The power of a maker mindset

Close to 8,000 people attended the ConfabuLarryum Festival of Making & Creativity on Aug. 13 here in Lawrence. Parents, students, educators, entrepreneurs, inventors, innovators and makers of all ages came together for a day of free, hands-on activities ranging from traditional arts and crafts to science and engineering and regional makerspaces to high tech drones, virtual reality, robotics coding and more.

ConfabuLarryum was created as a partnership between Callahan and Lawrence Public Schools in 2014.

It’s inspiring to see the event grow from 1,500 attendees in its first year to where we are today—thanks largely to the passionate team of volunteers who coordinate the event, the local and regional organizations who answer our call for creatives and the vision of Callahan and school district leadership to invest time and resources to bring the event as a gift to the community.

Most inspiring is seeing the impact ConfabuLarryum has on the many kids who attend, who don’t just have great fun with the cool tech and gadgets at the event, but who, more than anything, love the opportunity to get hands-on and make something. Whether learning to throw clay on a potter’s wheel, picking up a hammer and other tools provided by one of our visiting makerspaces, building electrical circuits or learning how to code and seeing the results of their creations come to life on the screen in front of them.


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Making is, of course, nothing new. America has always been a nation of tinkerers, inventors and entrepreneurs. And even though we have largely become a nation of consumers, in recent years the importance of making has been the subject of increasingly high profile attention.

Maker Faires and Makerspaces have appeared all across the country. Major corporations have developed innovation labs built around the movement. Many schools have integrated Maker Education as part of STEM-based learning. School and public libraries are modernizing to accommodate and host Makerspaces and making resources. At a national level, President Obama has been a tremendous advocate for the Maker Movement, hosting the first White House Maker Faire in 2014 and launching the Nation of Makers initiative, which includes an annual National Week of Making.

Making is key to what we do at Callahan. When you visit our office, you’ll see “A Community of Thinkers and Makers” clearly emblazoned across our office doors. Making, and a Maker Mindset, is a value we embody every day as we do business. Not just in our approach to working with our clients but in how our staff collaborates and grows—through events like ConfabuLarryum, as well as regular company hackathons. Callahan’s investment in the Maker Movement was recognized early in 2016 when the Office of Science and Technology Policy invited me to represent the State of Kansas at a Nation of Makers event at the White House in Washington, DC to kick off the 2016 National Week of Making.

Apart from the many benefits the Maker Movement drives around education, innovation, invention, entrepreneurship, economic development and the future of manufacturing, the impact of a Maker Mindset runs far deeper and can impact how we learn, collaborate and do business—even help shape our character. These traits are part of the reason Callahan strives to grow as a Community of Thinkers and Makers.

The Maker Mindset ignites curiosity, embraces creativity, nurtures collaboration and encourages learning and discovery through hands-on participation, tinkering and experimentation. The Maker Mindset encourages a problem-solving approach, which is of critical importance from an agency perspective as we constantly strive to do better and more innovative work for our clients.

The Maker Mindset forces us to move from simply looking for the right answers to discovering how to ask the right questions. It moves us from a “single correct answer” to taking questions and pursuing answers though an organic process of experimentation and play. It moves us from viewing mistakes as failures to embracing them as a valuable part of the problem-solving process, moving us beyond our typical comfort zone and pushing our personal boundaries and capabilities.

The Maker Mindset teaches us to fail forward and use these mistakes to learn and to find ways to solve challenges previously unseen. It’s through this process of curiosity, tinkering, discovering the right questions, embracing mistakes, failing forward and problem-solving that we grow, learn, innovate and invent.

In the words of President Obama, with a Maker Mindset “if you can imagine it, you can do it.”

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