Las Vegas, N.M. – The White House invited a Highlands University media arts graduate and leader in the national maker space movement to share his expertise at an Aug. 24 Nation of Makers meeting.
Mariano Ulibarri’s Parachute Factory put Las Vegas, New Mexico, on the map in 2012 as the first maker space for youth in the state. His work caught the attention of the Office of Science and Technology Policy at the White House.
“Our mission at Parachute Factory is to empower the community of Las Vegas by providing a space where people from all walks of life can come together to share knowledge, skills and cultural traditions, blending the strengths of our past with the latest technological innovations,” Ulibarri said.
A maker space is a do-it-yourself environment that brings people together to create, tinker and repair items using open-source computer hardware and software, as well as other technology tools like 3-D printers for creating objects.
In 2014, President Obama launched the Nation of Makers initiative.
“This initiative is an all-hands-on-deck effort to give more students, entrepreneurs and citizens access to to a new class of technologies – such as 3-D printers, laser cutters and desktop machine tools – to design, build and manufacture about anything,” Obama said in a statement.
Ulibarri said Parachute Factory was one of the most diverse maker spaces at the White House event.
“I think we had a lot to contribute because of our track record of working directly with so many under-represented populations, K through 12 youth, libraries, museums and the Las Vegas community. We are an innovative space. We are light on our feet and move quickly because technology is always ahead of us,” Ulibarri said.
At the White House, Ulibarri was among 150 other American maker space leaders.
“What resonated the most with me at this Nation of Makers meeting were President Obama’s words that ‘just in time’ education is more effective than ‘just in case’ education. What this means is that with traditional K through 12 learning, we measure to the test and the ability to regurgitate what you learned in say trigonometry.
“In contrast, ‘just in time’ learning is seeking out the necessary information and skill exactly when it’s needed, such as wanting to design a custom 3-D printed cellphone case. To do this, the maker needs to learn many news skills like 3-D design and how to operate a 3-D printer,” Ulibarri said.
He said this kind of learning is powerful.
“In maker spaces, I see motivated, excited, completely engaged learners because it comes from within,” said Ulibarri, who has also taught in traditional classroom settings.
He said the Nation of Makers meeting reinforced some of the new initiatives Parachute Factory has in the works.
“There are tremendous opportunities for young people to break into the world of 21st century manufacturing and we’re already preparing programming in this arena,” Ulibarri said.
He said one of the biggest outcomes of the Nation of Makers meeting was developing a regional network of maker spaces, with plans for future collaboration and regional conferences.
Ulibarri has received national recognition at maker space conferences and through features about him in technology publications like Getting Smart. In 2014, the Harvard School of Education selected him to help catalyze a national maker space movement.
“This ongoing work and training with Harvard gave me a deep appreciation for how people learn and also made me a better teacher and learner,” Ulibarri said.
He said the White House experience was especially memorable.
“I never thought I’d step foot in the White House and had to pinch myself it was real. It was a tremendous honor and also validating that the maker space work I’m doing is important for our community and country,” said Ulibarri, who is 35.
The fourth-generation Las Vegas photographer earned his M.A. in media arts from Highlands in 2013, with an emphasis in physical computing and multimedia. He created Parachute Factory for his thesis and launched the popular maker space in Las Vegas in 2012.
Parachute Factory is at 1403 Chavez St. in the Old Town Mission. For information about programming and workshops, contact Parachute Factory via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or its Facebook page.