For hundreds of years, agriculture has fostered a community of “makers” – people who have engineered the tools that ensure a steady, abundant supply of food and fiber under a wide variety of conditions. From the invention of the cotton gin in 1793, Mason jars in 1858, the gasoline tractor in 1892, to the current use of “big data” and genetic tools, the agriculture industry has made huge leaps and bounds in technology and engineering.
On June 12th and 13th, USDA joined other Federal agencies and a wide variety of public and private-sector organizations to celebrate the culture of “making” at the first-ever National Maker Faire. Held on the University of District Columbia campus in Washington, D.C., the National Maker Faire is part of a broad network of Maker Faires across the country that celebrate the spirit of curiosity, invention, and do-it-yourself determination.
At our booth we had the opportunity to feature a broad diversity of makers. The women behind Green Heron Tools, a USDA Small Business Innovation Grant (SBIR) recipient, brought their made-in-the-U.S.A. gardening tools ergonomically designed for women, as well as their prototype ergonomic rototiller. The Forest Service, following through on USDA’s commitment to making more pollinator habitat, handed out pollinator-friendly seeds and led visitors through an activity to make pollinator garden seed tape. The National Institute of Food and Agriculture and 4-H ran participatory 3-D printing demos and kinetic toy construction. And USDA’s Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) provided a series of innovative apps for food and agriculture, including some of Food Safety and Inspection Service’s digital tools for making safe food and the Food Nutrition Service’s SuperTracker app for personalized nutrition and physical activity monitoring. OCIO also invited our partners from Patriots Technology Training Center to join us and showcase the possibilities for USDA’s Open Data Summer Camp, where students will learn how to make data into powerful tools.
Overall, we had a great time at the first National Maker Faire and, we look forward to participating in the future!