The Maker Movement

What is it?

The opening lines of the Wikipedia article about ‘Maker Culture’ (at the time of writing of course) are a pretty good description of the ‘Maker Movement’. They say:

“The maker culture is a contemporary culture or subculture representing a technology-based extension of DIY culture. Typical interests enjoyed by the maker culture include engineering-oriented pursuits such as electronics, robotics, 3-D printing, and the use of CNC tools, as well as more traditional activities such as metalworking, woodworking, and traditional arts and crafts. The subculture stresses new and unique applications of technologies, and encourages invention and prototyping. There is a strong focus on using and learning practical skills and applying them creatively.”

Make Magazine Volume 1 - 2005
Make Magazine Volume 1 – 2005

How did it start?

Maker Faire describe the early days in an article about the movement in which they suggest that the launch in 2005 of Make Magazine “provided the catalyst for a tech-influenced DIY community that has come to be identified as the Maker Movement.”

On the electronics and computing side of the movement there is no doubt that both the Arduino and the Raspberry Pi have given it a massive shot in the arm. Making sophisticated open source embedded computing platforms easily available with pricing that anyone can afford and massive community support is surely the most likely way to enthuse both young and old alike about the endless and fascinating possibilities for such devices. The number of well documented fun projects available for the technical tinkerer are endless. For me these particular bits of open hardware and software have been key to rekindling my own passion for making things.

Is there a Maker Faire in the UK?

Yup. Actually there is one in Brighton on 7th and 8th September!

RepRap – a self-replicating open source 3D printer


Well, it’ll print the plastic bits anyway, and they are the hard bit in my book. Why is that the hard bit? Because I don’t have a 3D printer – that’s why! So, what I need is to find someone who has a RepRap (Replicating Rapid-prototyping machine) who will print the bits for me so I can build one. Otherwise I might just buy a kit of the printed parts for about £100 from one of the people on this list of vendors like eMaker in the UK.

The RepRapPro Huxley model
The RepRapPro Huxley model.

OK, but which one?

There are a number of popular designs, but the RepRapPro Huxley looks like a good starter kit. It can print things up to 140mm x 140mm x 110mm (the build volume) and I can just picture it on it’s own stand in my shed. Full instructions for building this model are available on eMaker and the full kit is available from RepRapPro Ltd for under £400. This is beginning to look like a serious project!

And what exactly will you use it for when it’s built?

Well as it happens I have exactly the project to use it on. I need custom cases for both the emonTX board and the NanodeRF Base Station for my Open Energy Monitor setup. Especially if I am going to start offering these open source hardware and software products in pre-built, pre-programmed form. So there!

AirPi – an award winning project

What is it?

AirPi is an open-source weather and pollution monitoring system, with the ability to record and stream data. Its a shield for the Raspberry Pi capable of recording data about the air quality and current weather conditions, coupled with code to upload its recordings to the internet in real time. Including the Pi, it comes in at £55: tens of times cheaper than equivalent off-the-shelf equipment.

The AirPi
The AirPi

Who developed it?

It was developed by Alyssa Dayan and Tom Hartley, a pair of sixth formers from Westminster School in London. AirPi won the PA Consulting Raspberry Pi competition earlier this year, where entries had to “make the world a better place”

What Next?

After many requests for a kit, they’ve started a fundraiser on Tindie (sort of like a Kickstarter, but especially for electronics). If you’re interested in ordering a kit to measure temperature, humidity, UV, NO2, CO, light and air pressure for £55, then you can go to this page – they’ll be shipping them out in late September.