Why Makerspaces Are Democratizing IoT Development
“Adults come in because they want to do something specific — for example, laser cut something, and then after they do that, they say, ‘Wow, I can do anything here,’ and that’s how they start down the path of becoming a maker,” said Mario Cruz, a.k.a. Mario the Maker, a member of Moonlighter. “People walk in for a sewing machine and end up learning how to use the laser cutter.”
A lot of what people are making is physical, but that’s starting to change as the cost of IoT sensors goes down. “Sometimes things go wrong, so that lowers the barrier of entry. If you fry it, it’s fine,” Cruz explained. “For $45 you can build something that’s pretty cool, where before you couldn’t even afford a sensor.”
Some projects built in makerspaces are driven by real-world problems leading to more IoT development. For example, Cruz is part of a team consisting of people from Moonlighter, Code for Miami and the Maker Faire Miami who are prototyping and building connected flood trackers. The trackers will measure water levels and share data with local responders in the city of Miami. The team is building a total of six trackers, two of which have already been field tested.
Gregory Johnson, project management lead at Code for Miami, writes, “Our goal is to show what can be done by everyday citizens, and a little code, while learning about the data gathered in the process.”
That appears to be the genius behind makerspaces: giving everyday citizens access to the equipment they need to simply make something.
“It’s self-expression, and it’s self-challenging because you don’t know you can’t do it, so you just try. Everyone is born with a couple hands, and 80% of the brain is attached to those hands, so it’s no surprise that making things is so engaging,” Brand said.