s
s
Sections
Sections
Subscribe

SEBASTOPOL -- For more than three decades, O'Reilly Media has been helping high-technology innovators use the latest software, and now a spinoff, Maker Media, is providing a major springboard for do-it-yourself techies, the vanguard of a worldwide "maker movement" that is getting the attention of large companies.

[caption id="attachment_76313" align="alignleft" width="160"] Dale Dougherty[/caption]

Maker Media (makermedia.com) has become a separate company with founder Dale Dougherty as chief executive officer and majority shareholder. An early partner in O'Reilly Media, he launched the division in 2005 with the first publication of Make magazine. The 45-employee group has been building clout in the maker community, adding the first Maker Faire in 2006 and the Maker Shed online store in 2007, offering DIY electronics, components, kits and how-to guides.

"I certainly had no idea that many years later we’d be talking about a global maker movement," Mr. Dougherty said around the time of the spinoff. "Indeed, what has happened is simultaneously that making and the geeks behind it have broken into the mainstream. Making is now popular."

That popularity is seen in the interest for Maker Media products and events. Originally conceived by Mr. Dougherty as "Martha Stewart (magazine) for geeks," Make now has paid circulation of 125,000. The eighth annual Maker Faire Bay Area in San Mateo attracted about 120,000 in mid-May, and 55,000 attended the fourth annual event in New York City. There were five dozen other licensed events held around the world last year and about 80 set for this year, mostly organized by local groups of hobbyists, "tinkerers," engineers and programmers as well as partner companies and organizations.

Maker Shed has been progressively getting bricks-and-mortar presence through retail partners RadioShack and Micro Center. At the Bay Area Maker Faire this year, Maker Media and RadioShack, long a DIY electronics hub but struggling financially in recent years, announced a deal to produce a co-branded line of kits, robotics and tools in RadioShack stores and online at Maker Shed.

"Adding to the popular Make line of kits, like 'Getting Started with Arduino' the new cobranded product lineup from Maker Media and RadioShack combine Maker Media's strength in cultivating and growing the maker movement with RadioShack's strong retail footprint and DIY heritage," said Mr. Dougherty. Arduino is an open-source electronics framework developed in Italy for easy-to-create robotics. "Our new co-branded products are designed to give makers a path to making while they continue to develop their skills and push the limits of their creativity."

The maker movement has the next generation in motion, too. Activity at Maker Faire events is reaching thousands of aspiring DIYers, but Maker Media has teamed up with Google and RadioShack to bring it to millions. The second annual week-long Maker Camp, targeted to teens, started today on the O'Reilly Media campus in Sebastopol, where Maker Media occupies one floor in one of the two buildings. Google helps bring the camp to widespread audiences through videos, online project details and collaboration.

For last year's Maker Camp, 1 million people joined and added Make to their Google Plus "circles," or social media groups, according to a spokeswoman. Before the camp, Make's circle had about 20,000 followers, and as of last week there were 1.4 million. Videos about the camp were viewed more than 1.3 million times during that week.

For such initiatives, Mr. Dougherty earlier this year received the KAPi Pioneer Award at the 2013 International Consumer Electronics Show for innovation in children's technology.

"Making" can be a pathway to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) learning and careers, according to Mr. Dougherty.

"The maker movement can be looked at as a new source for innovation and a new way to transform education," he said. "There is a big interest in the country in STEM education, but we’re teaching in traditional ways using lectures and textbooks. I don't think it's engaging for students, and I do not think it's helping them to understand it well. Making is a more natural way of learning why things work way do and how they can work better."

The maker movement is expanding experimentation beyond the classroom to the home.

"Parents are engaging in the maker community as something they can do together," Mr. Dougherty said.

Yet schools and organizations are important for allowing children from lower-income homes to participate too. Toward that goal, Mr. Dougherty funded a "make camp" at Hillard Comstock Middle School in west Santa Rosa with support from the Boys and Girls Club and teachers from Piner High School. Activities included teaching movie editing on tablet computers and construction of miniature race cars and hot-air balloons.

"It's important to get kids doing things like this," he said.

Mr. Doughtery's company also is getting involved with "maker pros," or those who plan to turn their innovations into income. Maker Media last year  started the Hardware Innovation Workshop, a day-and-a-half seminar for inventors on funding and other topics, held during the Maker Faire events in the Bay Area and New York.

A high-profile example he points to of such a maker pro is Bre Pettis, chief executive officer of MakerBot, a New York-based creator of three-dimensional printers, which revolutionized the world of prototyping. Mr. Pettis had been involved in making DIY videos for the Make website (makezine.com) over the years and started MakerBot in 2009. In June, the company signed a $409 million deal to become part of major prototyping tool maker Stratasys.

Mr. Dougherty was an early partner in O'Reilly Media, which Tim O'Reilly started in 1978 and now employs more than 200. The O'Reilly family are minority shareholders in Maker Media.

This is an expanded version of what appeared in the July 8 print edition.