image source: Maker City by Hirshberg & Dougherty
This past October I was invited to share stories about my city, Ithaca, NY, on a panel at World Makerfaire in Queens. The panel was moderated by Peter Hirschberg, urban innovator and co-author of the new book Maker City: Urban Manufacturing and Economic Renewal in American Cities. Hirschberg co-wrote the book with founder of Makerfaire and Make Magazine, Dale Dougherty. They wrote it to capture the momentum from the Maker Cities initiative that was issued by The White House OSTP in which mayors all over the country, including our very own Svante Myrick, signed an agreement to support maker culture.
But what is a maker culture? And what does it mean for our city? I’m involved with a few parts of Ithaca’s maker culture and admire it’s many other parts. My sense is that Ithaca has a lot of the pieces in place to elevate the spirit of creativity and invention that is already so deeply embedded here. Let me list some of these pieces that are already here to help us connect the dots, starting with organizations that serve youth to ones that support artists, tinkerers, and inventors–and those that support hardware startups and manufacturing.
We have organizations like The Sciencenter, Ithaca Physics Bus, and Xraise, who are working hard every day to make sure our young people grow up seeing themselves as STEAM innovators. We have a rich tradition of art and hand craft and music (fun fact: the Moog Synthesizer was invented here). We have Ithaca Generator, a high tech community makerspace right in the heart of downtown and Hammerstone School Carpentry for Women. We have higher education, like Cornell, Ithaca College, and TC3, who foster the integration of creative thinking, technology, and problem solving.
We have programs like Challenge Workforce and Fingerlakes Reuse that train people with disabilities or other job challenges to do product packaging and electronics repair. And we have co-working spaces and business incubators like Rev Ithaca that houses a prototyping lab and hardware accelerator. As far as manufacturing goes, we have contract manufacturers like Wicked Device and Incodema 3D that have manufacturing expertise and specialized tooling.
In addition to our rich maker culture, Ithaca is a walkable city with trails along three waterfalls that run through downtown. We have a flourishing local food scene and arts and culture festivals year round.
So yeah, we’re on the Maker Cities map. Creators and inventors, come check us out. And if you already live here and are interested in invention, be sure to appreciate all that we have because the innovators and inventors that have succeeded here didn’t do it alone. They were lifted up by the creative community that we have here in Ithaca. It’s a great place to live and create.
Xanthe Matychak is the Assistant Director of REV Hardware Accelerator and a proud member of Ithaca Generator.