Makers’ Mark: White House Makerspace Meeting signals growing impact of DIY spaces

Washington, DC: The leadership of HiveBio joined with delegates from nearly 200 other makerspaces from across the country this week to take part in the Makerspace Organizers Meeting, a conference for DIY techies, scientists, and craftsmen held by the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). For one day on August 24th, these makerspace organizers, including HiveBio’s CEO and Co-founder Bergen McMurray, listened to speakers, exchanged expertise and information, built networks of collaborators, and advance the standing of makerspaces within the U.S.

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The spirit of American innovation

The White House Makerspace Organizers Meeting follows a series of events and exhibits aiming to highlight the American entrepreneurial spirit as part of the Nation of Makers initiative. American have long held a reputation for resourceful invention in fields of science and technology. As early as the 1800s, Europeans envied advancements in farming techniques resulting from the famed “American mechanical genius.” Today, the White House seeks to reinvigorate this trait of adaptability and creation in the context of the modern world – using media like 3D printers, software, and biomolecules.

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Since its launch in 2014, the Nation of Makers initiative has explored a variety of forms to engage and grow the maker community. In 2014, the White House hosted the first annual Maker Faire – an event designed to showcase the diversity and achievement of American makers. Even the practice of presidential portraiture got an update as a result of the Nation of Makers initiative, as the Smithsonian dozens of hi-tech cameras to make a 3D-printed rendering of the President in ultra resolution (which you can check out here – it’s pretty cool).

Building a diverse network of makers

Sessions at the meeting focused on how to foster and promote a culture of do-it-yourself innovation in individuals and communities. Led by a Senior Advisor in the OSTP, Andrew Coy, discussions covered broad topics like intellectual property, increasing diversity and accessibility, and bringing citizen science into education, as well as the tedious but important fundamentals of running a successful makerspace, such as securing funding, fostering an atmosphere of innovation, marketing, and conflict resolution.

Morning presentations by White House officials included Julie Lenzer, Director of the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Quincy Brown, Senior Policy Advisor, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Sanjay Koyani, Senior Advisor to the Chief Technology Officer, US Department of Health and Human Services, and Megan Smith, US Chief Technology Officer, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Among the highlights, Kari Love, representing the makerspace NYC Resistor, delivered a talk on the importance of diversity in the modern DIY movement. A broadway seamstress by trade, Love followed a circuitous path into science, transferring her skills from designing costumes to designing space suits. She now works in tandem with electrical engineers to develop soft robotics, and actively promotes the value of including people of diverse skills, personalities, and backgrounds into makerspaces to develop novel products and techniques.

HiveBio’s perspective

McMurray, the CEO and Cofounder of HiveBio, took away this from the event: the US goverment supports the Maker movement, and is interested in fostering the unique type of innovation that comes from maker collaboration. For

IMG_7942makerspaces like HiveBio, it seems clear the Obama administration is keen to learn more from the makers themselves on how to develop and grow makerspaces around the country.

Community bio labs were well-represented at the meeting – in addition to HiveBio, groups like BioCurious (Berkely, CA) and Counter Culture Labs (Oakland, CA) voiced the interest of the DIYbio community. Additional Seattle makerspaces Metrix and SoDo MakerSpace attended the meeting as well.

If you’d like to learn more about the Makerspace Organizers Meeting, videos of talks and sessions are available on the White House Youtube Channel. More information on the Nation of Makers initiative is available here.

Check out this article from Make Magazine about this exciting meeting of Makerspace Founders and White House officials: Makerspace Organizers Convene at the White House.

article by GM Showalter
contributions by Bergen McMurray