White House Honors Champions Of Change

Maker News
White House Honors Champions Of Change

The White House has released the names of the makers who they will be honoring at this years Champions of Change and we couldn’t be happier.

Champions of Change is where the White House can celebrate individuals who empower and inspire their communities. This may be through social programs, education, job creation or any other aspect of making. You can watch live on Friday, June 17th at 1:00 PM ET, where there will be statements from U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith, and Thomas Kalil, Deputy Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

The Champions of Change event kicks off the National Week of Making, June 17-23, and happens just before the National Maker Faire in Washington D.C. on June 18th. This Maker Faire is absolutely free, but be sure to get your tickets before you arrive.

Of the honorees, we are particularly happy to see our long time friend, Limor Fried of Adafruit Industries.

Limor Fried – New York, New York
While studying engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Limor “Ladyada” Fried decided to create a company focused on supporting learning electronics for makers of all ages and skill levels. In 2005 she founded Adafruit which has grown to now employ more than 100 individuals in their 50,000 sq ft. NYC factory. Limor is committed to building both innovation and community and is known for creating resources for learning. She was the first female engineer on the cover of WIRED magazine and was awarded Entrepreneur magazine’s Entrepreneur of the Year in 2012 and was also on the NYC Industrial Business Advisory Council. Adafruit is a 100% woman-owned company.

You may also recognize some of the other makers who will be honored:

gregbehrcroppedGregg Behr – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
In his ten years as executive director of the Grable Foundation, Gregg Behr has not only led the Grable Foundation’s portfolio of community investments but has also worked tirelessly to build a collaborative funding environment called the Remake Learning Council. This network has grown from the original conversation over a pancake breakfast to now include more than 250 schools, museums, libraries, and others organizations working cooperatively to re-imagine early childhood education, teaching and learning in public schools, and out-of-school time supports. In 2016, Gregg was instrumental in organizing a regional effort called Remake Learning Days to collect more than 150 commitments that will help accelerate hands-on, personalized learning and which included $25 million+ in investments from philanthropies, businesses, and governments to support 21st century learning across southwest Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Gregg has been recognized across the country for his work to support the maker movement, including receiving the Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Award behalf of Pittsburgh’s Remake Learning Network and being named America’s Top 30 Technologists, Transformers, and Trailblazers by the Center for Digital Education in 2015.

umberto_crencacroppedUmberto Crenca – Providence, Rhode Island
At the heart of the nationally-known makerspace AS220 is co-founder and artistic director Umberto Crenca. In the 31 years since Umberto set out to co-create an incubator of maker culture and a lab for integrating STEM and the arts, AS220 has grown from a single rented room above the Providence Performing Arts Center to now include three buildings totaling 95,000 square feet. Umberto has focused his work on building a collaborative community committed to supporting exchange of knowledge between innovative makers and creative thinkers. He was recently awarded honorary doctorate degrees from Brown University and Roger Williams University for his commitment to community development, his work to help revitalize downtown Providence, and his success at creating opportunity for artists and makers.

daradotzcropedDara Dotz – San Francisco, California
Motivated by her first-hand experience responding to large scale disasters, Dara Dotz is a pioneer in exploring how making can solve global problems in austere environments. She is the co-founder of Field Ready, which brings hyper-local digital manufacturing to people in disaster areas, allowing survivors to make humanitarian supplies on-demand. Dara’s innovations have been deployed around the world including in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake, where survivors were trained to make essential medical supplies and replacement parts for rural clinics using 3D printers she brought to Haiti. She holds a BS in Industrial Design and minor in International Business from Metropolitan State University of Denver. In addition to her work, she is a guest lecturer and educator who is inspires children to solve for the complex natural, economic, and humanitarian needs though making.

reneefrederickscroppedRenee Fredericks – Anchorage, Alaska
Working to connect traditional Alaska Native crafts with the digital fabrication tools of today, Renee Fredericks directs the Youth Education and Employment Services at Cook Inlet Tribal Council (CITC) in Anchorage, Alaska. Under her leadership, CITC Fab Lab provides maker opportunities to Alaska Native and American Indian youth in partnership with the Anchorage School District and other youth organizations. Renee’s combined passion for preserving tradition while embracing opportunities led her to help launch the CITC Fab Lab and create its programs. Renee is committed to designing new hands-on approaches to help Alaska Native and American Indian students overcome academic disparities and increase skillsets for work available in the Alaskan economy and beyond.

johnniebergallcroppedJohn Niebergall – Sherwood, Oregon
For more than 32 years John Niebergall has dedicated himself to training the next generation as an educator in the Sherwood School District in Sherwood, Oregon. He has worked tirelessly to provide his students with hands-on, contextualized learning experiences and has directly raised more than $825,000 through grants and in-kind contributions to establish a classroom and mobile Fab Lab. As a result of access to both top-level instruction and industry-standard software with state-of-the-art prototyping equipment, numerous students in Mr. Niebergall’s class have launched student-run, school-based enterprises. Of particular note is his successful efforts to create a culture of inclusion in his classroom with a notably high participation of female students. His instructional approach allows students direct experiences with the real-world challenges of designing, developing, manufacturing, and marketing. John has mentored other career and technical education (CTE) programs and educators.

sonyapryorjonescroppedSonya Pryor-Jones – Boston, Massachusetts
Committed to ensuring more communities have access to the tools of tomorrow, Sonya Pryor-Jones serves as Chief Implementation Officer for the Fab Foundation out of Boston.  A non-profit spin off of the Center for Bits and Atoms at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Fab Foundation supports communities spaces that provide access to tools to educate, innovate, and invent using technology and digital fabrication, and to allow anyone to make (almost) anything, creating opportunities to improve lives and livelihoods around the world. Sonya is personally driven to create more equitable access for more diverse communities and has spent her career in the service of this mission. Prior to her current role at the Fab Foundation she served as the founding Director for the Promise Neighborhood initiative at the Sisters of Charity Foundation, and the Executive Director for Northeast Ohio’s STEM Initiative at Case Western Reserve University.

feltonthomascroppedFelton Thomas, Jr. – Cleveland, Ohio
Since his own experience as a young boy growing up in a tough Las Vegas community and finding his way through the support of his local library, Felton Thomas, Jr. has been an advocate for formally supporting informal learning and community. From his first job in a library as a teen to his current position as director of the Cleveland Public Library (CPL) and President-Elect for the Public Library Association (PLA), he has seen tremendous transformation of the technology landscape and opportunities for creative use of library space. Under Felton’s leadership, CPL has created a dedicated makerspace called TechCentral to provide open access for patrons to laser engraving, 3D printing, audio, video, photo production tools, and more. He has further expanded this work to now include MakerLab programs at 27 CPL branches featuring high and low-tech versions of photography, 3D printing, font creation, computer programming, art and design, laser engraving and cutting, and more. Felton has received numerous recognitions for his leadership role including being appointed to the Aspen Institute’s Task Force on Learning and the Internet, being named a “Mover and Shaker” by Library Journal, and serving as a fellow and Sponsor in the Urban Library Council’s Executive Leadership Institute.

bahiy_headshotxroppedBahiy Watson – New Orleans, Louisiana
After the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Bahiy Watson committed himself to creating opportunities for his community from the ruins and began rallying others to help save a local youth center. After increasing volunteering and advocacy work for a number of years, Bahiy’s commitment led him to create the 1881 Institute of Technology, which draws inspiration from the work of Booker T. Washington to found Tuskegee Institute in 1881. Building off of his 17 years of direct experience as a mechanical engineer in the aerospace industry, Bahiy is working to create pathways for underrepresented populations to enter STEM careers by creating hands-on projects directly impacting the surrounding community. In addition to developing alternative school models for high school students interested in STEM careers but who struggle in traditional classroom settings, 1881 is partnering with the New Orleans Recreation & Development Commission to offer summer camps and after school programs for African-American children and for students with special needs.

lisamariecroppedLisa Marie Wiley – San Antonio, Texas
Retired Army Sergeant Lisa Marie Wiley is part of the growing group of women who have served their country in combat zones. In November 2011, Lisa stepped on an IED during deployment in Afghanistan, resulting in a left below the knee amputation. Passionate about living an active lifestyle, Lisa committed to finding a better solution which could enable her and amputees in similar situations and worked with the VA to design a challenge aimed at developing a coupler device that would make it easier and faster to switch between prosthetics. This work has since become part of a larger initiative called the VA Innovation Creation Series aimed at crowdsourcing innovative low-cost prosthetics and assistive technologies from the Maker community. Lisa is showing how the Maker Movement and the democratization of low-cost tools and technologies for design and fabrication to develop solutions that will result in more precise and personalized care for not only females or veterans, but anyone who can access a computer and a 3D printer. Lisa is currently earning an additional bachelor’s degree in biology at the University of Texas San Antonio.

The 2nd Annual National Maker Faire will be happening at the University of the District of Columbia on June 18th and 19th. Doors open at 11:AM and entry is absolutely free.

Though there is no entry fee, you need to go here and get tickets before arriving at the event.


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

I get ridiculously excited seeing people make things. I just want to revel in the creativity I see in makers. My favorite thing in the world is sharing a maker's story. find me at CalebKraft.com

View more articles by Caleb Kraft


Maker Faire Bay Area 2023 - Mare Island, CA

Escape to an island of imagination + innovation as Maker Faire Bay Area returns for its 15th iteration!

Buy Tickets today! SAVE 15% and lock-in your preferred date(s).