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DARPA Mentor Award to Bring Making to Education

DARPA Mentor Award to Bring Making to Education

I’m happy to announce today that O’Reilly’s MAKE division, in partnership with Otherlab of San Francisco, has received an award from The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in support of its Manufacturing Experimentation and Outreach (MENTOR) program. The team will help advance DARPA’s MENTOR program, an initiative aimed at introducing new design tools and collaborative practices of making to high school students.

The new Makerspace program, developed by Dale Dougherty of MAKE and Dr. Saul Griffith of Otherlab, will integrate online tools for design and collaboration with low-cost options for physical workspaces where students may access educational support to gain practical hands-on experience with new technologies and innovative processes to design and build projects. The program has a goal of reaching 1000 high schools over four years, starting with a pilot program of 10 high schools in California during the 2012-2013 school year.

The MENTOR effort is part of the DARPA’s Adaptive Vehicle Make program portfolio and is aimed at engaging high school students in a series of collaborative distributed manufacturing and design experiments. The overarching objective of MENTOR is to develop and motivate a next generation of system designers and manufacturing innovators by exposing them to the principles of foundry-style digital manufacturing through modern prize-based design challenges.

Dr. Regina Dugan, Director of DARPA, has said: “One of the biggest challenges we face as a nation is the decline in our ability to make things.”Having seen that quote, Saul Griffith and I decided to apply for the DARPA MENTOR program. Saul Griffith, a MAKE columnist, co-developer of HowToons, and an entrepreneur, is a master maker himself who has unique insights into the future of design and engineering. I’m excited to partner with him to develop a collaborative platform for students to share their designs and projects and to encourage high schools to build the capacity for making things and to offer this learning opportunity to more students. Part of the Makerspace program will be to use Maker Faire as a venue for bringing makers and educators together as well as showcasing student projects.

There is a lot of interest in how making can transform education and many of us are working to take advantage of the momentum of the maker movement and seize the moment to bring much needed change to education. This DARPA Mentor award allows us to accelerate this development as a national priority. I see us as building bridges between the maker community and the educational community so that we can understand how to bring the resources and practices of makers into high schools, into an educational context that is valuable for students and supportive of teachers.

We have created the website,, to begin organizing information about the program for potential participants. We have also created a form to build a directory of Makerspaces so that we can help set up a network of participants who want to share ideas and implementations. As I’ve used the term here, Makerspace is an educationally-oriented hackerspace, designed to address the goals of young makers and educators who work with them. One of the goals of this Makerspace program is to find low-cost options for Makerspaces so that we might have more of them in our communities, in places like middle schools, community centers, and high schools.

Here’s a May 2011 TEDx talk by Dr. Saul Griffith:
YouTube player


O’Reilly Press Release

58 thoughts on “DARPA Mentor Award to Bring Making to Education

  1. Ed says:

    That’s nice, but is there a good reason to duplicate effort? other than the cynical explanation of putting the Make brand on the movement.

    1. Gareth Branwyn says:

      As Dale points out in the piece, we’re using the term “Makerspaces” in this project to mean spaces geared towards educators, young makers, schools. This directory will focus on these education-oriented spaces, not adult hackerspaces. A prime example (and model) of the type of Makerspace we’re talking about is the Project: Make program we’re doing at MAKE HQ with Analy High School: That’s the sort of project we want to gather and germinate through this program and this directory.

  2. Michael Stephens says:

    I honestly like Makerspace better than hackerspace. Its got more universal appeal to age ranges and sexes and level of education…

    Probably why they chose the name MakeZine instead of HackZine.

    1. Tom says:

      I agree, the term hacker has a bad connotation (even if it shouldn’t) and that connotation carries over to hackerspaces. Makerspaces sounds more positive. Kinda reminds me when the term open source “replaced” free software.

    2. DARPA Mentor Award to Bring Making to Education Paul Spinrad says:

      “Makerspace” is a lot like “Bauhaus” in meaning — and the similarities with the influential 1920’s German design school do not end there. This will be more distributed and broadly accessible though.

  3. David s says:

    Probably because it’s got some play with magazine…

    To be fair, it does seem like it’s a duplicates effort considering how many hackerspaces likely fit under either title… Or at least consider themselves to fit under either title.

  4. MauiJerry says:

    The main difference between this and most existing spaces is the focus on High School. Most hacker/maker spaces explicitly EXCLUDE those below the age of 18 (i.e. legally able to sign a liability waver for themselves).
    I heartily applaud MAKE for this big step and look forward to reading up on the project as it progresses next year. I fully expect MAKE to be documenting it in a whole LOT of articles, blog posts, etc. I expect that MAKE will include the negative Lessons-Learned too.
    Also I expect MAKE will be turning this around in an outreach to other spaces, schools and FabLabs to move the class material beyond the single school. I look forward to hearing Dale talk about this at the USFabLab Network Symposium in April ( Not thrilled about leaving Maui for Tulsa OK, but a maker’s gotta do what a maker’s gotta do!

    1. Luis says:

      What mean hackerspaces are YOU talking about!? CCCKC Hackerspace in Kansas City welcomes young makers/hackers! I look also look forward to meeting you at the USFLN conference! I love reading about the Maui Makerspace, that is you right?

      I’m all for this program and agree it can take many forms but the more young makers we get making the more they can feel empowered to take control of their future!

      Luis Rodriguez
      Maker Faire KC
      CCCKC Hackerspace
      Hammerspace Hobby & Community Workshop (KC’s newest FabLab!)

  5. Charles Reintzel says:

    I suggest that county boards of education provide Make in their Libraries, and set aside rooms, and time for students to apply the information gleaned from the Magazine. There might well be several groups formed with several projects.
    Manufacturers might well surplus equipment and components for use by the groups. Either specifically selected components or various components might well be provided, with instrumentation to verify operation of the projects.
    Through operation as groups, the folks would be better qualified to search parts, and deal with scheduling. The self motivated creation of Make objects would allow people to understand much of the dynamics of business.
    Students would be better qualified to enter business after graduation, and fill the many roles required in businesses.

  6. MauiJerry says:

    Thinking about this a bit more – I dont like the use of “Makerspace” as the complete name for this project. There is a VERY big potential for confusion between a MAKE branded Makerspace and generic, unaffiliated space. The community has already had a big move switching from hackerspace. Does MAKE intend to put a TradeMark(tm) on the term? There are already licensing terms for Maker Faire. It would be terribly unfair to put any licensing on ‘makerspace’

  7. mathew lippincott says:

    The MENTOR program is not just unsupervised money for STEM education, its specific to combat vehicle development. The big issue here isn’t some minute difference between “Makerspaces” and “hackerspaces,” its that Make is setting up yet another funnel for STEM educated youth into weapons manufacturing.

    What, exactly, could a kid encounter in “adult” hackerspaces that is more dangerous than the idea that developing murderous machines is ethical?

  8. Edward Jiang says:

    We’ve been doing a student-run makerspace for high school/college students in Seattle at StudentRND. We’d love to work with MAKE Magazine and the student makerspaces initiative. You can contact via email or on our site.

  9. Stefan Jones says:

    Gee, how could anything funded by DARPA amount to anything?

  10. Billy says:

    This is amazing! I’ve been waiting for this to happen for a long time. I’m a young maker and I would love it if my school could be included in some of the trial runs. I’ve already been doing a lot of making and hacking (security definition and constructive definition) but I haven’t been able to find a good hackerspace in my area. My school is already a vo-tech but I think a makerspace could encourage a ‘free build’ time (like study hall for makers). Its something I was surprised to find missing at a technical school. If it is possible for my school to be included please comment back (since I don’t want to leave my e-mail in a comment).

  11. Ayden Green says:

    i was wondering what i need to start a makerspace in my high school.

    1. Luis says:

      I think your question is the first step! Just organize a group of friends and start meeting!

  12. Regina Dugan y un lugar maravilloso llamado DARPA - La Isla Buscada says:

    […] con la revista MAKE para financiar makerspaces en escuelas secundarias. El programa llamado MENTOR — aunque celebrado por muchos — ha sido criticado fuertemente por aquellos que temen que esto […]

  13. Regina Dugan y un lugar maravilloso llamado DARPA | Jobbr es says:

    […] con la revista MAKE para financiar makerspaces en escuelas secundarias. El programa llamado MENTOR — aunque celebrado por muchos — ha sido criticado fuertemente por aquellos que temen […]

  14. Sean says:

    Wow…is there anything the US government won’t throw its dirty hands on? Thanks a bunch Make for soaking Maker Faire in bloodshed by high school students. This is *exactly* what we need for the future of this country. More things to blow people up. I think I won’t be going this year…

  15. The Military-Maker Complex: DARPA Infiltrates the Hackerspace Movement | Technoccult says:

    […] a two part essay Fiacre O’Duinn explains why DARPA’s partnership with MAKE magazine to fund 1,000 makerlabs in U.S high schools is antithetical to the maker movement and wonders […]

  16. jndetlefsen says:

    This makes Make Magazine:
    -an Army recruiter
    -a lobbyist
    -part of the “smart warfare” propaganda nonsense that we all know it bullshit

    All of the above are the least worthy lifeform on earth in my view and i’m shocked that Make is now all of those. I have supported the magazine for years and now they go 100% against mine (an may makers) principles for a little bit of cash.

    DARPA will not share any of their technology and not use it for any good purpose. both fundamental principles of the maker movement.

  17. A note on humanity or ethics, mobiles and the Raspberry Pi | Richard Hall's Space says:

    […] discuss our [ethical/moral/humane] use of technologies, just as I am unsure about our engagement in defence-driven education projects, or our uncritical promotion of cyber security challenges. Each of these initiatives connects to […]

  18. A Map of What’s Disruptive « And Yet It Moves says:

    […] With Dale Dougherty and Saul Griffith taking a DARPA grant of up to $10M to bring their stuff to 1000 high schools over four years, a lot more kids are going to find out that you can just start doing stuff that […]

  19. Travis says:

    Calling this effort Makerspaces is rude to those Makerspaces out there which do not wish to associate with your initiative and come under your banner. You did not invent the term, so you don’t have the (moral) right to hijack it.

    What MAKE and O’Reilly are doing is divisive to the community. Call it something else.

  20. Public-Private Partnerships That Work – Part II » California Open Campus says:
  21. Culture transmission is bi-directional - O'Reilly Radar says:

    […] is participating in the DARPA MENTOR program and Dale has already discussed our involvement at length. So I need to disclose it, but this post […]

  22. Case Study: Critical Making | Art & Publishing says:

    […] activism and politics. The project stems also from a disappointment. A year ago, Make received a grant from DARPA to create “makerspaces” for teenagers. Everyone who, so far, had assumed […]

  23. DARPA Supports the Maker Movement | Be G.R.E.A.T. Academy says:

    […] Make Magazine, Jan […]

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DALE DOUGHERTY is the leading advocate of the Maker Movement. He founded Make: Magazine 2005, which first used the term “makers” to describe people who enjoyed “hands-on” work and play. He started Maker Faire in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2006, and this event has spread to nearly 200 locations in 40 countries, with over 1.5M attendees annually. He is President of Make:Community, which produces Make: and Maker Faire.

In 2011 Dougherty was honored at the White House as a “Champion of Change” through an initiative that honors Americans who are “doing extraordinary things in their communities to out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world.” At the 2014 White House Maker Faire he was introduced by President Obama as an American innovator making significant contributions to the fields of education and business. He believes that the Maker Movement has the potential to transform the educational experience of students and introduce them to the practice of innovation through play and tinkering.

Dougherty is the author of “Free to Make: How the Maker Movement Is Changing our Jobs, Schools and Minds” with Adriane Conrad. He is co-author of "Maker City: A Practical Guide for Reinventing American Cities" with Peter Hirshberg and Marcia Kadanoff.

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