Miami Make Week offers unique access to Miami’s ‘maker culture’

communities / Article

2015 Wynwood Maker Camp at The LAB Miami. Photos courtesy of Miami Make Week.

The “maker movement” is often associated with inspired crafts, tech trends, 3-D printers and microcontrollers, and combining cutting-edge tools with design and engineering principles to address community challenges.

Enter Miami Make Week, a 10-day series of events in the Greater Miami area supported by Knight Foundation that kicks off Friday. The series is organized by MIAMade, whose commitment to “maker culture” in Miami since its launch in 2013 means taking advantage of the city’s do-it-yourself mindset.

“We knew there were a lot of people making things in Miami, but they were very much dispersed,” said Ric Herrero, founder of MIAMade. “We wanted to create a platform to introduce these folks, and introduce their work to the community.”

The week begins with a kickoff event at The LAB Miami, each subsequent event will take place at a co-working or makerspace in the county and will feature workshops and networking. Highlighting the local, homegrown talent pool of innovators in the Miami area has been a focal point for the inaugural Miami Make Week, Herrero said. Establishing relationships with these maker groups has also been a critical component to MIAMade’s mission from the beginning, through events such as the Miami Mini Maker Faire and the Wynwood Maker Camp.

“Most of the spaces at [Miami Make Week] are folks that we’ve worked with before,” he said. “We want to celebrate these spaces and foster greater engagement with them.”

A unique feature of the series is that it is anchored around a design competition: Teams can register to create a prototype for any sustainable, resource-saving project—be it for the home or for community development. And as the inaugural series, it is also a pilot for upcoming years to highlight the work and ideas emerging within the county.

“This is not a model that’s in existence anywhere else in the world,” Herrero said. “We want [Miami Make Week] to become an annual staple within our community.”

2015 Florida International Univeristy inauguration of Tech Station.

Teams will have an opportunity to register at the opening event on Friday or Saturday, and will receive complimentary access to all of the participating spaces and expertise featured during Miami Make Week. After spending eight days developing a prototype, teams will pitch their products to a panel at the closing event on Sunday, Nov. 15, at Venture Hive.

Winners of the design and prototype challenge will also be featured at MIAMade’s 2016 “Miami Maker Faire,” scheduled for Feb. 20-21. Herrero said the 2016 maker faire will be the “faire for the Americas,” and will bring artists and developers from throughout Latin America to exhibit their work.

The series kicking off on Friday is not just for designers and active “makers.” The general public and those new to maker culture can expect learning and hands-on experiences on topics ranging from design strategy to robotics to printmaking.

“Every single event is very interactive,” Herrero said. “People can expect to come out of each event knowing how to do something they didn’t know before.”

For instance, EcoTech Visions, a makerspace and incubator that supports 23 companies and focuses on clean manufacturing and environmental sustainability, will feature a session on how to recraft and repurpose old tires in “From Tires to Tech.”

Justin Knight, director of marketing and operations for Ecotech Visions, which plans to launch its second class of “ecopreneurs” in January, said that they will also challenge participants to transform an analog product into a digitized product.

“We threw around an idea, for example, of an umbrella that incorporates solar panels to charge your phone,” Knight said. “We want people to walk away with ideas and strategies for new products.”

Throughout the week, participants and local makers can expect more of the same. Participants are hopeful that the maker movement in Miami will becoming a lasting effort.

“We have a very entrepreneurial community down here, and it’s why I think makerspaces have taken off in Miami, in the last year especially,” Knight said. “It’s really exciting to be part of this at the beginning.”

Miami Make Week will be held Nov. 6-15. For more information and to register, visit miamimakeweek.com.

Rosemary D’Amour is the digital communications associate for Knight Foundation. Email her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @rosedamo.

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