News Home
Quick Bites
News Archive
News Channel
Special Features
On AirNewsClassical
School Closings
WKSU Support
Funding for WKSU is made possible in part through support from the following businesses and organizations.

Levin Furniture

Don Drumm Studios

Area Agency on Aging 10B, Inc.

For more information on how your company or organization can support WKSU, download the WKSU Media Kit.

(WKSU Media Kit PDF icon )

Donate Your Vehicle to WKSU

Programs Schedule Make A Pledge Member BenefitsFAQ/HelpContact Us
Science and Technology

Exploradio - A tour of maker culture
'Makers' are part of a new movement that combines high-tech with hands-on, as people rediscover the joys of making things.
This story is part of a special series.

Reporter / Host
Jeff St. Clair
A sign at Akron's hackerspace SYN/HAK invites people to explore the world of maker culture. The club is one of around 150 hackerspaces in the U.S.
Courtesy of Jeff St.Clair
Download (WKSU Only)
In The Region:

Desktop publishing revolutionized the world of printing in the 1980’s. In the 90’s, digital recording changed the way music is made. Now, 3-D printers are making desktop manufacturing a reality.

In this week’s Exploradio, we take a tour of maker culture in Northeast Ohio.  It’s a movement that combines high tech with old fashioned do-it-yourself creativity.

Exploradio - A tour of maker culture

Other options:
MP3 Download (4:05)

(Click image for larger view.)

Sharing the urge to hack 
Our first stop is SYN/HAK, Akron's hackerspace. 

It’s actually Trever Fischer’s garage - a place where people come to make things.

Fischer explains that hackers are people who make something new using a device in ways other than originally the old-fashioned rotary dial he uses to program a robot. 

Tinkering around the garage is nothing new, but Fischer says the new generation of makers is combining high-tech electronics with social networking.

Fischer says the information age is transforming the landscape of making things through an iterative cycle of feedback.  "You come up with an idea, you share it, everybody knows about it," and that's how ideas improve, according to Fischer, a newly graduated computer programmer.  

Home made 3-D printers 
The next stop on our tour of maker culture in Northeast Ohio is the Shaker Heights home of Rick Pollack, founder of MakerGear.

Pollack demonstrates the 3-D printers he makes in his dining-room assembly plant.  A spool of plastic wire feeds into a moving print-head, which quickly melts it and ‘prints’ an object onto a small platform. 

Artists, engineers, educators, and entrepreneurs use 3-D printers to make everything from toys to prototypes.

Pollack even prints parts for his printers using the machines he makes.  He says anyone can now design and make nearly any plastic product, something that used to require large-scale injection mold technology.  

Removing the barrier to entry
Although 3-D printers have been around for a couple of decades, they’ve always been out of the average person’s price range.  Now, they cost less than thousand dollars

Pollack says it’s not about capital anymore, desktop manufacturing has removed the barrier for people wanting to take an idea from concept to store shelf. He says, "the cost to enter is very low, what’s really required now is know how.”

Affordable desktop technologies like laser cutters, mills, lathes, 3-D printers allow anyone with an idea to "fabricate just about anything.”

But more than anything, Pollack sees the maker movement as reconnecting with the urge to create -  “it’s just getting back to getting your hands dirty.”

Think[box] and the thrill of creation
Creativity is nothing new for Ian Charnas.  He’s operations manager at Case Western Reserve University’s new hackerspace called Think[box].

Charnas is an artist and engineer who's made everything from the world’s largest twin musical Tesla coils, to some computerized waterfalls with a swing-set attached to them...hickey machines, magical mustache mirror, remote controlled talking porta-potty, dancing chalk boards…you name it.

He says the digital age exploded when creative amateurs began playing around with modern computer hardware.  Apple, Charnas reminds us, came out of the homebrew computer club, "They’re in a garage and they’re tinkering and they’re building what turns out to be Apple Computer,” says Charnas.

At Think[Box] students can design and make things from scratch, including hand-made computer circuit boards AND the plastic case that holds them. 

Charnas says when people come in direct contact with making things, it’s like  the visceral thrill of an amusement park.  It’s that ability to take things that are in our lives and manipulate them and make them interactive, says Charnas.  "It’s the same thing as when you go to Cedar Point and you’re on a roller coaster,  it’s the same center of your brain that gets excited.”

Maker Faire and the maker movement
The first gathering of maker culture was seven years ago at San Francisco’s Maker Faire.  Regional Maker Faires are popping all over the country this summer. 

Meanwhile, Akron's hackerspace and Cleveland’s Makers Alliance bring together local hackers who want to explore in a social setting the new interface between high-tech and hands on.

I’m Jeff St.Clair with this week’s Exploradio

Related Links & Resources
3-D printer demonstration and review

Listener Comments:

FYI, its SYNHAK, not "Hackerspace Akron" :D

Posted by: Trever Fischer (Akron, Ohio) on June 4, 2012 9:06AM
Add Your Comment


E-mail: (not published, only used to contact you about your comment)


Page Options

Print this page

E-Mail this page / Send mp3

Share on Facebook

Support for Exploradio
provided by:

Stories with Recent Comments

Ottawa County Commissioner sworn in as new house member
Congratulations on your new appointment to the Ohio House. I'm certain you will do an outstanding job in your new role representing our district. When you have...

Holden Arboretum opens a new canopy walk and emergent tower
Visited the Holden Arboretum today to witness the incredible work you did constructing the tower and bridges.WOW! Very impressed. Knew the build had to be great...

Local club works to bring back the once-prevalent American elm
I would love to help! Where would I get some of the new Strain so I could plant them?

Four Geauga school districts consider consolidating on the Kent State campus
Berkshire was smart to merge with Ledgemont because it had shrinking enrollment and excess capacity at its high school. Now that Cardinal is dragging its feet ...

Ohio Rep. John Boccieri sworn into office and hopes to look for 'middle ground' with colleagues
Welcome back to the Statehouse, John. You are a terrific representative in the truest sense always representing the people's voice in teh district you serve. ...

Lawmakers call for indefinite freeze on Green Energy standards
It's a shame the Hudson Rep. Chooses to mimic the words of the extreme right senator on his way out to join ALEC when we know the Pope was just here because of...

Youngstown Schools file suit against the Ohio Department of Education to stop the implementation of an academic distress commission
Voters should ask WHY this plan was rushed into law under the cover of darkness. What clues point to the beneficiaries of this plan? Both Patrick O'Donnell of...

More join the battle against Ohio's current forfeiture laws
NOT TRUE IN OHIO! ! My cousin's 8 rental houses were siezed in the early 2000s. He was a decorated Cleveland Police officer and detective (now retired). His dis...

Great Lakes conference considers a range of threats
Your article states "Studies discovered over half of all PAHs found in the Great Lakes region come from a single source: Coal tar sealants.". I'm curious to whi...

Copyright © 2015 WKSU Public Radio, All Rights Reserved.

In Partnership With:

NPR PRI Kent State University

listen in windows media format listen in realplayer format Car Talk Hosts: Tom & Ray Magliozzi Fresh Air Host: Terry Gross A Service of Kent State University 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. NPR Senior Correspondent: Noah Adams Living on Earth Host: Steve Curwood 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. A Service of Kent State University