Last week a 14-year-old boy brought a tech project to school setting off a wave of controversy. He is a Maker and he wanted to show his teacher a fun thing he put together. The resulting reaction was typical of today’s Internet praise and outrage cycle. On one side the Maker community has banded together to show the boy that his desire to build was important. On the other side, some believe everything about this story is a dangerous farce. After all, they say, Ahmed didn’t really build the clock. It wasn’t real – it was just a repurposed Radio Shack clock from the 1980s. The boy’s father is an Islamic firebrand! This is a carefully orchestrated sham so Ahmed can get a Surface and so kids can bring real bombs to school and teachers will think twice!
But the truth remains that Ahmed made something and wanted to show it off. Maybe it was a toy. Maybe it was a prank. Maybe he wanted to feel like a spy carrying something cool on a mission. All we know is that he wanted to share his work. It’s what every Maker everywhere wants to do: to share the thing they made with the world.
We need to encourage this.
Here’s what I propose: In the next few weeks, let’s encourage kids who make cool stuff to ask their teachers if they can bring in something to share. Makers and parents of Makers should reach out to teachers offering to show off a few cool things. A Raspberry Pi, maybe, or a 3D printer. Show kids how to solder. Show them the magic of electronics and reduce some of the mystery. Let’s do something – anything – to reduce the stigma and to educate teachers and officials about the difference between an electronics project and, presumably, a bomb.
If you have built something cool, please share it with the world using the hashtag #MakeAndTell. I’d love to see it and I’ll post some of the best ones.
I’ve watched hardware hacking go from a geeky pastime to a way to build businesses. The hardware hackers of today are building amazing companies: Particle.Fitbit. Pebble. Without Makers like Ahmed we wouldn’t have Xerox Parc, HP, or Apple. Without Makers like Ahmed we wouldn’t send rovers to Mars and humans to space. Without Makers like Ahmed we wouldn’t be moving forward. And that’s important.
Need help? Check out these resources. Have a recommendation? Post it in comments. Have a question? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or Tweet me @johnbiggs and I’ll put you in touch with friendly Makers. Together we can bring young makers into the light – and teach them how to build the future.