What Did You Make Today? White House Recognizes 10 Making Champions

What Did You Make Today? White House Recognizes 10 Making Champions


A former military who stepped on an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) while serving in Afghanistan and today develops low-cost prosthetics with maker tools. A designer who explores how making can solve global problems after large scale disasters, such as earthquakes. An educator who has developed a STEM-focused school model for students of color.

Those individuals are among the 10 Champions of Change for Making selected over 600 submissions. They were recognized this Friday by the White House for their outstanding contribution to the maker movement.

These recognitions kick off the first National Week of Making, which run June 17-23. Earlier this Friday, President Barack Obama issued an official proclamation inviting Americans to embrace the maker movement. “This week, let us turn today’s sketches and dreams into tomorrow’s Made in America labels, and let us embrace the audacious spirit of human curiosity that is embedded in our DNA," he said.

During the week, libraries, schools, universities, museums and community spaces will host maker events. A Maker Faire is happening in Washington with free tickets from June 18th-19th. Virtually, the community will be sharing experiences through the hashtags #NationOfMakers and #weekofmaking.

Meet the champions.

  • Sonya Pryor-Jones (Boston, MA)

Committed to ensuring that diverse communities have equitable access to maker tools, Sonya Pryor-Jones serves as CIO for the Fab Foundation. The nonprofit provides access to tools to educate, innovate, and invent using technology and digital fabrication.

  • John Niebergall (Sherwood, OR)

For more than 32 years John Niebergall has worked to provide his students with hands-on, contextualized learning experiences and has raised more than $825,000 through grants and in-kind contributions to establish a classroom and mobile Fab Lab.

  • Bert Cuenca (Providence, RI)

At the heart of the nationally-known makerspace AS220 is co-founder and artistic director Umberto Crenca. In the 31 years since Crenca set out to co-create an incubator of maker culture and a lab for integrating STEM and the arts, AS220 has grown from a single rented room above the Providence Performing Arts Center to now three buildings totaling 95,000 square feet.

#umbertocrenca from @as220 crushed it on stage and asked how can we change the expectations of our communities? pic.twitter.com/jZunm4JXj7

— Inventables (@Inventables) June 17, 2016
  • Lisa Marie Wiley (San Antonio, TX)

Retired Army Sergeant Lisa Marie Wiley stepped on an IED while serving in Afghanistan in November 2011. The incident resulted in an amputation below the knee. Passionate about living an active lifestyle, Marie become part of the VA Innovation Creation Series, which aims to crowdsource low-cost prosthetics and assistive technologies from the maker community.

Lisa Marie Wiley, one of #WHChamps for making, talks about speaking up when others don't hear you #nationofmakers pic.twitter.com/PzumI4YI2L

— Nation Of Makers (@NationOfMakers) June 17, 2016
  • Limor Fried (New York, NY)

While studying engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Limor “Ladyada” Fried decided to create a company focused on supporting learning electronics for makers of all ages and skill levels. In 2005 she founded Adafruit, which today employs more than 100 individuals in a 50,000 square foot factory in New York City.

#WHChamps #NationOfMakers @WhiteHouse @adafruit gettng started! pic.twitter.com/LyKgZApfh3

— adafruit industries (@adafruit) June 17, 2016
  • Felton Thomas, Jr. (Cleveland, OH)

Felton Thomas, Jr. is the director of the Cleveland Public Library (CPL) and President-Elect for the Public Library Association. Under Felton’s leadership, CPL has created a dedicated makerspace called TechCentral to provide open access for patrons to learn laser engraving, 3D printing, audio, video, photo production tools and more.

  • Gregg Behr (Pittsburgh, PA)

Gregg Behr manages a grantmaking organization advancing early childhood education, education reform, out-of-school time support, and informal learning. He has also participated in the creation of the Pittsburgh Remake Learning Network, a professional network of educators committed to transform education.

  • Dara Dotz (San Francisco, CA)

Dara Dotz is the co-founder of Field Ready, which brings digital fabrication to people in disaster areas, allowing survivors to make humanitarian supplies on-demand. Dotz’s innovations have been deployed around the world, including in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake.

  • Bahiy Watson (New Orleans, LA)

After the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Bahiy Watson committed himself to creating opportunities for his community to rebuild from the ruins and began rallying others to help save a local youth center. Watson’s commitment led him to create the 1881 Research Institute, a hands-on training high school that builds community and hope while using the power of STEM.

  • Renee Fredericks (Anchorage, AK)

Working to connect native Alaskan crafts with the digital fabrication tools of today, Renee Fredericks directs the Youth Education and Employment Services at Cook Inlet Tribal Council in Anchorage, Alaska.

"Nothing is impossible in the fab lab" - Renee Fredericks on making #WHChamps event @whitehouseostp #nationofmakers pic.twitter.com/UHry8odf2i

— Nation Of Makers (@NationOfMakers) June 17, 2016
Stay up to date on edtech. Sign up to have top stories delivered weekly.

Who we are

EdSurge helps schools find, select and use the right technology to support all learners.
© 2011-2016 EdSurge Inc. All rights reserved. Every student succeeds.