Maker Faire Taps Into Detroit’s Sense of Mission, History as City of Tinkerers and, Yes, Entrepreneurs

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like when it was a city of tinkerers and makers and entrepreneurs, like Henry Ford himself.

“We’re still finding that there’s a strong base of tinkerers and creaters and hackerspaces, a rich environment in the sense of manufacturing,” Huss says. “If we can understand the essence here, and share the spirit, the can-do spirit, it might be something that could actually be replicated in other cities that have been hit equally as hard.”

Even though Huss has lived on the West Coast for the past 30 years, she grew up in Cleveland. So, she says, she “gets it.” She knows what it’s like to watch your community bounce up and down, economically. And she knows there’s a hunger in economically hard-hit communities that cannot be found anywhere else. In the Bay Area, she says, much is taken for granted. In Detroit, there’s a sense of mission.

As evidence of that, she points to the half-dozen or so hackerspaces that have cropped up recently in the Detroit/Ann Arbor area. Participating in the Maker Faire will be representatives from the hackerspaces a2Geeks of Ann Arbor, i3Detroit of Ferndale, All Hands Active of Ann Arbor, and the newly minted OmniCorp Detroit just now moving into Eastern Market space in Detroit. Hackerspaces from other regions in the Midwest, including Chicago’s Pumping Station One, will also be represented.

What makes hackerspaces important? They’re a place where computer workers—software developers, designers, what have you—come together to work and share companionship and ideas, sort of a new incarnation of the community clubhouses that have been lost when business went digital, Huss says.

“We’ve spent the last 20 years becoming more and more isolated at our computer and working in cyberspace,” she says. “Hackerspaces signify the importance of physical objects.”

She hopes the inaugural Detroit Maker Faire, part of a national series of similar events run by Make Magazine and O’Reilly Media, will become an annual event that brings makers from around the region together. That shouldn’t be a problem, given the intense interest so far. Their goal was 200 makers participating. They now have 295.

“I think there’s going to be a positive impact, and I look forward to watching this grow and flourish,” Huss says. “In some cases, I think there are more people rooting for Detroit than any other area. In New York and San Francisco, this stuff happens all the time. Here it’s really a sense of ownership.

Once again, the Maker Faire will take place July 31 – Aug. 1 at The Henry Ford.

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