A few weeks ago, we were talking internally about somehow celebrating some of our favorite makers from 2010. Of course, when we do that, our usual cast of amazing makers pop to mind: Mister Jalopy, Bill Gurstelle, Bre Pettis, Limor Fried, Lenore and Windell of Evil Mad Scientist Labs, the Instructables folks, etc. But we also wanted to cast our net a little wider. And don’t get us wrong, we’re not voting these folks as “the best makers” or anything. It’s not a competition. But as Phil said about Mitch Altman, an already well-known maker who we decided to single out anyway (see below), they represent “the best of us.” For all of these people, their seemingly boundless curiosity, resourcefulness, experimental approach to life, their not being afraid to fail, and their overall spirit of adventure and dedication to the joy of making, is what makes them representative of that better part of us all. So, from everyone here at MAKE, we’d like to thank all of you in this article, all of the other makers who contributed to Maker Media endeavors in 2010, and to all of you who are part of the greater maker community. You all inspire us and keep us going.
And we’d love to hear in the comments who you thought were some of the more inspired makers in 2010.
Mitch Altman — Anybody who’s read MAKE, this website, has been to a Maker Faire, is part of a hackerspace, gone to a hacker con, or similar, probably knows Mitch Altman. He’s certainly not newly arrived on the maker radar. But we thought he needed special commendation anyway. PT put it best in an email:
Mitch tirelessly travels the world to patiently teach thousands of people open source hardware, he’s a developer/founder of a hackerspace (and champion of hackerspaces). He’s a wonderful person, has a social cause — if you’ve seen Mitch at a Maker Faire, he is a saint — he is the best of us. —Phillip Torrone
He is indeed. So we award Mitch a special Maker Saint award for 2010. We love you, Mitch. Keep up the Great Work!
Jeri Ellsworth — Jeri is also likely no stranger to Make: Online readers, but we’re endlessly inspired and entertained by her work. She’s a geek’s geek. Check out this recent video she did about her failures and what she’s learned from them. We can’t wait to see what sorts of trouble Jeri gets herself into in 2011. —Gareth
Chris Hackett — If you were at Maker Faire New York, you couldn’t miss seeing (and hearing) the work of artist and fabricator Chris Hackett and the Madagascar Institute. They were a huge presence at the Faire, from the madcap chariot races around the metal sculpture in the center of the park to the gut-rumblingly-loud “Jet Ponies,” basically two buzz bombs with saddles you could climb onto and ride. Good times! Hackett also just starred in a pilot for a Science Channel show, called Stuck with Hackett. Since airing, the show has been picked up for nine more episodes (to be filmed in 2011) and the show scored a New York Times mention. —Gareth
Héctor Martín — Héctor pulled off a coup when he responded to Adafruit’s X-prize styled bounty for a hacked Kinect. The Kinect, Microsoft’s new gestural XBox interface, intrigued hackers everywhere but they were frustrated by Microsoft’s refusal to open it up. Thanks to Héctor, it’s now available for exploration by anyone who’s interested. And guess what? The Kinect became the hot toy of the holiday season. Hmmmmm. —John Baichtal
Michal Zalewski — Michal is one hard-working hacker, with dozens of interesting projects on his web site. His Geiger-Müller mood lamp, 3D scanner assembly, guerrila guide to CNC machining and resin casting, hand-cast robot with geared steering, and concise electronics for geeks projects floored us individually, but collectively, they represent a pretty mind-boggling quantity of first-rate work for a single year. We can’t wait to see what Michal cooks up in the eleven! —John B
Christian Arnø — Christian, a Thingiverse fixture from Norway, has printed some amazing projects on his CupCake CNC: his printable tool clips and MakerBot Dremel mount impressed us. But his masterwork — thus far! — is his MakerBot-printed MakerBot chassis. Keep printing, Christian! —John B
Wayne & Layne — In 2009, no one knew who Wayne and Layne were — or as their mommas call ’em, Adam Wolf (right) and Matthew Beckler (left). They labored in obscurity, concocting all manner of ingenious projects, two of which came out this year: Their Tactile Metronome was a hit at the Bay Area Maker Faire. It’s a “learning drum” that listens as you tap a beat onto the PCB, then continues the rhythm you just tapped out. Their Video Game Shield was introduced at the World Maker Faire in New York, and quickly became one of the hot kits of the fall, with everyone from the MakerBot holiday store to the Maker Shed, to Adafruit and Sparkfun offering the shield. A little bird told us W&L’s next offering is imminent. Can’t wait, can’t wait! —John B
Super Awesome Sylvia — We don’t know what kingdom of fairy Sylvia comes from, but we’d like to see more of these magical little maker people. In 2010, Sylvia burst onto our radar with a series of Sylvia’s Super Awesome Maker Shows. We were floored. Our agents, talent scouts, casting directors, and producers went into high gear (read: one of us sent her dad an email) and we asked them to make some kid vids for us. We’ve been thrilled with working with them and expect even bigger and better things from Sylvia and her wily assistants — her parents: dad, aka TechNinja, and mom, aka CraftNinja. OK, so maybe Sylvia comes from some sort of Shaolin Temple or martial arts/ninja training school. That might explain the lock-picking. —Gareth
Zach Lieberman — Zach, of Graffiti Research Labs, defines himself as an “artist, researcher, and hacker dedicated to exploring new modes of expression and play.” One of his most impressive projects (and he has many) is the Eyewriter, a low cost, open source device that allows people (especially the paralyzed) to draw with their eyes. —Gareth
Bill Hammack — Bill Hammack is one part Mr. Wizard, one part James Burke. He’s a professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and his alter ego Engineer Guy has made over 300 public radio spots emphasizing the creative aspects of science and engineering. In 2010, Bill burst into our corner of the blogosphere with an absolutely fascinating series of short, brilliantly-produced videos extolling the wonders of engineering that are concealed within the everyday objects that surround us. From cheap Wal-Mart coffee makers to vintage airline flight data recorders, as Bill likes to say: “Look inside. It’s amazing.” —Sean R
Tony DeRose (above right) and his family are my obvious pick. I’ve been working with Tony closely on the Young Makers program, but I got to know him first when he volunteered to share his family’s Potato Gatling Gun with our field trip visitors two years ago. He, his wife, and their two boys sit down over the holidays each year and decide what they’ll create for Maker Faire Bay Area in May. Their projects are awesome (besides the potato launcher, they’ve built a giant multitouch table and a fire-breathing dragon), and the kids drive the projects. The experience of working on Maker Faire projects with his boys led Tony to organize a series of maker lunches with his colleagues at Pixar to share experiences making. And, he’s been devoting a majority of his time to a vision he shares with Dale, me, and Karen Wilkinson and Mike Petrich at the Exploratorium — to get kids making, and to create an infrastructure to support that making. Although we are all partners in this, Tony does the heavy lifting on the program, working as organizational leader, shop host, club manager, and mentor, all in one. And he’s also a maker in his day job, as a researcher at Pixar! Tony is a through-and-through great guy, and I only hope our family can be like his in a decade or so! —Michelle Hlubinka, Education Director, Maker Media
See the Young Makers program announcement for 2011
Nate Nielsen — 2010 saw the untimely passing of Tekoa, Washington Lego artist Nate Nielsen, known online as nnenn. Father, husband, and professor of graphic design, nnenn was something of a legend in the Lego community, and was movingly eulogized at The Brothers Brick. Inspired in large part by his relationship with his two sons, he was also one of the most prolific and innovative designers the AFOL (Adult Fans of Lego) community has seen in a long time. His Flickr stream remains as a monument, if not to the whole man, then certainly at least to his talent, passion, and creativity. It continues to inspire and probably will for a long time to come. —Sean Ragan