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4 San Francisco Projects Highlighted During the National Week of Making

The city partners with the White House to recognize initiatives from grassroots manufacturers in the makers movement.

SAN FRANCISCO -- On Thursday, June 23, the city of San Francisco celebrated the end of the National Week of Making, held June 17-23, by highlighting four initiatives meant to expand the maker movement’s reach in manufacturing while enhancing its public exposure.

In an event co-hosted by the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, officials recognized efforts to push the movement’s use of modern tech and local manufacturing forward. The gathering, held at the San Francisco community TechShop, spotlighted a new fabrication incubator, the opening of a San Francisco exhibition space for sound installations, a program to connect local makers with production facilities, and an international campaign to revive economies after disasters with maker tools, to name a few.

The night’s series of speakers and panelists emphasized an ongoing desire to turn makers, with their diversity of self-made local products, into a primary source for driving economic opportunity to citizens and businesses. The Maker City Playbook played a central part in this. Its authors -- Dale Dougherty, the publisher of Make Media, and Peter Hirschberg, Founder of the Bay Area based City Innovate Foundation -- introduced the digital booklet as a guide to educate city leaders about the maker movement and how they can direct it to improve their local economies. The two analyzed 21 different cities that are taking the movement’s use of 3-D printing, laser cutting, and machining methods to cultivate jobs and seed small business activity.

The playbook, sponsored by the Kauffman Foundation and endorsed by the White House, details the maker movement’s educational benefits, impact on workforce development, supply chain dynamics and potential for civic engagement in city projects.

“One of the things to listen for is the breadth of this movement, because what we’re going to see is advanced manufacturing, urban place making and educational opportunities,” Hirschberg said at the event. “When you connect the dots, this is a kind of big cultural change, this kind of bottoms up stuff that we do, is moving out from just pure technology and into this broader movement.”

The White House’s former Maker-in-Chief Stephanie Santoso, who helped President Obama launch the first White House Maker’s Faire in 2014, painted the San Francisco initiatives as part of a larger one the administration is actively promoting. As part of the National Week of Making this month, Santoso said the president honored 10 makers as part of his Champions of Change program that acknowledges U.S. innovators and pioneers.

Among the other key actions of the administration to support making are new grants and education resources from eight federal agencies to drive growth. Within education, Santoso said making is apt to play a significant role in the future economy, and to assist this, the White House has committed more than 1,400 K-12 schools across 50 states to creating maker spaces.

“The maker movement is having an incredible impact on students and adults and families all around the country,” Santoso said. “And when you have places like maker spaces, and tech shops and fab labs, people really come together and learn new skills they can work on.”

The four highlighted maker spaces from the event are:

1. Post Disaster Workforce Development
Organization: Burning Man
Details: Burning Man, an event widely known for its eccentric parties and makeshift desert cities, is putting its creativity and quick building skills to use to help create temporary tent cities for regions affected by political turmoil and natural disasters. Heather White, Burning Man’s managing director of people and operations, said the organization has created its first Maker-in-Residence program that will help alleviate some of the strife with maker skills that create jobs and lift economies.

2. High Production Resources
Organization: TechShop
Details: TechShop, the nation’s network of community makerspaces, has committed resources to launch 10,000 new startup businesses by 2022. The program leans on TechShop's 7,500 member network to put promising maker entrepreneurs in contact with advisors, interested venture capital firms and high volume fabrication providers. The support answers the daunting challenge of turning on-off designs into high volume productions.

3. Prototyping Incubator

Organizations: Market Street Prototyping Festival, Gray Area Foundation for the Arts, Autodesk
Details: The group is opening the Urban Prototyping Research Lab, an initiative that will incubate up to 10 submitted projects from teams at the 2015 Market Street Prototyping Festival, an event celebrating the art and ingenuity of public installations. The 10 selected teams will work side by side at the Grand Theater, situated along San Francisco’s Mission Street, for a six-month long research and development program to start this month. The goal of the lab will be to place the permanent and semi-permanent installations in different neighborhoods around San Francisco.

4. San Francisco Sound & Listening Exhibit
Organizations: The San Francisco Exploratorium, San Francisco Office of Innovation, and the San Francisco Planning Department
Details: The city is carving out another space for artists and inventors with its new Sound Commons area that will be located just outside its city hall. One of the site’s exhibits allows two people to speak to each other from a distance of 50 feet, while another amplifies and records the sounds of footsteps. The exhibition area, opened this month, is headed by the San Francisco Exploratorium’s Steve Gennrich, who said he and fellow contributors hope the interactive sound installations bring San Francisco’s diverse communities together.

Jason Shueh is a former staff writer for Government Technology magazine.