Maker Movement Mania

New Generation of Makers Embrace the DIY Movement

Kelly McLain iQ Contributor

From custom doorbells to plant monitoring systems, makers use Intel Edison to bring imaginative new products to life.

When a friend asked electronic engineer Carmelito Andrade to care for her houseplant when she moved, he knew she was worried he’d forget to water it. So instead of decorating his house with reminder post-it notes, he built a live monitoring system out of wires, sensors, a pump, some electrical tape and an Intel Edison development board.

The plant never had it so good.

plant-monitoring

Andrade’s creative approach echoes the do-it-yourself (DIY) mentality of a new generation of “makers.” And while construction, automotive and gardening fanatics have been “doing it themselves” for decades (they have entire TV channels dedicated to their passions), the electronics maker movement is the new DIY for the 21st century.

Makers do not have dedicated television networks — yet — but they have the next best thing: Maker Faires.

Started in 2006 by the publishers of Make: magazine, Maker Faire Bay Area celebrates its 10th anniversary this weekend. But the maker movement is no longer limited to a bimonthly magazine and a once-a-year gathering in California’s Silicon Valley.

The movement has grown to include a total of 119 locally-organized events and 14 Featured Maker Faires in international megacities like New York, Rome and Tokyo.

Maker Faire attendance has grown steadily. While 20,000 people attended the inaugural event in 2006, a record 215,000 attended the two flagship events in the Bay Area and New York in 2014.

The maker movement has also spawned a number of websites like Instructables, DIY Hacking and Hackster.io, which support the maker movement concept that making is about sharing, be it open-source ideas, hackathons or collaborative communities.

Hackster.io, a sort-of Pinterest for hardware makers, sponsors Hardware Weekends, a series of hackathons and meetups across the country.

“By providing our community with live workshops, tools and all the hardware and software they need to create, we transform them from spectators to makers,” said Hackster.io co-founder Adam Benzion. “This is extremely empowering and totally engaging.”

One of the tools Benzion provides is the Intel Edison development board. “We find that Edison has a special place in the hearts and minds of our maker community,” Benzion said. “The versatility of the product is extremely compelling: low energy consumption, powerful Quark processor, coupled with WiFi and Bluetooth radios, Arduino IDE compatibility and the insanely popular Grove IoT sensor kit — there is a lot of value and flexibility in what people can make.”

But the Intel Edison board isn’t just for tinkerers. It is robust hardware that is capable of industry-level solutions.

“What we see is more people integrating computing technology into ideas that can be productized,” said Intel’s Jay Melican. “These creations are taking advantage of wireless capabilities to create new interactive uses like remote control rovers and laser target systems. Many of the makers we see using Intel Edison want to make their products available to a whole new market building equipment and instruments.”

Built on an Intel Edison board, Storm Studio’s Black Fragment custom foosball table captures the movement of the ball and can replay the ball’s trajectory after a goal. It also keeps track of players’ stats, points out formidable opponents and plays music via Bluetooth.

“We realized that foosball had not changed since its creation in the early twentieth century,” said Xavier Lamiche, who brainstormed with his friends how to make the game better. “This was the starting point of a great reflection around what we could bring to the game.”

Other projects inspired by creative makers include a doorbell that plays custom sounds, a tiny automated cheese maker, a connected beehive and a tool that turns sign language into sounds.

“The idea that you can make just about anything is inspiring,” said Benzion. “Seeing a high school teacher who never wrote a single line of code, never created a single CAD design, let alone experienced electronics, building a simple robotic arm with an Edison, a servo and a simple 3D printed robotic arm — that’s amazing to me. That’s what gets me up every day.”

 

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