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"
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:
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2016, its budget is $7.5 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 48,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $626 million in professional and service contracts yearly.
Useful NSF Web Sites: