“Makers” aiming to unite faculties through creativity and collaboration projects

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There is a new “maker” group on campus aiming to create a multi-faculty student “maker” community of UW students who are looking to challenge the current  hacker and hackathon culture.


The group’s name is [reboot], and their philosophy, as stated in their first meeting, is to revive the hacker culture of teaching and improving something without having to stick to a specific field or discipline. [reboot] is composed of an eight-member head team, but they are looking for more student involvement. 


The “maker” culture is a contemporary movement representing a technology-based extension of do-it-yourself culture. Typical interests include engineering-oriented projects such as electronics, robotics, 3-D printing, as well as more traditional activities such as metalworking, woodworking, and traditional arts and crafts. The subculture stresses new and unique applications of technology, and encourages invention and prototyping while maintaining a strong focus on using and learning practical skills and applying them creatively.


One of the fundamental aspects of the maker culture that [reboot] is focusing on is the emphasis of learning-through-doing in a social environment. Maker culture places a lot of importance on informal, networked, peer-led learning events that are motivated by fun and self-fulfillment and not necessarily a monetary price.


During their first meeting, the group’s organizers presented their ideas, views, and flaws with the current hack and hackathon culture, in which they feel it tends to favour people who are interested and knowledgeable in areas such as computers, programming, or software development, while ignoring other disciplines such as art and graphic design.


In their first meeting, [reboot] also introduced its short and long term goals. The group’s most significant short-term goal is to get enough students from every faculty in order to build momentum and expand the maker culture in UW. Their long-term goal is to obtain permanent “creator” space on campus, which will most likely become available in the recently announced Engineering 7 building. 


Amit Mehta, one of [reboot]’s organizers, declared that [reboot]’s main focus is to be a student-run club.


“We don’t want this to be something that is organized by a small group of students; we want it to be something that is put together for the students, by the students.” Mehta said.


Thomas Storwick, the current representative for students, stated that student-organized clubs tend to be more efficient and catered towards the students and not another corporation or organization.


“That is something that first drew me into [reboot], was that it is organized by the students and for the students, which can be efficiently done and correctly done in a way students want and, it’s within the University of Waterloo, which means it’s tailored to UW students.”


It was decided during [reboot]’s first meeting that they will stay away from defining themselves as a hacker group because that tends to alienate people who think they have limited computer and programming knowledge or skills.


“We are really trying to move away from the term ‘hack’ because of the stigma surrounding it that only computer science and engineering students can do something that is considered ‘hacking’ even though hacking is something that is applicable to anything, ” Mehta said.


Mehta also stated that their main focus as of now is “trying to get more students involved and opened to the idea of being part of a community where you can learn from others, share ideas, and where you can learn to adapt to a situation and manipulate it to improve it …. It’s about being creative about anything you want.” [reboot]’s Facebook group page has already gathered 250 members that are interested in this creator community.


The main motivation for the creation of a group like [reboot] was to include more students in hackathon events.


“It started with a couple of people that went to hackathons and then realized that all the events focused on the same thing, and, when we go to those hackathons, we are just seeing the same thing everywhere that we go; it is just programming and robots. How come we are not seeing artistic hacks, things that have to do with music or things that are outside the box, so that’s what brought the idea to try to include more students in this movement,” Mehta said.


[reboot] has been holding weekly meetings in which members come up with ideas to get more students from all faculties to get involved in the movement and realize that they don’t have to be good with computers or software development in order to be called a hacker, instead the group is focusing on showing the value of creativity and ideas that could make a change in any discipline.


“Most creative things come from people that have ideas outside the areas they are trying to focus on, an example is Twitter, which was developed by an art student and not a computer science student,” Mehta said.


[reboot] is planning to host an event in the coming weeks, the logistics are still being finalized and will be discussed during their next meeting. [reboot] is also looking to apply to become a Feds club next term.