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Making it at Make Week

Anyone can be a maker.

Miami is a DIY town where most people have to make due using their own ingenuity, and plenty are launching their own businesses. Many people come from other places where they already gained crafting or technical skills that they don’t often get to apply here due to it being such a service-driven town. The combination of the community’s embrace of the arts and design and its DIY spirit makes for a fertile ground for the maker movement to flourish.

Just five years ago, the technology wasn’t there to develop a thriving maker and entrepreneurial scene. Now, Miami is entering into a maker renaissance.

Courtesy of Ric Herrero
Courtesy of Ric Herrero

There are many locals championing this growing community, including Ric Herrero, the lead producer of Miami Make Week, and the founder of MIAMade, a nonprofit whose mission is to help foster a sustainable maker culture and the greater Miami area.

Since MIAMade launched during their inaugural Miami Mini Maker Faire back in 2013, they’ve brought a multitude of maker-centric programs to Miami. They’ve since expanded their programming to the Wynwood Maker Camp, a 10-week summer program for 8- to 14-year-olds, teaching them about STEM learning, design thinking, and problem solving. Just in time for the third installment of the Maker Faire in February, MIAMade will be bringing back their monthly maker workshops.

The intent behind MIAMade and its affiliate events is to help celebrate spaces fostering a creative community and enable greater engagement in the greater community at large.

Since the launch of the Maker Faire, Miami has seen a burst of maker and coworking spaces throughout the city. While the scene is filling out quick, there’s still lots of potential for makers to work more closely with each other.

Seeing this, MIAMade launched the first ever Miami Make Week, a 10-day series of events and workshops that celebrate creative coworking and makerspaces throughout Miami.

With Miami Make Week, they’re taking the opportunity to shine a spotlight on what’s possible in the maker movement, as well as the bold makerspace founders leading the scene.

At Friday night’s Miami Make Week kickoff event, Xu ‘Sunny’ Zhang found the inspiration to get involved. “Technology is getting more accessible to everyday people,” Zhang said. “Now you can visit a manufacturer and create those things by yourself. It’s becoming a skill parallel to reading and writing. You almost feel like you need to learn the digital language in order to be digitally literate.”

During Saturday’s Design Thinking Miami course at The LAB Miami, groups of people who had never met each other jumped headfirst into collaborating on projects focused around creating sustainable resources for the home. The next day, the Upcycled Illuminations workshop at the Moonlighter Makerspace played host to a number of attendees who had never conceptualized a prototype before.

Cristina Rodriguez, co-founder of Mind and Melody, a nonprofit that implements interactive music programs for people with Parkinson’s, strokes, and dementia, will be completing her brain-phone prototype during 1-Click 3D Print’s workshop on Wednesday. “It really helps me having something physical like this to show off,” she explained. “My background is in biochemistry, so we’re taught to think in line with the scientific method so you’re always thinking about the problem and the next solution. Design thinking and similar principles apply this and creative thinking at the same time.”

And part of the impetus for the makerspace movement is giving others the chance to put those principles into action. After graduating from college, Moonlighter founders Daisy Nodal and Tom Pupo found themselves discouraged by the expensiveness of the equipment they had so easily accessed during college. After traveling to Europe and getting inspired by the makerspaces there, they came back to Miami with the hopes of spreading the maker mentality across the Miami community. Since opening the doors to their makerspace almost three months ago, they’ve begun to work with schools and the Arts and Business Council. They’re jumping into the community, which is what they wanted from the beginning.

Moonlighter Makerspace co-founder and CEO Daisy Nodal. (Courtesy of Danielle Ungermann)
Moonlighter Makerspace co-founder and CEO Daisy Nodal. (Courtesy of Danielle Ungermann)

“Everyone now is opening their minds to something different and creating something new,” Nodal said. “By bringing all of the tools together in one place, Moonlighter is creating a platform for makers to change their perspective, knowing that we can create the space for them to come and learn. The challenge is just to unlock that thing of ‘I can’t do it’ to seeing it as something possible.”

Moonlighter also hosts weekly classes that cover everything from constructing your own wallet to using Little Bits circuits to create your own music.

Once they’ve finished building out their prototypes, attendees can take the next step by crafting stamps during MADE at the Citadel’s Friday Stamp Stomp Maker Mark Workshop with Amy Dorian, a printmaking and illustration graduate from Ringling College of Art and Design. Participants will be guided through constructing both negative and positive carvings in stamp making. “This event will be a great way for designers and upcoming businesses to utilize branding in real life,” says Elisa Gonzalez, the director of MADE at the Citadel. “This is a maker-based way to jumpstart. No need to print and go through production. You can take your brand steps further with something so simple.”

Elisa Gonzalez, director of MADE at the Citadel. (Courtesy of MADE at the Citadel)In making, there’re no boundaries to what you can do. Like the Moonlighter space, MADE acts as a resource for members to thrive, collaborate, and create. MADE Director Elisa Gonzalez sees it as “a platform for Miami creatives to feel like they don’t need to leave to New York or Los Angeles to get the resources they need. It’s really a revolution for Miami. There’s no need to leave. Why would you when it’s all here?”

And instead of Miami being a place to leave, they want to turn it into a place to come to. Herrero is already planning to bring this key element to the next Miami Mini Maker Faire in February 2016, inviting a maker group from Cuba to come participate.

“With our next fair, we are beginning to position the Maker Faire as the fair of the Americas. We are going to start bringing in talent from different parts of Latin America to introduce them to a local audience and local makers.” From here, Herrero’s overall goal will be to “help them start and scale Maker Faires in their own markets.”

All the projects worked on throughout the week come together for the MIAMade prototype competition, where competitors will pitch either a physical product or a digital tool that’s centered on improving sustainability in the home. The much-anticipated prototype pitch competition is happening this Sunday during the closing ceremony at Venture Hive.

Miami Make Week is running until Nov. 15. To see a full list of and to sign up for Miami Make Week events, visit MiamiMakeWeek.com.