Make: 2021 Year in Review

Maker Faire Maker News
Make: 2021 Year in Review

2021 was an odd year. Vaccines first became available in January but Covid has pretty much stayed with us for the full year, continuing to impact how we live and work around the world. All of us have tried to find ways to regain some of their routines, personally and socially, and for those who make things, the process has kept us sane. What you make, what you do, who you work with and how you take on new projects – that’s the life story of each maker and collectively, it’s the larger story of our year in the maker community.

Here are some of the best things we worked on at Make: – the cool makers we meet and the great projects we see that are amusing, interesting, fun, clever, and important. At Make:, we are grateful for this community and its many facets and accomplishments. Makey salutes you all!


In January of this year, we were beginning to wrap up our coverage of the maker response to COVID-19.  OSMS and Nation of Makers produced the summary impact report, Design | Make | Protect, which highlighted:

  • 42,000 citizen contributors
  • 93% of whom were volunteers
  • 12.8 million pieces of PPE.produced by makerspaces  

The peak months of PPE production were April, May, and June of 2020.  One doctor who wrote me said that there was a six-week period that spring that he didn’t know how his hospital was going to cope with such shortages and then the makers began producing PPE to meet the need. He was thankful that makers could fill the gap. 

Also related to COVID was its impact on schools.  Some students working remotely from home lacked laptops and others needed desks.  

This episode of Plan C Live featured five panelists who are tackling this problem with specific outreach efforts and partnerships that put desks, laptops, and other creative supplies into the hands of kids who don’t have them.  One of the projects discussed was the Designer Desks program, an effort organized by Ian Cole of the Maker Effect Foundation in Orlando, Florida.


A Maker Spotlight featured the Spanish producers of Maker Faire Galicia, who created a virtual Maker Faire in 2020 on a platform that they developed.

Jennifer Blakeslee of Maker Faire wrote: “Dispelling with the idea that virtual events can only be navigated through text (links) or a time-based schedule, they developed a navigational system (not unlike Google Maps) that allows you to “walk” through a virtual version of their event’s amazing physical location, encountering projects and interacting with makers just as you would within a “real” Maker Faire.”

Enrique and Marcos wrote about the event:

“The new platform made the fair a completely new story for the viewers, with much more interaction and options to navigate. Although there was little time to make it and we’ve improved many things since the Maker Faire, we are very happy because we had a lot of people from different continents that wanted to participate and made the faire really global. The workshops worked really well using different formats (recorded, live, and some with a provided with physical kits or materials list).”

Jorvon Moss and his robotic creations were featured on the cover of the first issue of Make: magazine in 2021, Volume 76. 

“Moss began building robots about five years ago when he was in college. Like a lot of makers, he started doing it before he understood what he was doing, like artists who start drawing, even though they haven’t had a lot of training.”

Jorvon Moss building a robot

 “’I had no idea about electronics,’ he says. In his dorm room, the first project he tried was putting electronics into Plushies. ‘I didn’t know about microcontrollers back then. I bought a AA battery pack with 12 AA batteries and a single micro servo. I plugged the power pack directly into the servo and the servo exploded.’ His roommate freaked out. “He was like, ‘what are you doing? You’re trying to blow up the room.’ I’m like, ‘no, I was just trying to do science.’”

Make: Editor Keith Hammond compiled a list of

    9 Projects Conceived in Quarantine

“One of the saddest sights of the pandemic: elderly folks quarantined behind glass, unable to hold or touch their loved ones. Plastic “hug curtains” appeared last spring and quickly evolved to fully enclosed “hugging booths” — like a big DIY biosafety glove box — so that families can hold each other again.

This one by Steven and Amber Crenshaw is my favorite, two-way, and simple to build because it mounts in an existing doorway. It’s not much more than Lexan glass mounted in a PVC pipe frame that’s wrapped in foam pipe insulation to create a flexible seal against the door frame. The gloves are off-the-shelf cast covers, like for taking a shower with your broken arm cast.”


Make: Learning Labs, organized by Nancy Otero, got started in February and would run until May.  Fourteen students, ages 17-24, joined to learn basic making skills and engage in a series of projects, learning problem-solving skills and prototyping.  We shared the first round of prototypes.

Project Update from Make: Learning Labs

PH Reading

Make: Editor Mike Senese interviewed Iranian Amelia Buns who created her own low-cost 3D printer tool changer.

“When I saw the E3D tool changer I was like “I NEED THIS!” Well, as it turns out it’s ~$3000 and there’s no way I could ever afford that much, I thought to myself as a joke “maybe I should make a janky version of it myself for fun.” Back then, I didn’t believe in myself one bit, but a week later, despite others telling me I couldn’t make it work, I made the first prototype of my magnetic tool changer, the Doot Changer!”

Amelia Buns
Amelia Buns

Senior Editor Caleb Kraft followed the news that the popular Cricut cutter/plotter was changing its terms of service, locking out and limiting existing users and requiring them to buy a monthly subscription plan to use their own machine.

Many have signed a petition, hoping to show Cricut how unfair this is, and possibly get them to reverse the action,” he wrote. The outcry of the Cricut community did indeed cause the company to reverse its course, which they said in a statement that we published on our site.

Alyson Aberg shared tips on coding to NASA standards in her video.

“The idea of writing software so robust that it can be trusted to launch rockets and orbit satellites was definitely exciting, so I tried to figure out how I could apply these rules to my own code.”


We kicked off a three-part series on CO2 monitoring called Plan CO2. The first in the series shared the story of a Montreal dad, Stephan Schulz, who built a handheld CO2 monitor that his daughter, Odessa, could take to school to measure the air quality of her classroom. Then we looked at a CO2 device with a display built by Carter Nelson of Adafruit.  Finally, we talked about measuring CO2 with air quality expert Tim Dye.

Hand cradling CO2 Device
The homemade CO2 Detector

Maker Faire Kyoto returned to put the delightful creations of the city’s maker culture on display and to celebrate work from innovators around Japan.

If you ever wanted to sculpt a giant head of a troll, film industry artist Robert Stannage shares how he built one of his own.

Troll head

On Make:cast, Austin McChord, an entrepreneur from Connecticut who has a surprising success story as an entrepreneur who sold his company, talked about his $40M dontation to his alma mater, RIT, which they are using to build a large makerspace.

“He wasn’t the best student in high school or college. He had his own ideas, which he worked on while not doing his homework. He started a company after graduating from RIT because he didn’t think anyone would hire him.” 

Austin is also the founder of Norwalk Havoc Robot League in Connecticut.


One of our most popular workshops of the year on Maker Campus was “Storytelling with Servos,” led by Ryan Jenkins, Jasmine Florentine, and Jorvon Moss.

AI is typically used in processing visual images.  Benjamin Cabé of France wondered how AI could be used to identify smells.  His project was on the cover of Make: Magazine Volume 77 and he was a guest on the podcast.

His project “does three things: it uses a gas sensor to detect what’s in the air; it uses a neural network to identify the smell and then it displays a result on a Wio terminal. Oh, and it’s all embedded in a 3D printed enclosure in the shape of a nose.”

LoRa is a low-power, wide-area network standard, and Andreas Speiss explained how it works.

LoRa is very good with sensor networks if these sensors do not transmit a lot of data. For example, it’s perfect for sending humidity data for plants, because the soil humidity usually does not change in seconds. Or for tracking animals’ positions on large farms and game reserves, because animals don’t move too fast. Or for monitoring LoRa is very good with sensor networks if these sensors do not transmit a lot of data. For example, it’s perfect for sending humidity data for plants, because the soil humidity usually does not change in seconds. Or for tracking animals’ positions on large farms and game reserves, because animals don’t move too fast.


Maker Faire Hannover took place as a virtual event in Germany with an exciting lineup.

One of the featured makers was Sabine Wieluch aka “bleeptrack”, a maker and artist specializing in generative art.

Jeff Shaw of Narwhal Labs in Bristol, Rhode Island writes about the challenges of opening a makerspace and keeping it open during COVID

“The spaces I mentioned before — the ones that might not be doing so well right now: they need your help. If you represent a business in the maker community, consider sponsoring and supporting local makerspaces in your local area that need it — content partnerships and equipment can provide a valuable marketing opportunity, potentially a tax write-off, and help keep these local spaces alive.” 

The Narwhal Labs Crew Left to Right: Jeff — Director Skip — CIO of TotalBoat, Graz — Videographer, Kristin — Social Media Coordinator

Maker Faire Plzeň was back for its second year to celebrate the technological heritage of the city and surrounding region and to kick off a summer (and autumn) of making in the Czech Republic. Plzeň (often known as Pilsen around the world) has a storied industrial history.

In Tulsa, Nathan Pritchett of Fab Lab Tulsa talks about how they’re expanding into a new larger space, having outgrown their current facility.  It’s a bold move during a pandemic.  Nathan was a guest on our podcast.

“Nathan describes focusing on connecting an ecosystem that he describes as pyramid; it has five segments. The ecosystem involves reaching out to the community, meeting the educational needs of students, serving its 425 members, providing workforce development opportunities and offering a launchpad for entrepreneurs. He makes the point that if you want to grow any of the constituencies, you have to grow the ecosystem, not just that constituency.”

Caleb Kraft spotlighted costume designer Merel Eisink.

“I’m that person that’ll make the kind of insane costumes you see steal the show at any comic con or viral page: I make huge animatronic wings, LED lighted swords, animal stilts, animatronic monster costumes and intricate detailed costumes using modern techniques such as 3D printing and lasercutting. I complete any project with more costume techniques such as sewing, electronics and foamcrafting, and keep learning new techniques or discover new ways to use 3D printing to tackle a certain problem.”

Merel Eisink

Editor Patrick DiJusto wrote an important piece about efforts to eliminate the term “master/slave” from electronics nomenclature.

“these words are not appropriate and we at Make: will stop using those terms in our books, magazine, and online articles. Unfortunately, that can’t erase the millions of MOSI/MISO boards already in existence. What do we do about them? Following what we think will become standard practice, from now on, our default for MOSI/MISO will be to call them “Main Out/Serial In” and “Main In/Serial Out”, a practice already being followed by Adafruit and others.” 


Larry Cotton has developed many approaches to building a coffee roaster for the home. He looks back on the projects he’s shared.  

Larry shared these tips for making anything:

1. Collect stuff to build with for your entire life

2. Don’t ever stop thinking and planning.

3. Espouse a “build and improve” philosophy.

4. Do something — even if it turns out to be wrong.

5. Be prepared to cheerfully fail — one of the best ways to learn.

6. Be prepared to scale back your goals somewhat, at least temporarily.

Maker Camp began in July and ran into August.  Over 200 camps participated this summer.  We provided a kit of supplies and materials for the camps.

Maker Camp also featured Matt and Kelsey of CodeJoy, who offered online interactive sessions in robotics.

Maker Faire Cairo returned for its seventh year.  

Maker Faire Cairo

Dr. Andreea Gorbatai and two co-authors published a research paper in the journal Organization Science titled: “Making Space for Emotions: Empathy, Contagion, and Legitmacy’s Double-Edged Sword.” It’s about the maker movement and what holds it together. It turns out, it’s not skills and tools as much as it is emotions and empathy — they are the glue for community. 

“She believes that having a shared emotional experience is what connects people to each other and the community. “What happens at Maker Faires that revitalizes the maker community and brings people together into a shared maker identity?” was one of her research questions. Her answer is that being a maker is less about credentials and accomplishments and more about how you feel about yourself, your projects and the stories that you share with others who realize, in turn, that they have stories of their own to share.”


In a three-part series on University Makerspaces, Sabrina Shankar of Bucknell University writes about engaging students, support staff and faculty in a campus makerspace. 

Keith Hanson is the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of Shreveport, Louisiana and a Shreveport native who is committed to retooling the city’s systems for the 21st century. He wanted to find out what areas of the city had access to the Internet and which ones did not.  His solution was to build a Raspberry PI device that he could mount on garbage trucks, which pretty much go everywhere in the city. 

Device designed to detect wifi signals

Joe DiPrima is the founding member of Arc Attack and he told us how the group came together to combine music and Tesla coils. They have a new Tesla coil kit.

The Maker Spotlight featured London’s Geeky Faye.

“I love 3D printing and combining it with pretty much everything that I can, including cosplay, wearables, fine art and electronics.”

Geeky Faye

Make: Magazine Volume 78 as well as the article below described the CO2 Traffic Light by Guido Burger of Germany.  He has been using it to record CO2 levels in classrooms as it can be a good marker for proper air ventilation and decreasing the risk of Covid spread.   


We published the Best Maker Schools along with Newsweek.  It’s our first attempt to find out more about schools with makerspaces and maker programs.

We organized a panel discussion to discuss the growing trend of makerspaces on campus.  The panelists were Micah Lande, Ph.D., an Assistant Professor at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology; Amy Kavalewitz, the Executive Director, Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen at Rice University in Houston, TX; Mischa Villanueva, the Fabrication Floor Manager at Sears think[box] Case Western Reserve University; Zack Dowell is the Instructional Design and Development Coordinator at Folsom Lake College in California; Sabrina Shankar, the Assistant Director of Campus Activities at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania; Ann Wan, Ph.D., an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mathematics at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg; Eric Thompson, the Co-Director of the Blackstone LaunchPad and manager of the Innovation Center at Spelman College in Atlanta, GA; Peter Romine, Ph.D.,Professor and Head of the Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering Program at Navajo Technical University in Crownpoint, NM.

Best of Maker Schools 2021

Maker Faire Tokyo was a virtual event this year with plans to return to a physical venue in 2022.  Shigeru Kobayashi held a discussion with Takuya Ichise about whether Maker Faire can exist beyond the physical space and what the possibilities of a hybrid “makerspace” are.  As usual, everything about Maker Faire Tokyo is quirky and inventive.

Join In The Fun At Maker Faire Tokyo 2021

Maker Faires were held in Zagreb, Milwaukee, and Eindhoven.

We held the Make: Education Forum online with 150 educators and an incredible lineup of maker educators who shared their experiences bringing making into schools and the lives of children.

Getting ready for Halloween, Derek Young of Van Oaks Props showed how to build a realistic but lightweight tombstone.  


Robot Magic by Mario Marchese (The Maker Magician) was published with a foreward by David Copperfield who wrote:

“What you are about to read will take you through a journey of ideas. It will lead you down a path of creativity and a new look at the world and the objects around you.”

Editor Mike Senese interviewed Eben Upton of Raspberry Pi on their Pi Zero 2 W board release.

Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W is a successor to the Zero W, which was itself the successor to the Zero. Zero was our $5 Raspberry Pi, and Zero is a fun product. I still love the Zero, more I think than anything else we’ve ever done. Because it is sort of us challenging ourselves to keep being aggressive after we had some success. What Raspberry Pi has done is it’s used Moore’s law in a different way from the way people normally use Moore’s law. People normally pick a price point and they use the declining, specific cost of computing power to fill that price point up with progressively more computing every year. What Raspberry Pi wanted was to say can we take a PC from 10 years ago and then use Moore’s law to squash that PC down to a much lower price point. And we did that.”

“Priced at just $4, the Pico is one of the cheapest Cortex-M0+ boards, with a clock speed that leaves similarly priced boards in the dust.”

Eben’s interview was the centerpiece of our Boards Guide issue, Make: Volume 79, our fourth issue of the year.

Eben Upton of Raspberry Pi

Maker Faire Rome returned for the 9th time as a “phygital” event, part physical and part digital.

“The physical event took place at its new location the Ostiense Gazometro—an area that radically transformed the industrial and entrepreneurial landscape of Rome in the early 1900s, giving the district its reputation for innovation—overlooking the banks of the Tiber, it never ceases to amaze tourists and Romans alike with the way it stands out on the city’s horizon and redefines its skyline. The area is in development and set to become an open ecosystem dedicated to new non-emissive business models and the development of entrepreneurial supply chains.”


Originally published in Make: Volume 72, we looked at how to protect you and your data at home.

S. A. Applin writes about the Imposter Syndrome and why makers might feel it.

“Pretty much anyone trying to do something who feels like they aren’t qualified to do it, with or without an educational degree, fancy title, or years of experience, can have a version of imposter syndrome. Makers can develop it as adults, or it can start early in childhood, if a family is unsupportive or dismissive of a child’s talents and natural gifts (or loses patience with them for taking apart household things to see how they work).”

Maker Spotlight profiled makerspace educator Emily Burk of Anna, Texas.  She is balancing STEAM education with Career and Technical education in her school. 

“As a young teacher she observed that students were most engaged when they were doing something with their hands. Despite the static, by-the-book nature of most high school English classes, she began to incorporate project-based and collaborative learning into her classroom. This included getting students out of their seats and, often, moving lessons into school hallways where they had the room to get messy with cardboard and glitter.  ‘The classroom box was just too small and creativity needed more physical space.’”

Students in the Anna ISD makerspace

Caleb Kraft went to the Maker Faire Orlando and he couldn’t believe how happy he was to see makers in person.

“I’m having an absolute blast! It’s so refreshing to be around other makers and be soaking up their energy.”

An exuberant Maker Faire Paris was held as a digital event.

“Workshops and YouTube are defining feature of making in 2021. After a year plus of online only content both virtual learning formats and the deep dives and zany builds found across YouTube remain places for innovation. This year, eight well-known makers who have built audiences enthralled by their imagination and know-how bring Maker Faire Paris alive and into your home.”

Maker Faire Paris 2021 Welcomes The Future

Maker Faires were held in Cleveland, Rochester and on Capitol Hill.


Make: published an educational guide on hands-on biotechnology written by Canadians Justin Pahara and Julie Legault,Zero to Genetic Engineering Hero.”  They want to make biotech more accessible for educators, which means that more young people get to do their own experiments in this new field.

Bio Art made with bacteria painted on agar

Executive Editor of Make:, Mike Senese, writes what a crazy year it’s been.  Because of Covid, there are shortages of chips and key components but there are also more new boards than ever before.

“By this point, much has been written about the chip situation (we recommend Nilay Patel’s interview with Harvard professor Willy Shih for insights into not just the shortages, but a fascinating explanation of how silicon chips themselves are manufactured). But what are makers themselves doing about it? Well, as the community is known for, they’re being resourceful. They’re redesigning their projects to use chips they can access. They’re digging into storage closets to find their unused and forgotten chips from past projects. They’re joking (or are they?) on Twitter about yanking the harder-to find chips from PCBs to use in new endeavors. One company, OKdo, has even built a recycling program for Raspberry Pi computers, renewing previously used boards and putting them back into circulation. Analysts say the chip shortages may last until 2023, so buckle up for the ride.”

Thanks for being a part of Make Community in 2021. May you never be bored.




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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.

View more articles by Dale Dougherty


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.