Photos courtesy of Ithaca Generator's Facebook page

Editor’s Note: Friday marks the beginning of the “National Week of Making,” an initiative sponsored by the White House to encourage technology and innovation in communities across the United States.

In Ithaca, the downtown tech hub “Ithaca Generator” will be hosting a series of events and workshops that are free and open to the public. The full list of events can be seen here: http://ithacagenerator.org/events/calendar/.

To learn more about the Ithaca Generator’s role in the White House initiative, we spoke to IG board member Xanthe Matychak. Her responses are below.

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1 — Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. Can you explain the purpose of the National Week of Making? Where does the idea come from, and why is it important?

Xanthe Matychak: Last year, President Obama convened mayors from around the country including Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick, and the​n​ hosted the first-ever White House Maker Faire. The President highlighted growing efforts by individuals and organizations throughout the country who are promoting engineering, technology, and invention.

It’s important because we want to equip youth and adults with the tools to be great problem solvers. We want to rebuild the spirit of American invention and manufacturing and ultimately jobs.

Photos courtesy of Ithaca Generator’s Facebook page

In early May of this year, I had the chance to join a conversation at the White House to discuss next steps as part of a Maker Cities Roundtable. I joined twenty communities from around the country in an exciting conversation, where we talked about each other’s successes and challenges, and came away with lots of ideas we should bring back to our communities.

To carry on the spirit of those conversations, we are hosting a week long series of free talks and workshops at Ithaca Generator June 12-18.

2 – The event “Modern Art from Scrap Lumber” really catches my eye. What’s that about?

Xanthe Matychak: It’s cool that that ​workshop caught your eye because it’s one of the more traditional tool sets we have in the makerspace along with the welding studio.

The woodshop classes at IG are run by Jeremy Richardson who is really interested in transforming old discarded materials into something new and fresh. And that ethos runs throughout our membership. Even with more modern tools like 3D printers, they are often used to make replacement parts for products that need fixing.

3 — What’s the target audience for this week? And how much can someone really learn in so short a period of time?

Xanthe Matychak: For National Maker Week, the programming is in the evening so the target is adults and older youth. These short workshops and discussions are meant to expose people to new technologies and opportunities for creativity and invention that are available to them in their community.

No one walks away from a 2 hour demo being a master of 3D printing or open source electronics. But they do walk away with a feeling of, “Wow, this is something I can see myself doing.”

From there, some folks take classes with us and from classes, some folks become members. It’s important to offer this range of short experiences to more in depth ones because we need that range to enable diverse participation.

4 — Can you talk a little bit about the Ithaca Generator? How has the last year and a half or so been for IG? What growth/obstacles have you seen?

Xanthe Matychak: The Generator is still a young organization. At present we are completely member funded and volunteer run.

We’ve done a lot of great work for the community in that time offering dozens of classes each year, hosting hundreds of open hours and reaching hundreds of people. Our member-volunteers have a real passion for public outreach. The opportunity for growth we see is to find the money to hire some staff so that we can give our public programing more attention.

5 — What are the long-term results for Ithaca of the IG’s participation in Maker Week?

Xanthe Matychak: This is a young movement. So the point of participating in Maker Week is to bring in a more diverse crowd to the space and to begin conversations that are less about technology alone and more about how we as a community can use technology to address local and global problems. That’s the goal.

How do we organize as a community, not just the makerspace but all makers in our ecosystem — the universities, school and libraries for youth, local manufacturers like Incodema, business incubators like REV — how do we work together in a way that enables Ithaca and the region to develop technologies that make the world better?

To that point, we’re kicking off Maker Week on June 12 with a Panel Discussion called Makers Makin’ Waves and wrapping up our program with a town hall on June 18th called, “Makers Solving Local Problems.” All National Maker Week events are posted on our calendar.

They are free and open to the public. We hope you can come!


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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.