Meet a Maker: Karen with [i am a maker]

Meet our best pal Karen, the founder of [i am a maker]! Karen is the best person ever and we’re so glad that she hangs out with us at Rocky Mountain STEAMFest every year. [i am a maker] was formed to engage, educate and inspire the current and future generations of makers through novel events and hands-on activities that promote play, experimentation, creative expression, team work and skills-based learning. They’re hosting HEBO Con at Rocky Mountain STEAM Fest 2020.

What do you do with your awesome self?

At my core, I am a manager of things, machinery, materials, ideas, projects and people.  My “day job” is designing and managing installation of high-speed food and beverage packaging lines as an engineering project manager, soup to nuts. 

Every other minute of my day when I’m not doing that is spent finding ways to inspire youth and adults into creative and technical endeavors as a new hobby, career or a lifetime passion.  This includes putting tools in the hands of youth and empowering them to take ownership of their own creative process. I formed the nonprofit [I am a maker] and, with a team of equally passionate folks, continue to host activities and facilitate informal learning for both youth and adults through a series of specialty events.

How did you get started? Who or what influenced you?

I believe it started for me with a Barbie doll. Some youth, as I have learned, set their dolls on fire, or cut/dye/style their hair, for example.  I took a more traditional route and, with my Mother’s instruction, sewed clothes for my dolls. When I realized I could make any style, color, size, or shape of clothing that I wanted, this opened a portal to the maker mindset at 8 years old. 

Fast forward a few decades and happily a mechanical engineer and hobbyist sewist, I acknowledged the lack of voices for women in engineering as a modern maker movement was emerging.  Makers in traditional arts, trades and artisan crafts were also under represented in media. I simply did not feel a part of this growing maker movement, so I just declared it: “I am a maker, too.”

[I am a maker] was born to reach youth and adults who don’t yet know they are makers, empower them and share with them the tools and resources for creation.

What was one bit of information you wished you know before you started?

Some information that would have been helpful to know is being more prepared for the volume of regulations, paperwork, filings, approvals, time and dollars that are needed to form a 501c3 and become a legal entity to serve the community.  To be frank, the IRS doesn’t care about your nonprofit, even when they admit they made an error. 

Where do you see yourself and your making going in the next 3 to 5 years?

We are hosting Hebocon Denver at STEAM Fest and this event is part of our larger vision to reach makers and young makers “where they are at”.  It is one of several programs of our nonprofit meant to encourage people to get creative regardless of life stage or their technical or creative ability. Everyone is a maker and we want to give adults and youth the tools to succeed in their creative endeavors across the variety of circumstances that they may find themselves in.  

We plan to expand the program and offer Hebocon Denver to the community multiple times a year combined with several additional related events that will continue to be both educational and entertaining.    

What do you wish you could make or do, but don’t know how to (yet)?

I wish there was a way to make time. I am looking for the time machine makers as I have several lifetimes of projects and missions to execute, and I’m not the only one. Hit us up!

What’s your favorite part about the STEAM movement?

My favorite part of the movement is our ability to create without requiring anyone’s permission.  As tools and materials become more readily accessible, so does this increase our ability to invent and create.  Why we create is different for each person and it is rare another maker will question what you are doing. Regardless of your actual reason for making something, another maker will know it in their heart, too. It’s because we can.        

What part of STEAM Fest are you most excited for?

I am excited for the entire weekend from loading in the first crate to Sunday night sweeping up the pom-poms. We are event producers ourselves, and we really love partnering with the STEAM Fest production team. We love working with a great team and making amazing events together with fun people!

[i am a maker] HEBO Con at Rocky Mountain STEAM Fest 2019

What will you be demo’ing hacking, playing with at your STEAM Fest booth?

We will be playing with broken toys, bits and bobbles that are actually robot parts in disguise. We are building robots out of junk, followed by sumo matches in the ring. And you can win prizes! 

What’s the most amazing, unusual (craziest) thing anyone has ever told you about what you do?

 “Will you marry me?”

What’s your advice to young peeps interested in learning more about STEAM?

The materials needed to start creating are right in front of you in everyday items such as old toothpaste tubes, paper plates, cups, boxes, tins, plastic bags, rubber bands, bottles, cardboard, foil, paper and pencil. Ask yourself what can you make with items within a 5/10/20ft radius of where you are sitting. GO!

Looking forward to Rocky Mountain STEAM Fest 2020! Get your tickets >> BUY TICKETS

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