How might the maker movement tackle some of Australia's biggest challenges?


The inaugural BrisMakerFest was held on Saturday, 3 June 2017, bringing together a broad range of makers, researchers, entrepreneurs, designers and educational institutions to share and test ideas, initiatives and find new opportunities. So beyond connecting with passionate makers what did we learn from the festival?


Firstly, a bit more about BrisMakerFest

The Department of State Development, in partnership with State Library of Queensland, held the BrisMakerFest at The Edge as an important initiative within the Queensland Government’s Advanced Manufacturing 10-Year Roadmap and Action Plan. 

Attendees heard from a variety of local and international experts, there were pop-up primary and high school makerspaces, roving robots, masterclasses and a range of workshops on wearable technology, 3D design and printing, fabrication of furniture, drawbot robot building, and creativity and computer science. In short, if you are passionate about advanced manufacturing and making and were unable to attend, you missed out!


Queensland Hackerspaces Grant Program announcement

The Minister for State Development, Natural Resources and Mines, Dr Anthony Lynham announced the Queensland Hackerspaces Grant program which will provide $450,000 over two years to support the establishment of new hackerspaces and support the expansion of existing Queensland hackerspaces.


High School programs on display

There were a range of interesting high school programs and initiatives sharing their work. We were proud to be one of them. The Fix-ed team showcased the program with a very positive response and had engaging conversations with makers, manufacturers, educators, students and the general public. But beyond showcasing the Fix-ed program (which we are developing as a Train-the-Trainer model for scaling to other schools in 2018) we were curious to learn more from the amazing attendees and exhibitors. So we created a 'how might we...' question, with the quest to direct the maker movement to tackling some of Australia's big challenges...

How might the maker movement create opportunities that tackle some of Australia’s biggest social & environment challenges?
 Fix-ed student Jess, gathering primary research.

Fix-ed student Jess, gathering primary research.

Whilst engaging with makers and the public to gain insights about our 'how might we?' question, we broke down the research into a few key questions. Attendees were encouraged to write their responses on a post it note and stick it to the display board, in order for the wider community to gain insights and ideas.


Here's what we asked and what we discovered:


What's one of your community's biggest problems?

Interestingly, one of the biggest issues raised throughout the day was disconnection with community and disengaged youth. Attendees talked commonly about a lack of community events and activities, neighbours who didn't talk, and a lack of communication within communities. People spoke of a desire to have social skills, not social media. Youth spoke about difficulties in finding meaningful work.

Education was also high on the list of 'problems'. 'Traditional' educational approaches in schools were spoken about as uninteresting and uninspiring. There was also a desire for better education for the public around waste, wasteful practices, recycling. There was a desire to learn more about technology, but people spoke about the lack of access to technology (we pointed them towards The Edge's FabLab and Hackerspace Brisbane.)

The other key areas of concern were bad traffic and a desire for better, more efficient public transport options, as well as the difficulty of transport for people with disabilities. Finally, both noise and traffic pollution were considered large problems with two attendees explaining how they had moved due to noise in Tenerife and West End.


What's one of the common resources you see go to waste?

We can separate the response into two key areas; tangible and intangible resources. Various attendees spoke of time wasting as an important problem. "Inevitably, we spend too much time on solutions that don't solve problems", said one attendee. Key intangible resources discussed were also talent, youth energy, creativity and education.

The most common tangible resources which people said were often wasted were food (the highest response), followed by E-waste, clothes (fast fashion) and batteries.


What's one way the problem could be tackled?

There were a variety of creative ways brainstormed by attendees which would tackle some of the community's biggest problems. The largest response topic by far was education. Attendees said current educational methods should be more interactive and engaging and students should work on projects which are based on their passions. There needs to be more education on repurposing, repair, recycling and composting (also discussed were more community gardens and composting initiatives). Students should be practicing design sustainably and learning about the circular economy.

When it came to young people, there needed to be stronger involvement of young people in politics and a job platform specifically designed to help young people get employment and experience.

The broader community would benefit from more events which helped them to meet neighbours, share knowledge and resources such as tools and equipment which generally sits in a garage or workshop unused.

Affordable public transport was urgently needed. Interestingly, a few people spoke about products and services which could potentially deal with sound pollution in our communities.

 Engaging conversations about education, design & repair.

Engaging conversations about education, design & repair.

  Fix-ed  team members Stephen Robinson, Jess Souter & Dwayne Scicluna.

Fix-ed team members Stephen Robinson, Jess Souter & Dwayne Scicluna.

Moving forward, how might we combine our resources and knowledge in making, manufacturing and education to tackle community issues, which don't just create jobs, but also create broader positive social and environmental change?

We'll look forward to seeing the maker movement use its talent, knowledge and skills to create better, future-proof cities.

 Tom Allen (of  Seven Positive  +  Impact Boom ), asked our 'How might we...' question in his presentation to challenge attendees and help them understand how design thinking could be used to tackle societal issues. Photo: SLQ.

Tom Allen (of Seven Positive + Impact Boom), asked our 'How might we...' question in his presentation to challenge attendees and help them understand how design thinking could be used to tackle societal issues. Photo: SLQ.

The Fix-ed team would like to thank the Department of State Development and the State Library of Queensland for their hard work in putting the event together.

Tom Allen