I attended the National Week of Making in Washington, D.C. from June 17 to 23. While, of course, this was exciting to me as a middle school librarian, it was truly meaningful to me personally. Why? The day I arrived was my grandmother’s birthday. What could be more appropriate than the granddaughter of immigrants visiting our nation’s capital to participate in a conversation about the push for innovation and ingenuity in our schools, communities, and workforce?
My grandparents arrived in America in the 1950’s from Europe with my young mother and aunt in tow, and almost nothing to their names. With only elementary schooling under his belt, my grandfather was the educated patron of the family. The day they stepped foot on free ground was the beginning of a legacy.
If they were alive today, my grandparents would have been proud that I was invited by my dear friend Adam Bellow, a former White House fellow and present CEO of Breakout EDU, to participate in a nationwide discussion with representatives from all 50 states about the maker movement. But I think they would have also been bewildered. Making for them was not a hobby, or an outlet for creative expression. Making was a way of life, to survive in a country where they didn’t know the language and had no family support.
Making isn’t new. Why then should we celebrate a designated National Week of Making? Why are maker spaces and maker faires cropping up everywhere from schools to libraries to museums, and even in community spaces? Creativity, progress, and innovation are all qualities that make us who we are. When we say “I made this” or “I have an idea,” we are making a contribution to the world.
The spirit of teamwork and active participation was the theme of the National Week of Making kickoff. Andrew Coy, senior advisor for making for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, welcomed us to the event. The morning discussion revolved around getting more minorities and women involved in the maker movement. The think tank included Rafael Lopez, commissioner of the administration for children and families of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and Tom Kalil, deputy director of tech and innovation of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
Garnering support from other government departments, federal opportunities for making as a national initiative were presented by Albert Palacios (U.S. Department of Education), Lakita Edwards (National Endowment for the Arts), Brian Burkhardt (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs), Katelyn Schreyer (National Science Foundation), Sanjay Koyani (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services), and Dave Cranmer (National Institute of Standards and Technology, Manufacturing Extension Partnership). As a commitment to our young innovators, 10 high schools were announced as winners of the CTE Makeover Challenge, each receiving $20,000 in cash and a share of in-kind prizes from the $375,000 sponsor prize pool.
Sitting in on discussions about how we need to encourage our young people to pursue careers in science, technology engineering, and mathematics, I couldn’t help but remember two pivotal moments in American history: the Great Depression and the Space Race. Through FDR’s New Deal, engineering marvels of public works projects helped to save citizens from unemployment. Decades later, to stay ahead of the former Soviet Union, President Kennedy vowed to land a man on the moon. In those times, as well during our most recent economic recession, our presidents looked to technology and engineering to help build on our past to prepare for our future.
To celebrate this “American spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship,” 10 men and women from across the country were named Champions of Change in the field of making, chosen from over 600 nominations. These leaders reflect technology and innovation in making and education, working here in America and abroad. A few of the honorees were Dara Dotz, co-founder of Field Ready which uses 3-D printing technology to help people in disaster areas; Gregg Behr, instrumental in organizing Remake Learning Days; Felton Thomas, Jr., current director of the Cleveland Public Library and an Library Journal Mover & Shaker, and retired army sergeant Lisa Marie Wiley, whose work has contributed to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs’s Innovative Creation Series.
As President Obama so eloquently expressed in his proclamation: “The same American spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship that has steered our nation through the industrial and digital revolutions–and led our people to explore the depths of the oceans and the distant planets in our solar system–has enabled us to reimagine our world through new ideas and discoveries.”
Kristina Holzweiss is the school library media specialist at Bay Shore (NY) Middle School and2015 School Librarian of the Year. She also received the Lee Bryant Outstanding Teacher Award from the New York State Association for Computers and Technologies in Education and the Fred Podolski Leadership and Innovation in Technology Award by the Long Island Technology Summit. She is the founder and director of SLIME (Students of Long Island Maker Expo). Check out her website and follow her on Twitter at @lieberrian, Reach her at email@example.com
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