Bethlehem Steel Reborn: The Maker Movement at SteelStacks

Anna Kaziunas France with Lehigh Valley Mini Maker Faire organizer Marc de Vinck.

LehighValley_MMF_logos.fwLast weekend I returned to my hometown region to take in the sights at Lehigh Valley Mini Maker Faire and was extremely proud to see such a vibrant maker community. The first ever Maker Fair in the region took place at SteelStacks, a 10-acre campus dedicated to arts, culture, family, community, and education built on the former home plant of Bethlehem Steel, America’s second-largest steel producer and largest shipbuilder until its bankruptcy and shutdown in the 1980s that changed the region forever.

The gang’s all here! Nick Normal, Anna Kaziunas France, Marc De Vinck, and Andrew Terranova at Lehigh Valley Mini Maker Faire.

The iconic blast-furnaces of the once mighty Bethlehem Steel still dominate the landscape and give an otherworldly, industrial feel to a complex that is now focused on music and art. SteelStacks now hosts more than 1,000 concerts and eight different festivals annually, including Musikfest, the nation’s largest free music festival.

The SteelStacks, Bethlehem Steel Reborn

It gave me great pleasure to attend a Maker Faire here. The vitality, curiosity and creativity that poured out of the 100+ exhibitors and many attendees, and the many digital manufacturing programs that have sprung up, gave me great hope for the future of the Lehigh Valley.

Guitar created Matthew Lieb at NCC Fab Lab

I was particularly impressed with the work being done in the Northampton Community College Fab Lab, Lehigh University’s Integrated Product Development program and the Baker Institute for Entrepreneurship Creativity, and Innovation.

The guitars produced by the “Basic & Advanced Woodworking Luthier Program – Stringed Instrument Construction” at the Northampton Community College Fab Lab were amazing. These guitars are both handmade and digitally fabricated, and have very intricate inlays that are made possible with the laser cutter. As their brochure states, “The intricacies of the craft and the science of Luthier are blended with old world and new world technologies.”

Intricate inlay done with the Epilog laser at the NCC Fab Lab.

When old-world craftsmanship meets high tech innovations, the creativity is without bounds. Imagine building a guitar while you learn to incorporate laser engraving and inlay … Or, how about cutting the neck and body on the CNC machine using nested exotic woods from around the world. You can learn tonewood resonance testing and even do your own pick-up winding. The list goes on.

Exciting stuff is happening here and I’m looking forward to returning soon. Congratulations to producers Marc de Vinck of Lehigh University & the Baker Institute’s Lisa Getzler-linn who brought Maker Faire to this symbolic venue!

For maker videos, photos, and interviews, check out the rest of our Lehigh Valley Mini Maker Faire coverage.


Discuss this article with the rest of the community on our Discord server!

Anna Kaziunas France is interested practical digital fabrication focused project documentation (anything that turns codes into things), as well as adventures in synthetic biology, biohacking, personal genomics and programmable materials.

She's currently working on the forthcoming book "Design for CNC: Practical Joinery Techniques, Projects, and Tips for CNC-routed Furniture".

She’s also the Academic Dean of the global Fab Academy program, the co-author of Getting Started with MakerBot and compiled the Make: 3D Printing book.

Formerly, she worked as an editor for Make: Books, was digital fabrication editor and skill builder section editor for Make: Magazine, and directed Make:'s 2015 and 2014 3D Printer Shootout testing events.

She likes things that are computer-controlled, parametric, and open— preferably all three.

Find her on her personal site, Twitter and Facebook.

View more articles by Anna Kaziunas France


Ready to dive into the realm of hands-on innovation? This collection serves as your passport to an exhilarating journey of cutting-edge tinkering and technological marvels, encompassing 15 indispensable books tailored for budding creators.