I Fell in Love with a Robotic Giraffe: BlogHer Goes to the White House Maker Faire

3 years ago

When I stepped onto the White House South Lawn today, I immediately fell deeply and completely in love with a 17-foot tall, motorized robotic giraffe.  I've met a lot of cool beings at the White House: the President, the First Lady... Bo.  But none compared to Lindsay Lawlor's robotic giraffe, especially once he made the electronic animal walk on his wheels.

If our future robot overlords are going to be anything like this giraffe, I totally welcome them and submit to their power.

The White House held their first Maker Faire today, with President Obama declaring June 18th a National Day of Making.  The 30 exhibits skewed heavily toward technology, which supported the President's point about how today's small innovations become tomorrow's products: "Today’s D.I.Y. is tomorrow’s 'Made in America'."

But the spirit of the day covered all aspects of the Maker movement, including all DIY projects -- from printed circuit boards to the sewn fleece hoodies being sold on Etsy.  At its heart, the Maker movement is about sustainability; about not waiting for someone else to provide you with the product you want, but instead getting in there and making it yourself.

Listen, the whole day was mind-blowing.  I still pretty much have no idea how a 3D printer works, but I watched one create a prosthetic ankle.  Just like that: pop a piece in the machine, let it run, and in a few hours, you have an ankle that can be attached to the rest of the 3D printed leg.

I went inside MIT's mobile Fab Lab and saw their laser cutters.  I listened as the teenagers from Philadelphia revved the engine on their biodiesel hybrid car.  I spent time listening to music created on the banana piano by Makey Makey.

And then there was the robotic giraffe.

Did I mention the robotic giraffe?

Though I somehow missed the Pancakebot.  That could have given the robotic giraffe a run for its money.

The President explained the point of the day best:

Our parents and our grandparents created the world’s largest economy and strongest middle class not by buying stuff, but by building stuff -- by making stuff, by tinkering and inventing and building; by making and selling things first in a growing national market and then in an international market -- stuff "Made in America."

We're the country that brought you the personal computer, created by hand by Steve Wozniak and presented at Homebrew, an engineering club.  What started out as a small, Maker project a little over 40 years ago has become our lifeblood today.  Who knows if Pancakebot will be a common household appliance 40 years from now.

As the President said, Maker Faires show you that "we are at the dawn of something big."

Like 17-foot tall big.

Melissa writes Stirrup Queens and Lost and Found. Her novel about blogging is Life from Scratch.

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