News Release 14-077
National Science Foundation celebrates do-it-yourself engineers, tinkerers and inventors everywhere
On National Day of Making, NSF emphasizes continued support for grassroots innovators and STEM educators, commonly known as "makers"
June 18, 2014
This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.
Today the first White House Maker Faire highlights youth, entrepreneurs and others across the country who use scientific, technological, engineering and mathematical (STEM) skills to empower themselves by designing and making just about anything. Many of the organizations and technologies featured at the faire are supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF).
Part of the tech explosion in recent years, the "maker movement," an independent-minded community of people who create do-it-yourself tech solutions, has grown nationwide to spur new educational approaches, manufacturing innovation, and economic development. Making is a broad term that includes interests as diverse as 3-D printing, customized robotics, remixing electronics and expressions of STEM and art, so long as it is grounded in open access to tools and expertise. Makers often work in makerspaces and hold maker events to share what they've created and learned.
NSF joins other federal agencies, companies, academic institutions, nonprofits and communities nationwide in an effort to provide students and entrepreneurs access to tools, spaces and mentors to participate in making and to study the impact of making on learning.
A legacy of innovation
In coming months, NSF will release a list that highlights funding opportunities from across the agency that support the best and brightest making ideas. Within the next year, NSF will convene a makers summit, inviting key members of the making community to explore broadening participation in making, among other topics.
The can-do attitude of makers and their focus on creative and inventive solutions aligns closely with NSF's core mission.
"NSF invests in frontier, outside-the-box fundamental science and engineering ideas. But more precisely, NSF invests in people with outside-the-box thinking," said NSF Director France Córdova. "Makers put innovative thinking into practice as they design and test their ideas."
The White House is also offering the event as an opportunity for people to voice their support. NSF joins other federal agencies, private partners and hundreds of academic institutions in its support for the new generation of creative, tech-enabled thinkers.
"NSF applauds the commitment shown by the multitude of colleges and universities that have joined together to support the nation of makers," Córdova said.
"As members of the science and engineering community, we want to support and encourage the making grassroots efforts," added Dan Arvizu, chairman of the National Science Board. "Makers are innovators who build on great science and engineering to make things useful in everyday life."
Are you a maker? Participate in the National Day of Making. Tweet a photo or video of your creation using the hashtag #NationofMakers and follow the action live at WhiteHouse.gov/MakerFaire. Makers with 3-D printers: Instructions for printing a 3-D model of the NSF logo are now available on NSF.gov.
A mobile fabrication laboratory run out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Center for Bits and Atoms is at the faire itself today on the White House lawn. "Fab lab" started in 2003 as an NSF-funded outreach project. According to the center's director Neil Gershenfeld, the model has since become viral, with similar makerspaces popping up all over the world. Hear more from Neil in an NSF Twitter chat and video soundbites at the NSF YouTube channel.
Beyond the White House, NSF-funded making and making research activities are happening now all across the country.
Some examples of include:
- Shawn Jordan, Micah Lande, Arizona State University, College of Technology and Innovation
Jordan and Lande work with makers to create "Rube Goldberg machines," elaborate contraptions that perform simple tasks via complicated (and entertaining) processes. Together, they are working to determine whether making could represent a new pathway for young people and adults to enter STEM careers. Having worked with more than 1,000 makers, including students in the Navajo Nation, Jordan and Lande are proponents of the "STEAM" movement, which seeks to combine traditional STEM topics with art, humor, and storytelling.
- Margaret Honey, President and CEO, New York Hall of Science
The NY Hall of Science is a leader in the informal science education field with respect to making and maker spaces, research on learning that results from making, and convening diverse groups to envision the future of making and to support making in diverse communities. The NY Hall of Science works closely with representatives from formal and informal education, academia, engineering education, government and industry. The NY Hall of Science hosted the 2010 World Maker Faire.
- Marjorie Bequette and Gina Svarovsky, Science Museum of Minnesota
The Science Museum of Minnesota (SMM) is a leader in the informal science education community with respect to making. SMM focuses on designing and researching how to engage and sustain the participation of families from underrepresented groups in making. SMM approaches making as a do-it-yourself, grassroots entry point to designing and constructing real things through creativity, problem-solving and tool use, thereby broadening participation in STEM and, specifically, the engineering workforce.
- Jamie Bell, PI and Project Director for Center for Advancement of Informal Science Education (CAISE), Association of Science/Technology Centers
CAISE, based at the Association Science Technology Centers, works with informal science entities around the nation to build the knowledge- and evidence-base for how making works in a variety of environments. CAISE connects with researchers representing the range of NSF-funded informal science education projects.
- Kimberly Sheridan and Erica Halverson, George Mason University
Halverson and Sheridan take an ethnographic and design-based approach to understanding how and what people learn from participation in maker spaces (physical locations where people get together to make things) and explores the features of those environments that can be leveraged to better promote learning.
- Paulo Blikstein, Stanford University
Digital fabrication and making is a new chapter in the process of bringing powerful ideas and expressive media to schoolchildren. Yet the making that happens in classrooms is usually disconnected from what is known about promoting learning from such making. Blikstein is organizing a series of activities aimed at better understanding what is needed so that teachers will be better able to use making activities to promote learning and what research and development needs to be done to meet those needs.
The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2023 budget of $9.5 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.