Why Make?

My work with Makerbots (which I've done the majority of blogging over at 3D Printing @ UMW) this semester has been a catalyst for an approach to the liberal arts that in some ways I think is still being defined. The ideals of a Maker Culture have begun to infiltrate what we do at UMW and I've begun working with the director of our library, Rosemary Arneson, to build out a space that will house Makerbots, Robotics equipment, and even sewing machines! But what place do these things have in a traditional liberal arts education? What value and use do they have for education as a whole? I get asked that a lot and it's a stump speech I'm still processing, but it's something I believe in so it's worth refining. Today I saw Adam Savage's talk from earlier this week at Maker Faire. The Bay Area Maker Faire hosted over 50,000 people who came to show off and experience the best of a subculture of people with the idea instilled in them that "I can make that, and probably make it better." 50,000 people. Adam Savage, best known for his work on Myth Busters, spoke to the group and so much resonates with the values I'm attempting to bring to our small school here at UMW that the whole video is worth a watch. But there was a certain section (quoted below) that resonated with me in a way that fully gets at where I find myself with all this.

Obama has made it a key part of his administration's goal to push forward the STEM initiative, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Jamie and I have been honored and lucky enough that he has tapped us to help him spread this message and we are helping him in every way that we can. But there's a movement afoot. First of all STEM, it's just a terrible name. It doesn't give anything, it's not sexy! There's a movement afoot to add one letter to STEM and make it STEAM. That letter is A and it stands for Art. Science, Technology, Engineering, ART, and Mathematics. Art is where it begins! It's the original mover.

There are few school systems today that don't have their eyes on STEM initiatives and it's a topic that comes up often with the Makerbots given it's pretext of being fairly engineering focused. But for me it's this idea that Art can play a role in this that is so beautiful. As a former art student in my college years it's this intersection between Art and Technology that came to full focus for me during Faculty Academy this year. By giving students the tools to make things and the freedom to build, instilling in them the idea that nothing is beyond their reach and this iterative process of try, fail, try again, get better, share, we create lifelong learners whose actions have the ability to push back against a culture of consumerism and proudly declare "I can make that."