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Making Superheroes

Living in an ephemeral, instantly shared and disseminated, technologically enhanced type world, it is sometimes difficult to convey how taking the time to make something designed to last beyond a single lifetime or something that may take more than a number of lifetimes to complete (like the cathedrals of old) is still relevant and important... especially to Young Makers. This type of understanding is something that can't be read in a textbook, can't be learned by proxy; it requires a tactile experience, a specific interaction, a curiosity, and a true grit to learn the skills necessary to get to that next step in the process.

Many people believe that "The Maker Movement" revolves solely around something instant, that geeky chicanery that makes a light blink or a circuit connect or a model 3D print right before one's very eyes... when in reality, it is a mindset- the desire to make something because one is able to do so not because they have to. That Maker Mindset, the one that says, "Whatever life throws at me, I am fully capable of making something out of it." is powerful... it is contagious... it makes superheroes out of ordinary folks... it is something we need more of.

As a "Maker Mom", I cannot explain how deeply I treasure those who have invested in me and our family over the years in the various Makerspaces, TechShops, FabLabs, and Studios- freely sharing their talents, wisdom, passion and know-how with us. Maker Faire is something that has been apart of me for the past decade. My eldest son was 4 years old when he attended his first Maker Faire... it was at that moment, robots infiltrated our everything and my husband and I knew that our home would be more science fair than pottery barn forevermore.

When Maker Faire, with the help of The Henry Ford Museum, came to Detroit, a new family tradition was born. Our then, 6, 8, and 10 year old children started giving back to the community that had invested in them by teaching what they had learned to others. To teach is to learn twice. Having a skill to share is a bartering tool, a human currency, that loans value to the exchange of ideas and innovation in a very impactful and meaningful way to all those involved. It says, "I may not know Arduino but, I know how to do "X"... will you teach me if I teach you?" These "skills to share" are the bedrock of innovation, they are the threads that run through civilizations and throughout the timeline of history connecting one generation to another. For us, as a "Maker Family", teaching a skill to share, has gifted us in profound ways... our extended Maker Family now spans the globe and we could not imagine our world without them in it.

As a Designer and Inventor for the Craft and Hobby Industry, many of the "skills to share" my children have learned since birth revolve around traditional, generational, "Craftsman" type skills... Textiles & Needle Arts, Woodworking, Metal Work, Paper, Glass, Ceramics, Printmaking, and the like. Living on a working farm has added other skills to the mix, things like gardening and food preservation, animal husbandry, conservation of resources, and "please don't wreck the tractor" coupled with conversations about "programmed chicken coop doors" and "What else on Instructables shall we build next?" It was these skills that our children bartered to learn computer programming, engineering, robotics, and wearable tech within the Maker Community... it is these types of "gateway" skills that we, as a family, try to teach other children and their families in order for them to take their tinkering to the next level as our kids have done... A Pay It Forward.

So, for the past 5 years, our family has had this annual "event" around the kitchen table... it resembles a Festivus feats of strength bout involving a ball of thread whilst running through Daedelus' Labyrinth being chased by the minotaur (played by a Great Dane named Leviathan, Levi for short). During this said "event", we decide what our family will propose to teach at whatever Maker Faires our family can MacGyver to attend. 

The list of criteria we have are as follows:

1) Is it fun?

2) Is the skill we want to share useful and able to be applied to multiple disciplines?  (ie., learning to solder can be for circuits or jewelry)

3) Is the skill shareable, something valuable to be traded for another cool skill?

3) Can the project be schlepped in and out by the 5 of us in one trip, be done rain or shine, and able to be set up in ANY location? 

4) Will the person doing our project feel like a superhero, like they accomplished something that matters after they are done building it? 

This year, we will be teaching the ancient art of metal embossing. Metal is elemental; it is at the core of so many things we use in technology and it embodies the very nature of innovation, industry, and the human capacity to create fantastic things from simple tools... and, bending metal... is totally a super power ;)


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