“We wanted to study maker culture and I didn’t want to create a lab with expensive pieces of equipment that would serve the elite.”

This is Ann-Louise Davidson’s response after I asked her about the Communities and Differential Mobilities research cluster’s latest pilot project, a series of 5 à 7 Maker Jam workshops. Ann-Louise is the leader of “Maker Culture and Community Engagement” axis in the CDM cluster.

The research cluster works to build communities around democratic innovations and processes, such as accessible spaces and sustainability. So, when they wanted to incorporate a maker axis, it too needed to follow the principles of inclusivity and accessibility.

“Maker” culture is a form of DIY culture that encourages individuals to create their – mostly technology-based – inventions.  With the Maker Jams, Ann-Louise wants to foster a collaborative and inclusive learning experience. The Jams are meant as “dynamic and informal get-togethers for tinkerers” to solve social problems and build maker competencies.

The idea of collaboration runs right down to the cluster’s 3D Printers. Fellow cluster members, Hiroko and David Price ordered a cheap Chinese 3D printer kit and facilitated a workshop with eight participants to collaboratively assemble, repair, modify, and upgrade an open-source 3D printer.

The purpose is to develop talent in our lab around the concept of 3D modelling/printing using open source hardware and software, and to make its use democratic and sustainable. The idea is that 3D printing should be accessible to everyone and should not be exclusive to an elite. Buying branded 3D printers is not against our values, but they are expensive purchases and when there is a broken part, or an issue with the printing, most users cannot solve it because they lack problem-solving skills and replacement parts are expensive. However, with readily available technologies, we can make that process more democratic.

Ann-Louise encourages curious Milieux members to pop by, work on their own projects or help out with CDM’s own projects. The cluster is working on a visual alarm and a game table, whiles personal projects include a math robot, a wire car, and speech-recognition technologies to learn English as a Second Language.

“We welcome everyone, including any religion, backgrounds, the LGBTQ community. We also love it if parents bring their kids!”

CDM is preparing a summer school for Makers in Education in the Summer of 2018, where students will be engaged in a variety of maker activities, including building a Retropie table like the yellow one we built in our lab.