Makers at the Statehouse

I’d never been on the floor of a legislature before. Heck, I’d never even been inside the Vermont statehouse.  But my friend Lars, who happens to be executive director of Generator in Burlington, and one of his friends from the state economic development agency, and a few state legislators, set up an event so that people in the state government could see the range of cool tech-ish things that makers are doing  in Vermont and keep them in mind.

statehousemakersI got to talk with people doing a bunch of cool things, including the folks from AirShark, who are flying camera drones around buildings  and landscapes and taking pictures that turn into a point cloud that turns into a centimeters-accurate 3D model. And a lady who is using a laser engraver to make stone markers, and a guy who makes tuned drums from the bottoms of propane tanks. And Tyler from Filabot, and Ben and Pete from Cardboard Teck, who just finished up their laser-cut pinball machine…

And as part of all this, to make it official, we trooped into the legislative chamber just at the end of the noon recess, and, after an invocation comparing the legislature facing a revenue shortfall to Gideon facing the Midianites, the reading of the titles of several bills, and a request to move a bill from the Judiciary Committee to the Agriculture Committee, one of the legislators sponsoring the event got up and spoke for a while about the maker movement and what he thought it meant for the state, and then we stood there while everyone applauded us. It was pretty neat, and also sobering. (I also learned that the carpet on the current legislative floor is a precise copy of the original, the records of the pattern having been preserved for almost 200 years. Talk about continuity.)

I was there in my capacity as Guy with Cool Little Toys, which was a little hard for some of the state government people to grasp (no immediate business plan or job impact), but I had a good talk with Mara Siegel — who also got a Circuit Scribe kit but has been procrastinating on playing with it — about getting cheap LEDs in bulk from surplus sites. We figured that a conductive-ink pen, a reel of surplus LEDs and some glue would let a library make light-up crafts whenever they wanted for about $50. Also conversations with a bunch of people who thought it was a great idea for Montpelier to have a maker space, all willing to help, and all looking for someone to lead the effort.

statehousekthOh, and people flocked to the 3Doodler. In a room full of mostly straightforward technical explanations, how could anyone resist the chance to write their name or make a tripod in colored plastic?

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