Fab@Home had an instant impact and was honored with a 2007
Breakthrough Award from Popular Mechanics.
In the same way that the personalization of computers
gave individuals tools previously available only to large
corporations or government entities, the proliferation of cheap
3-D printers and laser cutters is leading to a revolution in what
people can make and where they can make it. Add to this
the development of relatively cheap Arduino motherboards,
Raspberry Pi mini-computers and inexpensive vinyl cutters,
and people can now design and build things unthinkable even
ten years ago.
In some ways, the Maker Movement was already
in full swing at Cornell Engineering long before
the movement had a name. There is a deep
tradition of student project teams at
Cornell doing whatever it takes
to make their planes, subs,
CORNELL’S MAKER CULTURE IS PROVIDING THE SPACE AND
TOOLS TO TURN IMAGINATION INTO REALIT Y
ne way to know that something has grown beyond
being a niche community and has entered fully
into the cultural mainstream of American life is
it will have its own reality television show. Using
this metric, it is safe to say the Maker Movement
has gone mainstream. You can now watch not just one, but
two reality television shows featuring makers. Season one of
America’s Greatest Makers ended recently and season two is
already casting. The Science Channel is currently casting its
second season of All-American Makers.
There is no set definition of the Maker Movement, but it is
generally agreed that makers are people who like to tinker with
existing devices and create new ones, often using electronics,
robotics and 3-D printing. From 3-D printed prosthetics for
injured dogs to internet-enabled home appliances controlled
through laptops or smartphones, the Maker Movement is
providing an outlet for all sorts of creativity.
Need more evidence that the Maker Movement has hit
the big time? The White House hosted a Maker Faire in 2014,
declared a National Week of Making in 2015, and there is now a
Senior Advisor for Making in the White House Office of Science
and Technology Policy.
Closer to home, once you start looking for evidence of
a maker culture here at Cornell and in the broader Ithaca
community, you see it everywhere. From the Ithaca Generator
Makerspace downtown to the Cornell Maker Club in Phillips
Hall, people are exploring technology and learning how to take
their ideas and turn them into actual physical creations.
In the maker world there is a strong focus on learning and
using practical foundational skills in the fields of electronics,
robotics, 3-D printing, coding, and even metalworking and
woodworking. There is also an ethos of sharing skills and
innovations freely. It should come as no surprise that one
of the key early steps in getting the maker movement some
momentum was the introduction in 2006 of the Fab@Home
project at Cornell Engineering. Hod Lipson, who was then a
professor in the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace
Engineering, along with one of his students, Evan Malone
Ph.D. ‘08 MAE, developed a low-cost, open-source
3-D printer that let users print with many
materials. All of the plans and software
for the printer were available for free.
Universities and other technology enthusiasts
around the world quickly climbed on board.
By Chris Dawson