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Featured at the 10th annual Maker Faire Bay Area.

Autodesk CEO Carl Bass has been a Maker for 35 years. In that time he’s made a lot of fun, beautiful projects, as well as plenty of mistakes along the way. We had a chance to listen in on his talk this past May at Maker Faire Bay Area and hear what he had to say about his experiences both as a Maker and in guiding his two sons with their own projects.

Bass spoke on “Making for Kids,” although his kernels of wisdom are relevant for Makers of all ages. Since becoming a father himself, Bass says he’s noticed a symbiotic relationship between parents and kids. Parents can motivate and facilitate their children’s projects, and few things are as inspirational for adults as a child’s imagination.

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One of Bass’ first projects was a raft constructed from Army Surplus inflatable pontoons.

As a seasoned Maker, father of young Makers, and the leader of one of the premiere companies in support of the Maker Movement, Bass is often asked how he got started. Well, he started as a teenager tinkering with supplies from army surplus stores. He says,

“People see all these finished projects, [but] they don’t see all the early projects… all the failed attempts… half the fun of making is you make mistakes, you learn as you go, you do it better next time. Nobody should be intimidated by seeing something on the internet…[That person] got started, they made mistakes, and then it got better and better and more refined.”

Essentially, this is the core essence of Bass’ advice. Just get started. Just try. You’ll figure it out as you go. He points out that if you don’t know more about your project by the end of it than you did when you were beginning, it’s hardly worth doing in the first place. And like making a mistake while cooking, if it’s not good the first time, you’ll definitely make it better the next time. In Bass’ eyes, that’s the essence of making and of learning.

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Bass’ sons inside a rocket ship, one of their first family projects.

Bass has seen with his own children just how empowering being a Maker can be. More than the technical or engineering skills one might obtain, Bass says that the ability to have an idea in your mind and to be able to construct it in the real world — and above all, the belief in yourself that you can accomplish such a thing — is the most important takeaway from making a project.

When asked about how parents should budget their children’s making without breaking the bank, Bass says that sometimes the more limited your resources, the more inventive people are. Start with pieces of paper. Start with cardboard. Start with scrap wood. Don’t get hung up on the limitations. Software, information, and access to makerspaces are often free or heavily discounted for students. There’s a lot that can be done on limited budgets.