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While at the CSUN conference in March, I attended many great sessions about a wide range of topics, which I’ll be posting about in the future.

The first of these I’d like to talk about was regarding the Maker Movement, which I had sort of heard about but hadn’t really given much thought in the past. Obviously, that’s where people make stuff, simple things like arts and crafts…case solved! Elementary my dear Watson.

Boy was I wrong.

The Maker Movement

The Maker Movement is a global phenomenon, which encompasses both physical and virtual spaces in all industries and sectors of life, including all things that can be invented using available resources from physical devices to open source virtual platforms for software related inventions; sometimes combining the two as seen with robot and bionic technologies.

“The maker movement, as we know, is the umbrella term for independent inventors, designers and tinkerers. A convergence of computer hackers and traditional artisans, the niche is established enough to have its own magazine, Make, as well as hands-on Maker Faires that are catnip for DIYers who used to toil in solitude. Makers tap into an American admiration for self-reliance and combine that with open-source learning, contemporary design and powerful personal technology like 3-D printers. The creations, born in cluttered local workshops and bedroom offices, stir the imaginations of consumers numbed by generic, mass-produced, made-in–China merchandise.”
(Adweek’s definition: Why the Maker Movement Is Important to America’s Future | TIME1)

The amazing part about the Maker Movement is that it is solely powered by the collaboration of individuals, and not by a corporation. This means that people are not constrained to gear invention into a particular field or for the gains of a particular company. Individuals can literally invent whatever they wish; the goal being, to solve real world problems through the creative process by taking advantage of Maker Spaces for this purpose.

I’ve done quite a bit of reading about this since my imagination was fired at the conference, and it appears to be picking up steam as a global force for change, not just for individuals but also for governmental policy creation.

In a recent survey from the Royal Society of Arts, it was determined that “three-quarters of the citizens of the UK and other advanced economies feel they are not meeting their creative potential”, and that “the vast majority say they are unable to generate change, solve problems and turn their ideas into reality”.

The article then continues:

Government: A failed model of change: “The result is a world in which people listen to and care less about what the old elites tell them to do. The world has become much more complex as established institutions, norms and lifestyles fragment – making it far harder for anyone in authority to have a clear and straightforward impact.”

“Which brings us back to creativity. If hierarchical, centralized and elite power no longer works then there only seems to be one logical alternative if we are to meet our biggest challenges: to release the creative potential of as many people as possible to find and deliver solutions.”
(Politics can’t be improved until we give people the ‘Power to Create’ – RSA2)

So, part of this process is to introduce Maker Movement principles and Maker Space resources within the scholastic environment, to instill the desire to create within young minds.

In some schools, such as San Diego’s High Tech High, this has already started.

“With compact disc chandeliers, a piano whose glass exterior reveals how it works, birds and whales and geometric shapes soaring overhead, a ring of bicycle wheels the size of a clock tower spinning constantly through an intricate pulley system, and dozens of other mechanisms, paintings, sculptures and projects ornamenting every hall and classroom, High Tech High looks something like a cross between a science center and a museum of modern art, where the only thing more jaw-dropping than what’s on display is the fact that all of it is created by kids in grades K-12.”
(Maker Movement Reinvents Education, Newsweek3)

So what does this have to do with accessibility?

As it turns out, quite a lot. The ability to invent means that it is possible to create innovative solutions to common problems, many of which are accessibility related.

For example, the following is from an article written last year regarding the versatility of the Maker Movement:

“I talk about 3d printing a lot. You know, Robohand, Project Daniel, babies with new tracheas, men with new faces, and more. But those are the exceptional examples that make the news. There are so many ways in which 3D printing is helping in more mundane ways. I had a shoulder and wrist injury and was having trouble opening jars. I found I could 3D print a jar lid gripper. Engineering students and physical therapy students at University of Detroit Mercy collaborated on designing better spoons (which they 3D printed). People are using 3D printing to repair broken equipment, make equipment clips to hold wires out of the road, practical things like that. Healthcare students have been using 3d printing to modify or adapt their stethoscopes. There are so many possibilities. It doesn’t have to be earth shattering to be a useful skill.”
(maker movement | Emerging Technologies Librarian4)

The ability to create custom prosthetic devices is a huge leap forward, not just for the ability to do so in general, but also as fashion accessories. For example, this is what happened when an industrial designer/ex-Apple employee and a 3D printing guru get together to make artificial limbs.
(Artificial Limbs That Look 100% Badass — And These Are Just The Beginning5)

And this from a recent article regarding the invention of bionic technologies:

“After coming across the 3D-printed, Arduino-based robot InMoov, Huchet and a team of enthusiasts from LabFab integrated a set of muscle sensors into a prosthetic prototype, which was then placed onto his arm. The artificial limb itself was extruded from a 3D printer, while equipped with actuators to move the fingers and joints, fishing line to connect the actuators to the joints, muscle sensors and a socket, batteries and of course, an Arduino Uno (ATmega328) brain. With a little coding of the Arduino, Huchet was easily able to control the robotic hand merely through muscle impulses. The electricity produced is sent to an electronic card, which drives the motors. These motors open and close the hand, following the muscular contraction. More impressively, the entire thing was built for less than $250 — much cheaper than any commercial product on the market which can run upwards of $80,000.”
(Maker builds a 3D-printed bionic arm for under $250 | Bits & Pieces from the Embedded Design World6)

One of the areas where I see a huge possibility for the combining of cheap computing technologies with accessibility, is future development in Raspberry Pi computers.

“The Raspberry Pi is a credit-card sized computer that plugs into your TV and a keyboard. It is a capable little computer which can be used in electronics projects, and for many of the things that your desktop PC does, like spreadsheets, word-processing and games. It also plays high-definition video. We want to see it being used by kids all over the world to learn programming.”
(FAQs | Raspberry Pi7)

A Raspberry Pi computer typically costs between $40 and $50, and can be plugged into a TV as the monitor.

So if it were possible to install the new free Windows10 OS8 after it’s released, then install the free NVDA screen reader for the blind9 as well, it would then be possible to provide affordable and accessibility enhanced computing technologies for hundreds of millions of disabled users within under-developed countries around the world.

This last is a hope and not a fact as yet, but with the support of Microsoft to make it happen, it’s a definite possibility.

So to conclude…

The Maker Movement is a driving force that I think will eventually reach all levels of society, both directly in the form of Maker Spaces and open source platforms for development, and indirectly as products and services that are made available to consumers by inventive Makers.

I think this too will eventually reach the governance level for policy makers, since it represents a self-powered resource for inventive creativity that can be used to supplement future technologies at affordable costs.

References:

  1. Why the Maker Movement Is Important to America’s Future | Time – http://time.com/104210/maker-faire-maker-movement/
  2. Politics Can’t be Improved Until We Give People the ‘Power to Create’ | RSA – https://www.thersa.org/discover/publications-and-articles/rsa-blogs/2015/02/politics-cant-be-improved-until-we-give-people-the-power-to-create/
  3. Maker Movement Reinvents Education | Newsweek – http://www.newsweek.com/2014/09/19/maker-movement-reinvents-education-268739.html
  4. Maker Movement | Emerging Technologies Librarian – https://etechlib.wordpress.com/tag/maker-movement/
  5. Artificial Limbs That Look 100% Badass — And These Are Just The Beginning | Upworthy – http://www.upworthy.com/artificial-limbs-that-look-100-badass-and-these-are-just-the-beginning-2?g=2
  6. Maker builds a 3D-printed bionic arm for under $250 | Bits & Pieces from the Embedded Design World – http://blog.atmel.com/2015/01/22/maker-builds-a-3d-printed-bionic-arm-for-under-250/
  7. FAQs | Raspberry Pi – https://www.raspberrypi.org/help/faqs/
  8. Microsoft Windows on Devices | Raspberry Pi 2 – https://dev.windows.com/en-us/featured/raspberrypi2support
  9. NV Access, Home of the Free NVDA Screen Reader – http://www.nvaccess.org/