Maker | Trend Watch
The range of projects laypeople can create has broadened with technology’s progress. In the past, often only companies and professionals have the resources and tools to design and manufacture electronics. Now, the exchange of information on the Internet supported by new technology tools and resources has lowered the threshold for people to make gadgets. That’s why Chris Anderson hailed the ‘‘Maker Movement’’ as the third industrial revolution, creating opportunities for everyone.
What are Makers？
The word “Maker” became popular after Dale Dougherty launched MAKE magazine in 2005 and held the first Maker Faire a year later to market the magazine.
Dougherty said Makers are people who love to play with technology. They don’t necessarily know what they are doing or why they are doing it. They are playing to discover what the technology can do. Making for fun was the core tenet of being a Maker when it first appeared—a group of people getting together, bouncing ideas off each other, and playing with something.（Dougherty, 2011）
“We are born Makers.” Dougherty believes that humans have the instinct to create things and solve problems by hand. Whether it is woodworking, sewing or cooking, all are facets of Makers. Today, we associate Makers with open hardware, Arduino microcontrollers, and 3D printers.
Maker Movement Receives Global Support
What opportunities do Makers bring? Some people enjoy the joy of turning their ideas into an object while others sniff out business opportunities for entrepreneurship.
Dougherty sorts Makers into three types. The first is the entry-level Maker（Zero to Maker）. They learn how to use tools and enjoy the process of making things for fun. The second enters the Maker community（Maker to Maker）through sharing, concatenation, and collaboration. The last type starts a business by joining the Maker market（Maker to Market）to develop services and products through crowdfunding or a business model.（Weng, 2014）
One example of a Maker creating a viral product and starting a business is the Pebble Smartwatch. Lauded as the most successful Kickstarter campaign in 2012, they surpassed their fundraising target in record time and raised the highest amount of funds in history. This case became the classic success story of Maker to Market.
According to National Instruments’ Trend Watch 2015, the Maker Movement is a trend that is impacting the mainstream. The report goes on mentioning Makers democratizes manufacturing, and that innovation is no longer the exclusive right for top 500 companies.（National Instruments, 2015）
This grassroots subculture has been attracting attention from governments around the world. They have been pouring resources and launching new programs to encourage Makers to start businesses and promote economic development.
In 2015, China’s Premier Li Keqiang started the mass entrepreneurship and innovation policy, stating innovation and entrepreneurship will be the twin engines that drive the growth of China’s economy. Under this policy, the government set up new incubation centers such as makerspaces, entrepreneurial cafes, and innovative workshops to give entrepreneurs spaces to work, network, communicate, and share resources. China’s State Council Standing Committee has also set up a national fund with a budget of RMB40 billion to support innovative enterprises in the initial stages.（Xiao et al., 2015）
In the United States, where the movement originated, the government sought to create a complete ecosystem by integrating Makers with the educational and industrial sectors. Former US President Obama hosted the first White House Maker Faire in 2014 where he pledged to offer more services supporting Makers and create opportunities for students to become Makers. To support Maker entrepreneurship, the Patent and Trademark Office provided intellectual property rights-related services. The Department of Education and its partners set up more makerspaces on campus, and the National Science Foundation made Maker-related research opportunities to promote STEM education and innovation their priority.
Taiwan’s ministries also launched relevant incentive programs such as the vMaker Project（operated by the Workforce Development Agency）. Fab Trucks bring 3D printers, CNC machines, and cutting machines to 500 high schools across Taiwan to promote Maker culture. Also, they connect Makers 1.0（traditional manufacturing industries）and Makers 2.0（present-day Makers and innovators）through competitions, where they can brainstorm and learn from each other, sparking innovation and entrepreneurship. The Workforce Development Agency set up five Maker bases throughout Taiwan to integrate resources and foster the energy of Taiwan Maker innovation and entrepreneurship.
Push to Transform Education Systems
As governments push to develop the maker economy, they realize the next generation needs innovative and inventing capabilities. Therefore, to nurture future talents, many governments start from education, promoting Maker education on campus and cultivating students’ ability to do hands-on work.
Taiwan’s Ministry of Education began their Maker programs in 2014, starting with the High School 3D Printing Promotion Program. The program expanded to include Fab Truck high school circuit, Maker bases in vocational schools and teacher training schools. In 2015, the New Taipei City Government selected six schools（Banqiao High School, Jinshan High School, Zhonghe High School, New Taipei Industrial Vocational High School, Yingge Vocational High School, and Jisui Elementary School）to build Maker classrooms.
Former US President Obama proposed a 10-year educational innovation plan with a USD400 million（around NTD12 billion）budget to train 100 thousand STEM teachers, encourage hands-on projects in class, and enhance students’ science capabilities.
Apart from campus programs, the trend brings new possibilities for parenting. MakerPRO founder, Owen Ou, said with digital manufacturing tools, parents can make DIY projects a part of their lives. In the past, parents could only read books, watch movies, or play toys with their children. And now there is a new choice—building toys with children. This activity increases parent-child interaction and is also the opportune time to cultivate children’s Maker spirit.
Make for Need: Makers Should Respond to Local Needs
The ecosystem for Makers is robust, with many online communities, physical spaces, and events in the private sector and also public policy support. What is the future of Taiwan’s Maker Movement? Where is this innovative bottom-up power leading us? These are questions that policymakers and Makers must address.
In 2018, people are turning their attention to the latest technology like AIoT, AR, VR, robotics, smart agriculture and smart medical care. That same year, a group of Makers that came from different disciplinaries established AI_ROBOT Maker Alliance in Tainan.
By using the latest technologies to solve problems, Taiwan Makers are gradually focusing on local needs. Makers have put together open source agriculture, smart medical care, and care robots in response to Taiwan’s agriculture, medical care, and long-term care issues.
The Maker craze may fade, but continuing the Maker spirit, making good use of technology to solve problems hands-on, is more important. Combine your passions, professions, and insights, and try to find solutions to cultural preservation, long-term care, education, environmental sustainability. The future is ours to make.
- Arduino：an open source hardware and software platform for building digital interactive devices. Designed in 2005 by professors at the Interactive Design Institute in Italy, even people who don’t understand computer programming can use Arduino to create projects that control sensors, flashing lights, and motors.
- STEM：the acronym for the disciplines of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.
- AIoT：the artificial intelligence of things, or some may refer to it as the next generation of the Internet of Things（IoT）. IoT is the interconnection of computing devices embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data. AIoT combines deep machine learning with IoT, allowing more complex applications in real life. Unstaffed stores, drone delivery, facial scan payment, and commercial guide robots are examples of AIoT applications.
- AR：abbreviation for Augmented Reality. It refers to the technology that brings components of the digital world into a person’s perception of the real world through camera projection allowing users to interact with the enhanced reality with their devices. For example, the renowned Pokémon GO released in 2016 is a mobile game using AR technology.
- VR：abbreviation for Virtual Reality, which is an interactive computer-generated experience taking place within a simulated environment. The realistic 3D space allows users to experience different scenarios without leaving the room.
- Dougherty, D.（2011, January）. We are makers [Video file]. Retrieved March 27, 2018, from https://www.ted.com/talks/dale_dougherty_we_are_makers
- National Instruments.（2015）. NI Trend watch 2015 explores internet of things impact. Retrieved March 27, 2018, from http://www.ni.com/newsroom/release/ni-trend-watch-2015-explores-internet-of-things-impact/en/
- Weng, C.（2014, September 30）. Shifting concepts and disrupting industries: Maker post-screening review. NCKU Research & Service Headquarters. Retrieved March 27, 2018, from http://webap.rsh.ncku.edu.tw/rshepaper/column_article.php?cid=12&scid=382（link in Chinese）
- Xiao, Y., Peng, X., Tsaur, C., Tsai, R., & Tsai, A.（2015）. From maker movement to startup: study of the key factors. Ministry of Economics Multidisciplinary Management of Technology.（report in Chinese）