to use various technologies to invent and innovate, to manufacture and produce thingsthat have some value – be it artistic, practical or some combination of both. It is important because the skills acquired and talents discovered can be a direct benefit to the local economy. I have noted that at least 100 companies in the Cornwall area could benefit from what is learned or produced at a MakerSpace.
A MakerSpace is a physical place where a wide range of equipment is made available to the Makers so that they have the tools to design, develop and create. A MakerSpace will typically have metal and woodworking tools, sewing machines, glue guns, soldering stations, electronic testing devices, CNC equipment, 3D printers, laser cutters/engravers, 3D scanners, computer systems and software. It is an updated version of a very well equipped shop class. I have had the pleasure of being heavily involved with the planning and implementation of a MakerSpace at the Ottawa Public Library. People, young and old and everywhere in between use the Ottawa Public Library`s MakerSpace to create some truly interesting items. Parts for automotive restoration, artwork, prototypes of inventions, electronic devices, and all sorts of things have been produced at their MakerSpace.
MakerSpaces have been forming all over the USA and Canada. Some are in libraries, some are in schools. Others are privately owned and operated. The list of equipment and capabilities will vary; some may cater to the more traditional manufacturing interests (metal, wood and fabric) while others may be more electronics and computer oriented.
Some people believe that the Maker movement may help stimulate the economy and bring manufacturing jobs back to Canada. If nothing else, MakerSpaces can serve in the same role as shop classes did years ago – a place to learn how to conceptualize, create and innovate. And that is worth a lot on its own.
Next week: 3D printing.