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Maui Makers

Islanders explore the joy of “making things.”

July 30, 2014
Cindy Schumacher - Contributing Writer , Maui Weekly

Ha'iku resident Jerry Isdale started Maui Makers in 2010 based on the belief that by working together, we can prove that America's future is really what we "make of it."

Isdale worked hard for over four years to organize this unique group that provides the venue, knowledge and atmosphere to help people create and make whatever they desire. Through educational outreach in the community, he continues to inspire adults and students to be "makers of things, not just consumers of things."

"I moved to Hawai'i in 2009 with the plan to bring the nationwide Maker movement to our island," said Isdale, exemplifying Maui Makers do-it-yourself mindset.

Article Photos

Ha‘ikū resident Jerry Isdale started Maui Makers in 2010 based on the belief that by working together, we can prove that America’s future is really what we “make of it.” “We also aim to get young people involved in various aspects of making things,” said Isdale, who mentored the Robotics Club at King Kekaulike High School along with a variety of other school, college and business technology projects.
Photo: Cindy Schumacher

"It is the premier group for grassroots American innovation--a grand celebration of 'all things made,' " he said, adding the importance of involving youth in Maker projects. "Students in creative and artistic community projects become highly engaged learners while developing their socialization skills."

Maui Makers hold public meetings, classes and a variety of workshops to create and construct things. They are establishing focus groups centered on various technologies and interests. The Arduino Innovation Group was the first one of these to gain a following.

Arduino is the name of an open-source electronics platform and the software used to program it. It is designed to make electronics more accessible to artists, designers, hobbyists and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments. In essence, this tiny computer platform provides a way to build and program electronic components as parts of other creative designs.

"There are some very talented Makers on Maui," Isdale said. Naturally, these people need a venue where they can share ideas and expertise, besides access to 21st century tools, fabrication processes and materials.

A Makerspace offers shared physical resources otherwise unaffordable or unattainable by most individuals. Just as important is having a dynamic workspace with access to collaboration, inspiration and encouragement from others.

"With the right connections and tools, you can make almost anything," he said.

The idea is similar to business incubators or co-working spaces. However, instead of offering an office space, Makerspaces provide a group project workshop. There are hundreds of related spaces and groups around the world, known by various names such as Makerspace, Hackerspace, FabLab or TechShop.

"On Maui, our workspaces and equipment allow people to make things to sell locally, in stores or swap meets," said Isdale, still inspired by the variety of creative people with innovative ideas he has met over the years.

By providing the tools and skills necessary to design and make just about anything, Maui Makers encourages people to become entrepreneurs and to pursue careers in design, advanced manufacturing, or the related fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

"There is huge opportunity to start a company, get a business up and rolling and learn from others," Isdale said, describing the wide-range of individuals coming to Maui Makers as students, web people, artists, theoretical physicists and more.

In addition to an impressive assortment of equipment, Maui Makers provides a UP Three Dimensional (3D) printer and a Shapeoko 2 Computer Numerical Control carving machine (CNC mill). These are desktop machines that take designs created on a computer, either scanned or drawn, and make real-world objects. The 3D printer uses additive manufacturing, in which successive layers of plastic material are laid down under computer control to build up the shape of the object. The Shapeoko mill uses a small rotary tool to cut away material.

"Both machines help turn ideas into physical objects, with precision," Isdale said.

"The Maui County Office of Economic Development has been a big supporter of our efforts, providing us with a grant to acquire much of these materials and providing some of the classes," Isdale said.

Recently, Maui Makers also received a grant from NASA for the Asteroid Grand Challenge. This funding encourages international Makerspaces to create projects related to space habitats and research. However, interest in independent makers is becoming a national phenomenon. Even organizations such as Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) have begun to offer grants, trying to involve Makers in space applications.

Brian Thomas, with Maui Makers from its launch, said, "Our organization has a special relevance for Maui because of our expertise, knowledge, isolation, limited resources, and desire for sustainability."

"All sorts of individuals seek out fun, hands-on ways to create and to explore," Thomas added. "When someone, myself included, learns how easy yet powerful and broad ranging an Arduino is, the mind can't help but think of what to create and make."

When Isdale teaches rooms full of kids how to make LED lights, the kids light up as well. Kihei Charter School student Luke Jones said, "Maui Makers helped me with projects that I always wanted to do but never had the knowledge or equipment to complete. They taught me valuable skills, opened up worlds of opportunities for me and are a great community asset."

Laura Ulibarri, a Friday evening workshop instructor, provides access to Arduinos, circuit breadboards, computers, basic electronic parts, sensors, motors, and test and measurement equipment.

"I started exploring Arduinos last year and I'm hooked!" said Ulibarri.

"My interest and connection to Maui Makers is through using open-source software and hardware to build a culture of innovation on Maui," Ulibarri said, noting the potential for anyone with the motivation to "make" an idea into a reality.

Ulibarri explained how the industrial age decimated the livelihood of artisans and their ability to compete with factories. "I think we're on the brink of another revolution, this time favoring craftsmen and makers," she said.

"Skilled and creative workers," continued Ulibarri, "will be on top again. They will take manufacturing back into the community and develop tailored products that meet our needs."

"Maui attracts some of the most innovative and imaginative people on the planet. Let's lead the revolution!" said Ulibarri.

Maui Makers' public meetings on the first Thursday of the month help generate interest for planned workshops for Arduinos, LED Quilts, Dremel Build Night and more. The workshops meet on Friday evenings.

"We need new people to get involved and help expand the Maui Makers community," said Isdale. He is currently looking for help in locating new affordable Makerspaces, along with additional mentorship and educational opportunities.

Interested folks, groups or individuals who wish to expand their skills and resources by engaging and collaborating with the Maker community should contact Isdale at (808) 573-7606, email or go to for more information, meeting dates and locations



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