Adam’s Call to Blow Up Schools

Adam Savage one of the two Mythbusters did not exactly ask anyone to blow anything up, particularly schools (though he’s quite capable of creating explosions). He did however in his keynote address at the 2012 Maker Faire in San Francisco to re-examine education and find inspiration in the Maker Movement. He was invited to talk about how he believes the Maker Movement could influence the future direction of education. In particular he emphasized the connections to knowledge and people through making:

When you make something, the world becomes a little more parsable, it becomes a little more understandable to you. You become part of a conversation. And when you make things that you can’t not make, that conversation goes really deep, and you meet other people that are making the same things they can’t not make, and these people become your friends and your confidants, and your teachers and your mentors…

He also emphasized that it doesn’t matter what you make or why you make, just that you do. I thought this was particularly interesting because he and many other makers that tend to build things inspired by pop-culture (like a Star Trek tricorder and Ghostbusters proton packs). And these makers are often derided as being ‘unoriginal.’

To Savage this is BS, because of the point above, you are learning and discovering a community of tinkerers to engage. Savage talked about his making process which has had him vacillate between building things of his own and those infused by his love of pop culture. But it was the desire to have the things he saw in TV and film that first inspired him. He built his first cardboard space-ship so that he could be like Han Solo fly his own Millenium Falcon built into his parents closet.

At a certain point though he envisioned making a man, not something he’d seen in movies, but something he could picture perfectly in his mind. And he worked, and worked as a twelve-year old boy with the support of his family and created the “cardboard man” which stayed on his front porch until the elements had their way with his sculpture. Below was his next project, “sitting man”:

Adam Savage’s Sitting Man Sculpture at 12-13 years old.

I’ve only recently discovered maker culture, but I’ve been making things for a long time now. I studied art in college, and graduate school, but before that I loved to create things with my childhood friend Chris Hall. He was an amazing model builder, fashioning a simple out-of-the-box model tank into this really cool diorama which included all his original modifications through air brushing and retooling. The plastic pieces would be distorted with heat and super-glue, and the final product was always better than the picture on the box, really. I benefited from getting to spend time in his basement building all sorts of things – fishing flies, popsicle stick forts, and more.

I now teach media at York College as part of our Communications Technology program, which has an inherent maker approach. Students learn to create all sorts of videos, design projects, and more through the program. But we’ve recently been inspired to create a makerspace and a maker course for our students so that we could get them into tinkering with tools. It’s brand new, but I’m most excited to learn to play with things like 3D printers, Arduinos, Makey Makey, and a Raspberry Pi. These new tools will likely bring me to new places in what I create, and hopefully I’ll be able to bring those experiences to my students.