Amazeum Hosts Second Maker Summit

May 30, 2018

The Scott Family Amazeum hosted makers from across Arkansas for the 2nd Arkansas Maker Summit on Monday, October 16th. Representatives from over 30 K – 12 and post-secondary schools, the local artist and entrepreneurial community spent the day collaborating and learning about how to continue the growth of the maker ecosystem in Arkansas.

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 Joel Gordon, Executive Director of the Innovation Hub in Little Rock, put the day in context with a presentation on the history of the maker movement in the United States. We are a nation of makers; many of our greatest achievements began as an idea in a home workshop, garage, or small business. Making continues to be an economic driver. Joel cited Etsy as an example of an economic and opportunity multiplier stating that over $250,000 per month is generated by makers supplying goods and services through this platform.

 “Making leads to cottage industry, which leads to innovative new businesses.”

A panel discussion entitled “The Why of Making” also set the stage for the day’s discussion and breakouts to follow. Sam Dean, Executive Director of the Scott Family Amazeum; Dr. Lisa Brahams, Director of Learning and Research at Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, PA; Jeff Wasem, Principal at Creekside Middle School in Bentonville, and Tim Cornelius, Vice President of Career & Workforce Education at Northwest Community College in Bentonville provided an overview of the why the maker movement is key to developing essential skills in primary and secondary education, how making and tinkering can be supported by science and discovery museums, and why making empowers learning in science, technology, engineering, art and math.

 “Making fosters imagination – leading to jobs that don’t yet exist.”

Dr. Rhonda Childress, Chief Technology Officer and Fellow at IBM, broke the barrier between art and technology with her presentation on the creative side of tech as she took participants through the iterative process that lead to her creating clothing embedded with LEDs that responded to input from digital devices over a wireless network.

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The afternoon breakout sessions featured in-depth discussions that expanded the information presented in the morning. Joel Gordon and Joel Johnson, CEO of Boxy, expanded on the maker movement as an integral part of entrepreneurship through expanded opportunities for prototyping and testing new products efficiently and economically.

Brittney Kugler, Professional Learning Specialist at the Arkansas Discovery Network, lead a discussion on supporting women makers featuring Dr. Childress and Niki Ciccotelli Stewart from Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. The discussion focused on making as an empowering, equalizing, and inclusive force for creating opportunities for women. Brittney also presented on how libraries are evolving as centers of community learning to include making as a community activity.

Dr. Lisa Brahms, Mindy Porter and Erik Smith from the Amazeum, connected making with learning and how cultivating a culture of making in school is important to prepare students for opportunities in a changing world where creativity is equally important as content and competency.

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Ryan Jenkins from the Wonderful Idea Company led an afternoon-long workshop on teaching computer science through tinkering. This interactive experience mated Arduino micro-controllers with tinkering to create programmable robots.

Whether entrepreneur or educator, student or supplier, artist or engineer, Arkansas Maker Summit increased awareness of the Maker Movement as a force for building in-demand skills necessary to remain relevant in an increasingly automated world and the power of a making ecosystem to grow opportunities for Arkansans.