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Dale Dougherty and Maker Fairs

Aired February 19, 2012 - 14:00   ET


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to the NEXT LIST. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta in Sonoma, California. You're about to meet Dale Dougherty. He has a simple belief that all of us are makers.


DALE DOUGHERTY: For many years, or many almost decades, we've kind of talked ourselves out of being makers, that we're smart shoppers or consumers, and I really want to turn that around and say we are makers. We make our world.


GUPTA: Dale believes everyone should be passionate about making something food, clothes, woodwork or even crazy stuff like electric muffins. We'll explain that in a second.

He's created something called maker fairs around the world where tens of thousands meet to show off their creations and collaborate. What began as a simple idea has snowballed into a worldwide movement.


DOUGHERTY: I think that as an overall philosophy of making. It is something that just seems basic to whole who we are. It's not necessarily about technology. It's really about people. But I think technology creates a lot of the interests today.

Cooks are makers and people who create garments and dresses and things are makers. But so are people that tinker with electronics and carpentry and other areas as well. But I think one of the things that happens in making is that we are gaining some control over the world we live in.

We're -- we are actually doing something important and valuable and it's making a personal connection to that thing. When I see a young kid connect a battery and a light and realize the two worked together and the light goes on.

And they kind of just disconnect and connect, disconnect and connect. Just all those make the point that they're controlling it. I think this world is awfully complex and it's hard sometimes to figure out what are building blocks.

You know, how do you get going, how do you get started. Now you might not, you know, like the hobbyist who takes 20 years to do something. It might take you that long to have great impact, but you can have impact today. You can do things today, and encourage yourself to participate to build things and make things.

In the 1960s or so, things like tinkering were more mainstream. They were like middle-class virtues. If you could improve your home or repair your car, you save some money. You got something that might have been hard to get otherwise, as you couldn't pay for it, and so you were smarter.

You were resourceful. And I think that kind of mindset is just important. For many years or many almost decades, we've kind of talked ourselves out of being makers. That we're smart shoppers or consumers and I really want to turn that around and say we are makers. We make our world.

I'm really interested in what individuals and small groups can do. Maker Faire is one of those I think positive special places where you can see lots of different ways that people are working to create new things, to do things that you might not think possible.

Maker Faire, this year will be in its seventh year. It started in the bay area in San Mateo and we've held it there each year since then and you know, we started with about 15,000 to 20,000 people in our first year and that was pretty amazing. You know, last year, we had around 100,000 people coming.

GUPTA: Someone were at a Maker Faire, what does it look like?

DOUGHERTY: Well, it's kind of a science fair, an art fair, a little bit of burning man and things like that. It's kind of wild and crazy, but in a very simple way.

It's about a conversation with an enthusiast whose eyes light up when you talk to them, who is excited about what they've built and the kind of conversation, where did you get that idea?

One of the things that reminds me of that to build something and be able to play with it.

Like the electric muffin, you get to enjoy that and it breaks down. So they have acme engineering garage at Maker Faire and have to repair it. But it's something to be able to play and it performs, it does something and goes back and makes it better, it's all kind of that same process.

The surprising thing I think is that this is stuff that's in people's backyards and basements. It's not always visible. It kind of flushes this out from the community and we get to see that innovation and making and creating is kind of an everyday thing that lots of people do.

It doesn't have to be elevated. It's not something that just geniuses do. We're all inventors and makers.

Last fall in New York I met a young man who -- and his mother who said, you know, last year, he came to Maker Faire in a wheelchair. He had some kind of disease that his immune system had shut down.

The doctors said there's not much more we can do with him and I don't know if he'll make it. And his mother kind of said, is there something you would like to do because I want to fulfill that wish and he said, I want to go to Maker Faire.

So he came. He learned to solder, to do this. He likes it already. And last September, he shows up again with his own robot, a telepresence robot that he covered in his health and his mother says that period of coming to Maker Faire turned him around.

You know. So, you can't help, but get like choked up over something like that when you realize what it means to someone. This became something really critical to him and he took his project that he brought to Maker Faire and won the science fair in his hometown and he's part of a community now. So let's just -- we're going to make a mess.


DOUGHERTY: Every kid wants to do.

GUPTA: Calling me a kid?



GUPTA: Welcome back to THE NEXT LIST. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Dale Dougherty's reach goes farther than yearly Maker Faires. He also publishes "Make" magazine. It's a glossy jam packed do-it-yourself magazine filled with ideas on everything from how to make a robot to an airplane. And the magic begins right here at Dale's labs in Sonoma, California.


GUPTA: So this looks like a pretty interesting space. I mean, what goes on in here.

DOUGHERTY: Well, this is our lab and really what happens here is we have interns that take things that we think might be in the magazine and they try to recreate them. They take the author's recipe in the sense and test it. We're like a test kitchen for makers.

I'm really interested in the experience of making and how, you know, a magazine is meant to encourage you to do something. I think, you know, we can look back at, you know, 100 years of magazines and things that like popular mechanics and popular science that inspired people to just do stuff.

GUPTA: This is where make sort of comes in as well.


GUPTA: It's sort of the same size and same sort of concept. DOUGHERTY: Just a homage to those magazines.

GUPTA: What are some of the examples that people if they read this what would they make?

DOUGHERTY: I thought you might -- this is an issue that came out and call it's mod your bod and Carol is a surgical robotosist. Professionally she's building tools that assist a surgeon, but in the magazine here, we have this really cool air guitar hero. It says rehabilitation exercise for people with amputations. How could you play a guitar hero guitar if you don't have hands?

GUPTA: Right. You do see the term hack and hack the connect, hackable, hacking throughout. I mean, what do you mean by that?

DOUGHERTY: Well, I think we have a history of hacking here that we're building on computers and other things. Usually means open something up, to be able it to take it apart. Understand how it works and repurpose it towards your own goals.

The idea I had with the magazine was actually when I went back and looked at these old magazines I thought the voice of them was similar to the hackers. You know, that these guys were hackers in their day. They were looking at it.

And say, you know, how do I build a 30-mile-per-hour fun boat for $38. It had to be cheap, had to be doable, and so that kind of attitude, I just found, if it was in the past and it's in the present this must be something that's not just a trend.

GUPTA: So everything in here is something that people could make?

DOUGHERTY: Absolutely.

GUPTA: They could do it on their own.

DOUGHERTY: That's the whole goal of the magazine is not just talk about technology, but to show how you can do something with it.

GUPTA: When you come to Make Labs one of the things you'll notice is when you're here you play.

DOUGHERTY: This is a project called squishy surface. We do it, really simple one-page project in the magazine that comes from an engineering educator Ann Marie Thomas of Minneapolis. And she just started playing with play-do as a conductor for electricity and it gives kids a way to interact with the basics and build circuits with something that doesn't seem technical.

GUPTA: Right.

DOUGHERTY: It seems more like a craft project. The difference we're going to make insulating conductive means electrons flow through there. Salt helps it. What she did with her recipe is add more salt than the unusual amount to play-do. And then we substitute sugar to decrease salt in the other one so we don't want electronics to flow very well in this and want it to flow in this.

GUPTA: So right in there there's a lesson with salt it's going to conduct better because of the charge.

DOUGHERTY: Yes. So let's just -- we're going to make a mess, like any good kid wants to do, and we just --

GUPTA: Calling me a kid?

DOUGHERTY: Here's a model of just taking, you know, we've put two pieces of the conductive playdough between an insulator and this is keeping the conductive parts separate. We'll short them out if they touch. We're just going to put a battery on and so a lot of these things have simple orientations like a positive and a negative. There we go.


DOUGHERTY: So we're able to --

GUPTA: That's pretty amazing.

DOUGHERTY: Plug that in anywhere. We're doing this with fourth graders in the Bronx this week and they want to see how many LEDs they can get on it. Demonstrating a basic vocabulary around a circuit, almost in everything we own these days, but we don't really understand what's going on there.

GUPTA: So instead of having a textbook that explains polarity and insulation and conduction, they made playdough.

DOUGHERTY: Exactly. How do strawberries grow? I want to know firsthand. How does this work?




DOUGHERTY: We're on the outskirts of California, which is about an hour north of San Francisco. We're at my house here, which we built in about -- and moved in about 2004. We have about 10 acres here of pastures and gardens and old barn, which was here which we kind of liked.

Kind of the last thing in the fall to really have color is the persimmon tree. Right around Thanksgiving its fruits turn bright orange and they're very astringent. I made a persimmon sorbet from them and it just sucked all the -- everything out of your mouth. So I had to treat it with cider.

I think making starts in the sense of what can I do, what can I learn to do. How does kale grow or strawberries grow? It's something called hissup. The leaf has a licorice type flavor, very sweet. I want to know firsthand how does this work?

I was born in Los Angeles, family of six kids, but in 1967 we moved, my father got a new job and we moved to Louisville, Kentucky. I was sick as a kid and had a bone disease and I was in the hospital by myself.

It was just sort of I think formative in I'm not going to be bored. We're making models, you know, like creature of the black lagoon or car or, you know, things of that nature and it was pretty simple form of just gluing things together, but it entertained me and kept me going.

I never saw myself as having any ridiculous skills. I was kind of a liberal arts major, ended up liking literature and history in particular. I moved to Boston after college and eventually met Tim O'Reilly and we, you know, got O'Reilly Media started in the 1984/1985 when I started working with him. We were technical publishers.

We kind of had this sense that we wanted to create books, obviously that were valuable and useful to people, but they didn't want to be academic. They wanted to be straightforward just like conversational in tone. This is how you do something.

So, "Make" is a how-to magazine and it's dealing with subjects that are more technical than any other how-to magazine out there. It's a close cousin to a cooking magazine or a woodworking magazine.

I have three children and they're all in their 20s. I think they live in an environment where they're very capable and they're independent thinkers and independent doers. So I have it to say they got the mindset, you know, and I think that's what matters most.

This is my starter for breadmaking. I like to cook. Having access to food from the garden makes you a better cook, I think. I have to add 100 grams of water and 100 grams of flour here. I want to know.

I want -- but I don't want to just know. I want to be able to do something. You know, it's the feel of the dough on your hands, the interactions with that. I think they're all kind of interesting.

A phrase in one of our workshops that I was at that has stuck with me. What can you do with what you know? It really it interests me, what can you do. Things that we sometimes, just like breadbaking, a sense of pride, but there's a certain mastery you do it multiple times you get a little better at it.

I'm not going to open a bakery, but to serve bread as a family or give it away as a present when you visit someone. It's just a very nice thing to be able to do, satisfying. That's all I can kind of describe it as.

GUPTA: You were just as excited as those kids as far as I can tell.




GUPTA: You recently got a Darpa Grant. Is that right? Darpa is something part -- Department of Defense, right?

DOUGHERTY: It's a research arm of defense and I mean, they're behind the internet and lots of things. I think the rationale behind this is, they don't see kids in high school interested in science and technology to the degree that what matters, but they're not making things.

Kids aren't looking and saying I want to go into -- I want a career in making something. I saw that and that's why I wanted to apply for the grant and see, you know, can we get this into high schools.

GUPTA: You want innovators and innovation taught in every classroom.

DOUGHERTY: But I want it experienced. It's not something you tell someone to innovate. It's like creativity. You don't tell people to be creative. You invite them to. You open the context for them to do that.

GUPTA: Right.

DOUGHERTY: So it really resonates inside of them. It's not something you impose on them.

GUPTA: Yes. This is what you're talking about.

DOUGHERTY: This is a Makers space in an educational setting. I call it project make. I work with the local high school to get the opportunity for kids to make things. The basic idea is what do you want to make?

GUPTA: You can feel the energy in here. They came right in and immediately got to work. Let's take a look at the projects they're working on as much as you can explain.

DOUGHERTY: Sure. So this is something, these are maker kits that they built last semester and run your hand over that one. So, there's a sensor in there that's figuring out what you're doing and responding, right?

GUPTA: Pretty amazing.

DOUGHERTY: So they solder, there was this board underneath, they've soldered those connections and --

GUPTA: Pretty good work, pretty good soldering.

DOUGHERTY: Absolutely.

GUPTA: Nice job.

DOUGHERTY: So these are kids that have never done that, have never figured this out and they've just been given the opportunity to do that. This is a pilot program here for just proving I think in ways that kids want it.

GUPTA: What is it you're trying to make here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're making a solar --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like here's mine. It does have the solar panels on it. You'll basically leave it out and it will charge up this battery inside the lunch box and then from there, we're going to have a USB adapter to charge up an iPhone or iPod or whatever and then you have to switch so it can be a light if you need it. It's kind of like a prepared survival light source.

GUPTA: Yes. That's great. Had you done this kind of work before?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. Nothing. I always played with electricity, but just lighting up a light switch, nothing really this advanced. So it's a lot of fun.

GUPTA: Would you have learned this in your regular school or no?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, definitely not in regular school. I never would have had this opportunity. This has been really cool.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got the idea off of a web site I found called Indian mogul. I got the blueprint and everything.

GUPTA: Had you ever done anything like that before?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nope. First time I ever did anything like this.

GUPTA: Why did you do it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm a big Freddy Krueger fan and Halloween is coming and I should do something cool this year. This whole thing probably cost about 30 bucks.

GUPTA: Can I try it on?


DOUGHERTY: New kind of surgery.

GUPTA: That's right, so much faster now. I got to say, it's so exciting over there. The kids are incredibly excited.

DOUGHERTY: They are engaged and doing stuff, they're happy and they're working together.

GUPTA: Right. DOUGHERTY: How do we move it from really if we think of like the user experience of school and sitting? Chairs and listening to one person talk to everyone. How do we make classrooms interactive? How do we use technologies and stuff to really engage kids? That's what I see the opportunity here with making.

GUPTA: You have a model here. What is this model of?

DOUGHERTY: A couple of guys, Robert Bridges from MIT had designed a shelter for Haiti that could be put up in a couple hours and they brought it to "Maker Faire" in New York.

And I saw it and thought, you know, this looks like a shed or a kind of structure that you could put outside a school and invite kids to come in and make stuff, a clubhouse.

You know, just as school gardens have become something that has taken off, I want to put this next to a school garden.

GUPTA: You are just as excited as those kids as far as I can tell.

DOUGHERTY: I am. First to see what they're doing. This is what drives me. I would say like my mission is to make more makers and this is how we do it, is to invite them in, allow them to do things, and they start building up their own vision of what they want to do and where they want to go with it.


GUPTA: Dale Dougherty wants everyone to be an innovator. He sparked an entire movement of innovators and he won't stop until he sees his maker movement in classrooms all over the country. That's what earned Dale a spot on THE NEXT LIST.

For more of THE NEXT LIST, you can go to or visit my live stream at Thanks for joining us. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. See you back next Sunday.