No content found

dadiangokartSomeone who read about the upcoming Cleveland Mini Maker Faire told me “that’s something your Dad would have loved.” They’re right. John Krouse would have loved the Maker Faire and I’m sad that he’s missing it. (He passed away too early from cancer, about three years ago.)

I’ve been thinking about why he would have loved this event and, really, this whole movement. Sure, he was the kind of dad that built go-karts and electromagnets and helped me create spaceships and robots out of trade show samples he brought home from business trips. He was also a graduate of the Case School of Engineering and the editor and publisher of Machine Design. His background helped answer my questions about why C3PO makes that whirring sound when he walks, how a torpedo really sinks a ship, and why the speed of light is such a big deal.

But makers don’t just make; they want to understand how something works and, perhaps most importantly, want others to understand how things work. Anyone who ever heard my dad talk about writing knows that description fits him perfectly.

He spent much of his writing career (at Penton Media and then as a freelance consultant) making complicated engineering relatable to anyone. He hated jargon and searched for succinct and meaningful language to communicate the fundamentals of how things worked. His piece The Sound of Legend is typical of his atypical approach to writing about something like sound and vibration software:

You know it’s a Harley as soon as you hear it, before you even see it. The throaty pounding and off-centered drumming beat are part of the signature sound that uniquely defines the persona of the machine and clearly differentiates the manufacturer from its competitors. Buyers don’t just want transportation to get from one place to another. They want a riding experience, a big part of which is the classic sound of the bike. It’s all about the thunder, roar and rumble riders expect when they rev up the engine.

I wanted to write this not only as a tribute to my Dad, but to all the people here in Cleveland (and everywhere else) that feel the same way he did: explaining how something works is just as important as building it, selling it, or buying it. If we lose that ability and desire to explain, then we lose the ability to truly innovate.

There are moments at a maker event when you see beyond the technology and craft and realize that this isn’t just about demonstrating or exhibiting; it’s a movement that strives to make complicated things simple to understand. If we make technology (or anything, really) complicated, we put the power to innovate in the hands of a few. Makers strive to do the opposite, saying, “Here’s something complicated, but it’s really easy to understand if you look inside.” That’s what my dad would have loved most of all.

James Krouse

James Krouse

James Krouse is a playwright, author, and new media consultant. He is currently the artistic director at Ingenuity, a Cleveland-based non-profit exploring where people and technology connect. Ingenuity is the primary producer of IngenuityFest and the Cleveland Mini Maker Faire.

  • Jerry Buerge

    Most people can easily make many useful items for personal use and also do so with used materials that otherwise would be discarded as trash.

    There are what seems to me to be an endless series of items that can be made from all forms of trash wood that can be salvaged from local sources such as wooden shipping pallets that are often simply sent through the trash handling process and either burnt wastefully or perhaps even productively within a power generating salvage manner that can be given a second useful extended life before such an efficient final demise.

    And, this can easily be done using very simple tools and relatively little real effort beyond that which can supply a bit of health building exercise in the process.

  • Scott Williams

    I loved this post. It reminds me of my old uncle, myself and my brother. We have been making things since we were small. beginning with powered lego projects and building, rebuilding or re-fabricating our bicycles and other riding toys. We progressed into bigger bikes and cars. My brother has a great knack for electronics that I don’t have, but I’m pretty good at designing our prototypes. We have a nice shop out back with a pretty decent amount of tools and we normally have several projects running with a few more in mind. I like the idea of makers coming together. We live way out in the country and a trip to something like this is out of the question. But living out here has advantages and our various projects keep us interested and motivated. Our process is pretty simple. We pick up a lot of salvage and recycled materials and then use them to our benefit. 90% of the things we build, fabricate or fix come from recycled materials. Lately we’ve been working hard on our go green effort which involves alternative energy, organic farming, irrigation, earth building techniques and innovations for heat and winter greenhouse gardening. The fun never stops, quite literally. Being a Maker is an industrious undertaking. You need to be interested, and interesting at the same time.

  • kingbazoka

    My dad is not a maker but an artist. And he teached me alot about scuplting, making things with polymer matterial, wood, papers… and today I’m using them in my making projects :D He’s also the first man teached me about basic electronics (he did a lot of electronics things for his art projects) and the first man teached me using computer.
    We’re luck guys because we have a great dad :D

  • TomKi

    You guys would have had no trouble fixing life support on the Ark in the TV series “The 100.”

  • Tom Bryant

    My grandfather would haloved stuff like this. He was a machinist by trade and one heck of a handyman. I’m hoping to make Maker Faire Detroit this year, for him if for no other reason.

  • Jack Winck

    I desired to write down this particular not simply being a honor in order to my father, yet to any or all the folks throughout Cleveland (and everywhere you go else) which have the same way this individual performed: explaining exactly how something is effective is equally as essential while developing the item, offering the item, or perhaps buying the item. In the event that we all eliminate which capability and need to reveal, next we all eliminate a chance to absolutely innovate. womens health have changed over the centuries. Historically, life was particularly difficult for most women. Aside from the numerous dangers and diseases, women became wives and mothers often when they were just emerging from their own childhood.