First off, credit where credit’s due; the title of this post owes a lot to the title of this book.
I’ve not finished reading the above book yet (in fact I’m a grand total of eight pages in), but it felt relevant nonetheless.
It’s Sunday night, and I feel like I’ve spent much of the weekend in the world of the Maker. My invention/machine obsessed five year-old (“I’ve been an inventor since I was one!” and witness ‘The Door-Opening Machine’ below) and I went to the Maker Faire UK in Newcastle on Saturday. It was ace. Fascinating, often confusing. But so, so interesting, seeing this stuff people make, or design, or build, that I could not even start to comprehend or work out how to do. I got home and spent the evening going down rabbit-holes of Raspberry Pi (I’m still not sure quite what this is, but it’s awesome, right?), make your own robots, Hackspaces, teach yourself coding and much more besides.
In the car today, I told my wife I may buy a soldering iron (I soldered at the Maker Faire for the first time since high school. I was rubbish, but we made a badge with a blinking light. Eventually. With some help [I say we, I mean me, I was terrified of the dangers of a tired five year-old armed with a soldering iron]).
I don’t have anything to solder. Yet.
As I write this post, I’m calling out on Twitter for tips on how to learn code (beyond just, you know, making text bold and that).
This is going to relate back to the title soon.
See, I don’t think I’ve ever been much of a maker. Sure, I played Lego. I played Lego a lot as a kid. But stick me in a design & technology lab at school, and I don’t even know which bit of a set of pliers will cut the wires (I do now). Ask me to put up some shelves, and I make excuses until my father-in-law despairs and does it (thanks John!). My son has a small collection of model locomotives. If they break, rather than take them apart and try I fix them, I take them to a shop.
But that’s changing. My son wants to know how stuff works. He wants to know what impact using a bigger or small cog will have on a set of gears. He wants to know how his trains work. Today we took him to an amazing theatre show called Landscapes by Mimika, with clever sets and puppets. He loved it, but most of all, he wanted to understand how the stuff was made, how it moved.
And, it turns out, I’m interested too. Today I’ve taken two model trains apart, and working out how they work (at a very basic level) (they were starting to not work, now they’re a little bit less starting to not work). We’ve picked up some old circuit boards and broken motors (from a box marked ‘Free Stuff’ at the Makers Faire), and I want to find out what they did. And how.
As I’ve already said, I’m thinking about buying a soldering iron.
I’m planning to visit Leeds Hackspace. For him. With him, hopefully (if they’ll let us). But this is no more a selfless act. Making a maker (or starting to at least), is making me a maker. And maybe, as he grows, he might lose interest. But I’m starting to think I might not.