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Maker Pros Go to Washington

Congressional leaders and staff attended Maker Faire Capitol Hill this week, where they met with a diverse group of makers representing the manufacturing sector, colleges and universities, and the federal government — a cross section, in other words, of the maker pro ecosystem.

Participants included the Congressional Maker Caucus (@MakerCaucus), the National Human Genome Research Institute (@genome_gov), the Fab Foundation (@FabFndn) and Maker Media (@MakerMedia) founder Dale Dougherty (@dalepd), who moderated a panel about how the maker movement can bolster innovation and the job market.

“The breadth and impact of the maker movement on sectors of the U.S. such as education, manufacturing, economic development and innovation are simply remarkable,” said Dorothy Jones-Davis (@dmjonesdavis), the executive director of Nation of Makers (@NationOfMakers), a nonprofit that supports the maker community. “The Maker Faire Capitol Hill is an amazing opportunity to share the enormous impact of makers on cities throughout our great country with policymakers and families alike here in Washington, D.C.”

American Factories Are Leaning Into the Future

riveting report by the Boston Globe looks at what factories are calling “advanced manufacturing” techniques — think robots and cloud computing — and how they’re allowing them to stay competitive, or even carve out new niches, in a complicated global market.

One upshot is that these future factories, many of which have sprung up in Massachusetts, can be workplaces with the trappings of Silicon Valley, complete with dogs allowed at work, catered lunches and yoga classes. Wages are competitive, too, with starter earnings averaging around $53,000 annually.

“We’re kind of like Japan or Germany, where we’re competitive in very high-value-added, technologically advanced goods, as opposed to China, which, though advancing quickly, is better known for mass-produced goods,” said Branner Stewart, a senior research manager University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute (@UMASSDonahue) who studies the changing manufacturing industry.

Shenzhen’s Growing Pains

Speaking of overseas manufacturing, another investigation this week looks at growing pains in Shenzhen, the Chinese tech hub that’s become a global nexus for hardware manufacturing. A rapidly rising cost of living and insufficient childcare options are making some workers skittish about the city’s long term prospects, and a few major companies — including Huawei (@Huawei), a large smartphone maker — are moving out of the city.

Famed maker and Make: friend Andrew “bunnie” Huang (@bunniestudios) also warned about predatory contractors that prey on would-be hardware innovators.

“Incubators are everywhere,” says Huang. “They would have rooms with a 3D printer and not much else and call it makerspace.”

This Extremely Weird Kickstarter Video Worked Perfectly

There may never have been a Kickstarter video quite as wacky as for the upcoming laser cutter Beambox (@Beambox), an incomprehensible series of jarring tones shifts that evokes David Lynch (@DAVID_LYNCH) more than a standard fundraising video.

The gamble worked, by the way — the project raised an impressive $341,000 out of a modest $30,000 goal.

Elsewhere on the Maker Pro Web

Avnet (@Avnetsaid this week that one million members have joined its online communities at element14 (@element14) and Hackster.io (@Hacksterio). “Because they learn from real-world project examples, industry experts and each other, our community members are more likely to find the right path to get their idea from prototype to mass production,” said Avnet CEO Bill Amelio, who we’ve interviewed for this newsletter previously.

Remember last week, when we mentioned that Verge editor TC Sottek(@chillmage) had launched a Kickstarter campaign for a beautifully-packaged role playing game called Quest (@questrpg)? The project blew through its $65,000 goal almost immediately, and now it’s pushing $100,000 — an impressive sum in the DIY game market.

Storied children’s show Sesame Street (@sesamestreet) has launched a venture fund, and it’s using it to invest in in Kano (@TeamKano), an educational DIY computing system for teaching coding to kids that we’ve covered before.

Maker pro Adrian Preda, who sells his beautiful woodworking creations on Etsy, created a magnificent, miniature Bluetooth speaker set, crafted in a midcentury modern style. Make: Senior Editor Caleb Kraft (@calebkrafthas more.