The National Science Foundation and making
Support for creative education and a nationwide innovation ecosystem
Discoveries often begin with the initiative of a student, a young person, an educator, an entrepreneur, or anyone with the drive to make something new. The National Science Foundation (NSF) funds science and engineering research and technological innovation built on the creativity and imagination of individuals such as these.
Now, modern-day tinkerers of do-it-yourself technology, known as makers, are driving a new era of American innovation. Makers cross all age, background and skill levels, from early childhood through adulthood. They have in common the determination to see their ideas come to life.
Making has a wide appeal. Making allows people to follow their own interests, to create something uniquely theirs, and to apply the knowledge they have gained to produce products that meet societal needs. Making offers the opportunity to learn and apply science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) knowledge and processes, including collaboration, communication and iterative design.
NSF's early investments in fundamental technologies and techniques have helped to enable the maker movement.
For example, NSF strategic investments in additive manufacturing and computer science enabled many of the innovations underlying 3-D printing, computer-aided design, geometric modeling and embedded systems.
3-D printing alone is a keystone of making. With desktop 3-D printers, students and learners of all ages can experience firsthand the challenges and opportunities of manufacturing.
NSF also has a history of support for education within its investments in engineering research centers and science and technology centers. Education programs include out-of-school activities and challenges that engage students and teachers in the manufacturing process.
NSF supports a wide range of making, from community engagement to education and workforce development, to research on learning, to manufacturing and commercialization.
The maker movement offers new opportunities for NSF to support STEM education, student retention, broadening participation, democratization of manufacturing, and new paths for innovations. NSF-funded projects continue to:
NSF is committed to continued engagement with the maker community. In the coming months:
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: