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Makevention at Switchyard Park

Makevention will return to Switchyard Park for 2024! Our date has moved though, it will be on Saturday, October 12th instead of our typical August weekend. We look forward to seeing everyone there!

Check out this article below for more information about the 2023 Makevention:

Building Things Out Of Nothing

by Kevin Makice

On Saturday, August 26, a community of makers will descend on Switchyard Park to provide hands-on activities, show progress on their projects, and sell their creations to visitors. Makevention, now in its 10th running, is a celebration of maker culture that everyone is invited to attend. 

Maker culture includes a wide range of activities, including 3D printing, textiles, woodworking, and games. It unites people from various backgrounds, from home-based inventors to production companies, who like to build things and embrace problem solving, transforming ideas into tangible forms.

According to Mitchell Price, co-owner of Tom Cherry Muffler in Bloomington, Indiana, maker culture is about “industriousness, and willingness to tackle unfamiliar problems, whatever that may be.”

“Sometimes it is for fun, sometimes it is for necessity,” says Price. “I think maker culture represents a willingness to engage.”

“People have been building things out of random bits of nothing for forever,” adds co-owner Zack Land. “There’s a 1966 Toyota that I have to build a specific brake spacing plate for. It is a relatively simple part, but it is something that hasn’t been manufactured in 30 or 40 years.”

Learning By Doing

Local venues such as Bloominglabs serve as creative epicenters of Bloomington’s maker community. These spaces are more than mere workshops; they are where the city’s innovative minds gather to experiment, collaborate, and learn, often blending traditional craft with modern technology.

At Wonderlab, a downtown museum of science, health and technology, programming includes hands-on challenges for all ages. Recently at STEM Saturday, families were asked to create a plankton-like creature that has neutral buoyancy, a difficult task given that tiny changes in weight or material will change behavior drastically.

“Of the ten families we had come through, only one had complete success,” says Kelli Debikey, Wonderlab’s Education Director. “But we all had a lot of fun comparing what our creatures looked like, what items made it float better, what items made it sink. Everyone took something away from the experience even if they didn’t ‘succeed’ with finding that neutral buoyancy.”

Within the world of making, failure is not a stumbling block but a stepping stone. A misaligned 3D print or a malfunctioning robotic arm offers invaluable feedback. The same is true for the organizations we try to build.

“Every founder thinks they have got the billion-dollar solution to their problem, until they dig in and realize they don’t know, and still have to figure it out,” says Andy Lehman, Head of Accelerator Programming at Dimension Mill

“What we do is help them understand that failure is just a part of that process. It makes the startup founders stronger and more resilient down the road when they face way more difficult challenges than what they are facing at an early stage.”

Maker culture embodies experiential learning, where doing leads to understanding. Makers not only teach but learn from each other, creating an educational experience that resonates beyond textbooks and lecture halls.

A big part of the mission of Dimension Mill is to facilitate connections between different sources of knowledge and experience. Lehman points to Stagetime as a great example of pairing strengths. The company’s founder was an opera singer at IU who attended a Startup Weekend event at the Mill, bumping into someone who wanted to help with her idea.

“This person was a software engineer. The founder of Stagetime, that was not her background at all,” Lehman recalls. “Those kinds of collisions—someone saying I think this is an idea to pursue this way, and the other person being open to it in that collaborative sense—led to the formation of Stagetime, which led her to raise a whole bunch of money and be pretty successful at what she is doing.”

The maker community thrives on shared experiences and collaboration. Knowledge, tools, and ideas flow freely, fostering a nurturing environment where creativity flourishes. Whether it’s a seasoned engineer assisting a budding artist or a teacher embracing open-source educational tools, the spirit of community-driven innovation permeates every corner. Open source itself is an example of the maker mindset.

“Our point-of-sale and our security system are running Linux,” says Price. “We’re as open source as we can be. And we’re 100% uptime so far, so can’t complain about that.”

Opportunities to Try

In addition to running booths at Makevention this month, Dimension Mill and Wonderlab have their own future events that would appeal to local makers.

Through a program called Propels, the Mill works with the Tech Transfer Office at Crane Naval Base to help them commercialize their 316 pieces of IP. The Mill will again help Crane connect with entrepreneurs to turn that IP into a business or a new product.

“A lot of that IP is not software related,” says Lehman. “It is very much in the physical product space. Who doesn’t like to get a peak at top secret Navy technology?”

At Wonderlab, adults are invited to register for an After Hours event—Game On—that is focused on gaming and an October maker workshop that will prepare for the full solar eclipse that will occur in spring 2024.

“After the partial solar eclipse, we are going to have a maker workshop to build orreies to show how the solar eclipse happens and why it happens scientifically,” says Debikey.

You can Join local makers at Makevention this Saturday, August 26, at the Switchyard Pavilion from 10a to 4p. In addition to Wonderlab, Dimension Mill and Tom Cherry Muffler, sponsors for this event include Cook Medical, the City of Bloomington’s Department of Economic Sustainability and Development, and both Luddy School of Informatics, Engineering, and Computing and the Center of Excellence for Women & Technology (CEW&T) from Indiana University.

Price and Land will be at Makevention with their prized 1952 truck, which will be parked near the lawn by the Switchyard Pavilion. They will invite visitors to hop inside and poke around to see how different and also how similar a 71-year-old car is compared to what rules the roads today.

“For a bit of an olde tyme feel,” says Price, “we’ll be offering Polaroids, if anyone wants them.” 

2024 Sponsors:

If you’d like to sponsor Makevention 2024, visit our Sponsorship page for more information.)