Black Makers Month: Amon Millner

Education Technology
Black Makers Month: Amon Millner


Amon Millner is a member of the Modkit team. I also first met him at Maker Faire in Austin, Texas. He does a lot of cool stuff and his students do really cool stuff, too! His bio is great:

BlackMakerMonth_BadgeDr. Amon Millner is at Olin College as a Computing Innovation Fellow until 2012 (sponsored by the Computing Research Association). He joined Olin after completing his Ph.D. at MIT, where he worked in the Media Lab’s Lifelong Kindergarten Research Group. There he served as a member of the core design team of the award-winning NSF-supported Scratch programming language. As a lead designer of the Scratch Sensor Board, his work involved designing, deploying, and evaluating a computational construction kit and developing engaging activities that enabled young people from diverse backgrounds to create novel tangible user interfaces. Schools, museums, and community centers have adopted his tools and activities. Companies have commercialized variants of the Scratch Sensor Board open hardware platform.

Dr. Millner has worked closely with K-12 learners and undergraduate and graduate students in research and design project settings. He leverages Olin’s unique environment to pursue his passion for helping learners at all levels explore their own passions through design and computing. Prior to joining Olin, he helped shape the ways in which international networks of innovative learning environments (such as Computer Clubhouses and Fab Labs) engaged youth in design and computing activities.

38 thoughts on “Black Makers Month: Amon Millner

  1. make says:

    Sycophantic racism is still unethical, I wonder which of the countless demographics Make will pander too next.

  2. William says:

    Well this site had promise until I saw this: BLACK MAKERS MONTH

  3. Steve Hoefer (@Grathio) says:

    *Sigh* The tone of the comments on this and other Black Maker’s Month show -exactly- why Make needs to promote makers that aren’t part of the status quo.

    Keep it up! Not just for the month, but until you can feature someone besides white males and not get trolly comments.

    1. make says:

      Yes Steve, you implication all racists are white is no less insulting.

      Singling out anyone’s work because of their lineage is completely inappropriate, and you know it.

      1. Steve Olsen (@Beaverbeaver) says:

        This is a blog and it can’t be “racist” unless somehow it actually implied a superiority of one group over another. Focusing on black makers is not. This is a nice thing that helps more than it hurts. Join a softball team if your overwhelming need to feel included in everything matters so much, it could help.

        1. Erkko says:

          Racism is technically singling out people according to their race, or insisting that the concept of race even applies. Having a black makers week is similiar to having a retarded makers week, because it implies that blacks are still somehow different from, you know, human beings; Us.

      2. makemama says:

        Interesting that you think race doesn’t matter but you are only commenting on the racial aspect of this post not on the content of the material.

    2. Lux Lee says:

      No Steve, people are mostly insulted that the race is mentioned at all. They are used to think that it does not matter, that people are colorless and now suddenly it is on the pedestal.

      Another issue is that they are raised in the environment where they are told that it is not a good tone to be proud of their skin color and now the opposite is promoted.

      One more thing that feels wrong to them is that they feel that it is actually a good thing to show projects from people from very diverse backgrounds but not only during some campaign but all the time.

      Last but not last I think that many commenters you consider are not from US and they do not understand the motivation behind this campaign.

      You see, people who are commenting here are not racists. They are decent people who express how their view of the world is violently violated.

      Now I think that the general idea of building the broader public image for the black people (in America) is a really good idea. It is actually brilliant.

      But I would suggest for Make to add small explanation to the beginning of each such portrait that explains the motivation why these articles are here (mostly to broaden the image of the black people (for them selves and for others), why they are here now (Black History Month) and what comes next (more projects from the people from diverse backgrounds (really, it is lacking here)).

      It should be made so that it does not even more hurt anybodies feelings.

      What is also needed is a separate article containing a bit longer explanation and apology (I’m serious) to the readers and to the subjects.

      People are feeling bad and it is now Makes turn to fix it up.

  4. adafruit industries (@adafruit) says:

    hi folks, limor (ladyada) here – each year we celebrate ada lovelace day, “women in tech”, “girls who code” and a variety of efforts to inspire more kids from more diverse backgrounds to become makers. you don’t hear objections for all those efforts, so please be more inclusive here :)

    kipp will be on ask an engineer tonight 10pm ET, stop in and discuss this and more.

    1. Erkko says:

      Positive discrimination according to race or gender is still discrimination by a criterion that should not matter by principle. It carries the same fundamental problem, although people don’t protest as much when it comes to feminism, ironically, because there’s this notion of women being the weaker vessel who deserve to be treated this way because they are.

      The day when you notice that people are going “So you’re a woman… and?” is when you’ve reached the point where people take women seriously as equals instead of thinking “Oh, you’re a woman AND you can do that, cool!”

    2. Jasper says:

      Sure, focussing on minorities is great, but a black makers month is just insulting. You should show their work all year long. Together with work from women, and gays and everyone else. By treating them as a special group you actually say they are not really part of the whole group, which they are!

      1. joe says:

        Yes, they are part of the whole group, but they are also members of individual sub-groups, with their own cultural experiences and backgrounds. These experiences and backgrounds deserve to be celebrated, not cast into some homogenous cultural mass never to be heard from again.

  5. chuck says:

    The intent of these posts doesn’t seem to be to put one race or culture over another- it’s to showcase role models for a segment of the youth that may not see themselves represented in the maker and tech fields. There is nothing wrong with that.
    I’m a 41 year old white guy from the south. When I was a young geek growing up I rarely saw southern folks portrayed positively in the media. If a character on a show had a southern accent it was either Roscoe P. Coletrane or Boss Hogg- either stupid or evil. I rarely saw southerners portrayed as intelligent or creative. To avoid hassles you learn to drop your accent. You drop some phrases and idioms from your vocabulary. You change the way you dress and the music you listen to (at least around some people). Of course I still act the same around my family, but eventually you begin to wonder which one is the mask- the city Chuck or the country Chuck. Maybe more positive southern role models would have prevented this conflict.
    The point is if you’ve never been thirsty you can’t really appreciate water. If you find these posts useless or offensive then they probably are not targeted at you. If you’re a young black kid being presented with a constant barrage of negative images and stereotypes, these posts might offer you a little hope. Is that so horrible?

    1. adeclama says:

      Chuck for reply of the year.
      – A “Damn Yankee”

  6. MikeD says:

    So when is White Makers Month? Or how about Jewish Makers Month, or Gay Makers month, or Strait Makers Month. How about Muslim Makers Month? How about Christian Makers Month. This gets ridicules. We are all God’s children, stop breaking us up into groups.

  7. makemama says:

    Thank you for this feature Make! For a lot of us Black History month means something and seeing someone who looks like us being recognized for doing great things in areas we care about does matter. If it doesn’t matter to you then keep it moving, no need to shoot it down. All these people commenting that color shouldn’t matter in the make community are making only racial comments, nothing on the substance of this individual and his contributions completely discrediting their basic argument. Kudos to the great makers profiled this month, you make us proud:)

  8. Steve Olsen (@Beaverbeaver) says:

    The fact that all of these people are complaining about these pieces by saying “You should feature all types of makers all the time” says something. No one was complaining about a lack of these features before… and no one would have brought it up otherwise… and that is why things like this should exist. People just don’t want to be reminded that race matters still, as much as we all like to think it doesn’t. “Why are we still talking about these things, it’s over we’re all equal…”

  9. Nylanod says:

    As a 50-ish female, I would first like to say that it is a very positive thing to highlight the accomplishments of folks doing good things. Irish, French, Brazilian… whatever! Someone should highlight these individuals! Look at this young man– MIT grad, working to make education more available to the general public in ways that they can appreciate. And it doesn’t look like he’s working just for Black people — he’s working for all people! Do you know how hard it is to get into the Media at MIT? When you think how much effort he has put into what has been accomplished–and for us– folks he’ll never meet–it’s astounding!!! The time, the care, the trying and retrying, the travel, the hours, days, and years… whew! I think that we can and should perhaps understand what highlighting this profile means. (We would like for him to continue doing what he is doing to make life better for us all, right?) And then, when you look at it through the lens of one who has had monumental obstacles to getting anything positive done placed in his way from day one. Just Olympic athletes! It’s a wonder that he even tried. God bless him!! Great job, Dr. Millner. I hope and pray that you will continue to inspire us all!!

  10. Chad Milner says:

    Amon and the Modkit team are doing outstanding work. They have been partners with us at The Young People’s Project ( for the past 3 years. They really share our vision that all children, particularly those at the ‘bottom’, can and need to learn STEM fields. In addition to sharing this vision, Amon and the ModKit team are on the ground making it happen!

    Keep up the great work…we need more leaders, thinkers, makers and innovation in our communities like the work of Amon and ModKit!

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Kipp Bradford is a technology consultant and entrepreneur with a passion for making things. He is the Senior Design Engineer and Lecturer in Engineering at Brown University, where he teaches several engineering design and entrepreneurship courses. Kipp is also on the Technical Advisory Board for Make Magazine.

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