Maker Faire Founder Dale Dougherty Speaks at DHS



On Thursday, March 2, Dublin High School hosted a special guest speaker in the Performing Arts Center: Dale Dougherty, the founder of the Maker Movement, who shared some of his industry experiences with students.


DHS AP Computer Science teacher Mr. Robert Kaehms, who used to work with and has known Mr. Dougherty for twenty-five years, introduced his friend to the crowd.


Despite his background as a publisher, Dougherty had always been interested in creating things. In 2005, Dougherty started the “Make” magazine  ; the next year, he hosted the inaugural Maker Faire here in the Bay Area. Since then, the “maker” movement has become an international phenomenon, with hands-on programs (“MakerSpaces”) being introduced in schools across the globe. The idea of a “Maker Faire” has grown as well; last year there were over a hundred Maker Faires in different parts of the world.


During his presentation at DHS, Dougherty asserted that anyone can become a “maker” and used some of the “Make” website’s recent posts as examples. The story that impressed the crowd the most was one about Damon McMillan, a normal person who decided to build an autonomous, clean energy boat. After McMillan built his boat, he decided to test the boat’s navigation system by dropping it in the ocean in California with instructions to travel to Hawaii. To McMillan’s surprise (and relief) the boat made it to the island in forty days, coming ashore while McMillan and his family watched.


McMillan then tried to send his boat to New Zealand. Although it eventually stopped responding along the way, the boat travelled 6480 nautical miles before it died. Sometime after McMillan lost contact with his boat, a shipping container picked it up en route to New Zealand. It was eventually returned to McMillan after spending several months on display in the New Zealand maritime museum.


However, when telling his audience about McMillan’s boat, Dougherty focused not only on the maker’s successes, but also on the challenges he encountered  along the way. McMillan himself described the boat as something that “started out as a yearlong project [but] turned into 30 months of mistakes, compromises, and do-overs.” Dougherty repeatedly emphasized  the fact that McMillan persevered through those “mistakes, compromises, and do-overs” is what truly classifies him as “Maker”.


(To read the full story, click here.)


The audience — a mix of students, families, and teachers from the area — left inspired by Dougherty’s words .


“Meeting Dale Dougherty was amazing,” said 6th grader Sam Barnes after the talk. “It was my first time meeting him and the most amazing thing he showed me was the man who built the solar powered boat and made it go all the way from California to Hawaii and then made it to New Zealand. This has inspired me to build something, like a mini car. I want to make one with wheels of bottle caps and a little hand-held controllers and brass clips and paper clips.”


Sam’s younger sister Emily, a second grader at Dougherty Elementary also wanted to rush home and start building something; in her case, a canoe that could go both in water and on land.


“Basically I was thinking I would get a canoe, and then have the paddle, but I would have it a plain color,” Emily told The Dublin Shield. “And then I would take a part of a scooter and then I would take the part of steerer and the front wheel and basically just put it together. Then I would take some wheels and put it on [the canoe] and let go. It would be something someone rides in and something someone rides in in the water and on land. I want it to have no exhaust output so it has no pollution.”


Oakland teacher Diana Culmer, who was also among the audience members, found Dougherty’s talk to be very apropos to teaching.  “One of the things I really liked about the presentation was that he talked about the times when you would try and try to make something, and you would fail, or you would change it, or you would try and make improvements to it. And that’s what learning should be in school; that you’re always trying to figure out the problem, or trying to write the story, or trying to make something, and that’s okay to fail. That it’s okay to stop take a look at something and try and make it better.”
Dublin High teacher Mrs. Janet Kaehms agreed with Ms. Culmer’s statement . “Making is fantastic and it connects completely to learning. Like Dale said, it’s a process. Trial and error, learning from others, learning from your own mistakes. And I think ‘making’ is the key because it inspires you.”