Welcome to Chattanooga, NOMCON!
We’re thrilled to have more than 300 leaders in the maker movement from around the country in town this weekend for the Nation of Makers Conference. Our guests include scientists, artists, educators, a TV celebrity (Adam Savage of “Mythbusters”), a group of “maker mayors,” and the founders of the maker movement itself. The Maker Movement includes everything from sewing, to woodworking, to building robots and hacking electronics.
Just a few years ago, the Maker Movement was far from mainstream, but in the last five years or so, it’s taken off. Chattanooga is the perfect example of a city that has run with the movement, installing 16 VW eLabs in Hamilton County Schools, building out a robust collection of tools at the Chattanooga Public Library, and investing in business development programs for manufacturing. We’ve committed to giving resources to people of all backgrounds, from students to business owners.
The conference is a chance for people to share ideas about the work they’re doing in their own communities, primarily through panels and presentations. But, it’s also an opportunity to show guests the extensive maker community we’ve built here in Chattanooga. Pre-conference tours will take attendees to community maker spaces such as ChattLab, the Chattanooga Woodworking Academy, and the Chattanooga Public Library’s Fourth Floor. Attendees also have the chance to visit some of our growing and established businesses with innovative manufacturing practices, including Branch Technologies, which 3D prints houses, and Mueller Company, which has an R&D lab right in downtown Chattanooga to develop water distribution products used around the world.
The weekend will also include several hands-on group projects that give back to the local community, starting with a Toy Hackathon on Friday at The Edney. Signal Centers is partnering with NOMCON for the event, which aims to hack into 100 electronic toys, and make them more accessible for kids whose disabilities make it difficult for them to operate standard toys. For instance, a toy that requires the turning of a small knob could be modified to activate with the push of a large button instead. The hacked toys will be donated to a Signal Centers toy lending library, where kids can check them out. Another project that’s already been in the works for weeks is the Magic Wheelchair — a costume, custom-made for a teenager in a wheelchair, complete with lights and sounds.
We hope that hosting this event will also challenge our community to think bigger going forward. How can we get more tools into the hands of more people? How can we create a more inclusive movement, that connects to the makers and creative thinkers that already exist in every neighborhood?
Continuing to support the Maker Movement in Chattanooga could benefit our economy. Scott Andes of the National League of Cities is here for NOMCON, and he thinks the Maker Movement deserves the utmost attention from city leaders: “We know how to grow local economies. It begins at home with entrepreneurs, tinkers, and dreamers who have access to tools, mentors, and opportunity. To me, the Maker Movement, is a mission to put access to 21st century education and entrepreneurship on steroids. Simply put: local elected leaders must view ‘Making’ as an essential tool for an equitable, modern municipal economy.”