I'm thinking that while it is imagined as fiction, the Next MacGyver project supports this idea very well.
On December 3rd 2014, a group of signatory schools who supported 'Fostering a Generation of Makers' White House Maker Faire campaign gathered in Washington DC to discuss next steps. This generated incredible ideas and insight as we moved another step forward in defining a Maker Alliance Network for higher education institutions. Four work streams were created to explore possible next steps for the Alliance: the development of online resources; the preparation of a maker portfolio initiative, the development of increased funding for Maker opportunities, and promotion and advocacy for Making in higher education.
Below you will find one of the four next step proposals prepared by our workstream committees. We invite your feedback, as well as any additions or alternative approaches you might suggest. You are also welcome to indicate your interest in volunteering to work on this committee.
Finally, we also welcome new ideas for next steps. To contribute additional proposals, add a new topic to the 'Next Steps' discussion forum on MakeSchools.org.
Please share any feedback no later than March 1, 2015.
The Making community needs more highly visible role models to inspire and far greater chances for recognition in order to help accelerate Making's role in society. Currently Maker Faires offer the best opportunity for the initiated to celebrate their STEAM passions, and should certainly continue. However, in comparison to our society's abundance of recognition opportunities for those who excel in entertainment, sports, media, and even cooking, accomplishments in science, engineering, and Making are largely left to be their own reward.
To begin to address this, Making needs to appear more accessible to the average audience. Additionally, the idea that Making is happening everywhere around us and that amazing stories are out there, not just in science fiction, needs to be regularly reinforced in order to help change attitudes that Making is only for the more elite. Improving the perceived accessibility of Making may also need to include stronger and easier invitations for participation or at least means for interested voices to be heard in the community in a meaningful way.
Through the Higher Education Maker Alliance, and the variety of Maker Spaces and Maker projects they are aware of, there is an opportunity to find the stories of everyday and exceptional Making; not only at the colleges but within all of the Making communities in which Alliance members belong. Together the Alliance, along with Make, can support the sharing of these stories in new communities; they only need the stories to be told in a way everyone can appreciate.
The solution is the creation of a new television show called "Making It Happen" as an informal tour of Making in America in the style of cooking show "Diners, Drive-In's, & Dives". As "Diners…" demonstrates there is really appealing food to be found everywhere, created by cooks and chefs with a wide range of backgrounds, "Making it Happen" would show that there are innovative and interesting creations being developed by a wide variety of people all over the country. Using the same approachable format, America can be introduced every week to a new variety of innovators and innovations being created in Maker Spaces, College Campuses, Start-up Incubators, and even Industry.
A relatively cheap and easy to make show, there are many ways to expand its appeal. The show could also be paired with an on-line voting competition where "winners" could be win trips to showcase at Maker Faires. DIY "recipes" from featured Makers could also be included with Maker Hive forums to aid new Makers. There may even be an opportunity to benefit from the excitement of modern science fiction, including how Making is occurring in movie magic or guest star appearances.
Perhaps most importantly, to ensure the technical material is engaging and relatable, interviews would focus on the clear and relevant need each Maker is trying to meet. Then by describing how well that need is met, the show can convey the value and wonder of the work to a wide audience. In this way, the show may also borrow from elements of Extreme Home Makeover where the details/process of the work being done are shown mainly to help express its effect. In turn, to help make sure the message is heard, the Alliance, Make, and their partner communities and industries could in turn help drive traffic to the show.
An initial step would be for the Alliance to create and catalog a list of potential Maker groups and projects to feature, thereby demonstrating that there is a significant number and wide variety of material that the show could feature. Additionally some Alliance members are already planning internally focused YouTube videos that could also offer potential projects to feature. These concepts could then be formulated into show treatments. Similarly pilot formats could then be developed and eventually shot to test their effectiveness. This work also could also potentially form the basis of a NSF or USED proposal to bring in seed funding for the show. Ultimately, a professional studio would have to be engaged to produce the show with Alliance members serving as outside advisors. Additionally, sponsors would have to be determined, but could potentially be any group that currently sponsors Maker Faires, or advertises about technical innovation: i.e. Intel, ExxonMobil, GE, etc.
Figure 1: Concept image for Making it Happen