Makers UPV: making locally, winning globally

The Makers UPV community was born at the Universitat Politècnica de Valencia (Spain), three years ago. That’s why they decided to create a maker community, a functional structure which could bring people together to start “learning by doing”.

After the first meeting, which was held at the main square of the University, people seemed highly motivated by the idea. It was like a dream being able to talk to people you saw everyday about matters beyond the daily routine. That’s how a network started emerging day after day. During the meetings, people started talking about their abilities, some of which were really interesting. We started teaching ourselves subjects such as Arduino, electronics, soldering, web-development… The first lesson was held by Germán Torres, the community’s “tech-guru”, which brought his Do-It-Yourself 3D printer and printed us a Yoda sculpture. That moment will always be ingrained in our minds.

A whole world of possibilities opened up for us and, although exams and lessons were there, we decided to keep pushing, ‘wasting’ our time, as some of my classmates stated one day:

“You should be studying, instead of losing your time with the makers”, that was the tyopical  mindset, but we didn’t care.

But the situation was going to change very soon. We discovered that a robotics contest in Barcelona was taking place and we decided to create a team to compete. Although we were young, we decided to take a step forward and, don’t tell me how: we won several prizes! That had a big impact at the University, making our first headlines on their official website, achieving some local success. Word of mouth made effect and soon we had a community of about 500 students aiming to make new projects!

From that moment, after some bureaucratic matters, we created a student association and signed an agreement with the University, which offered us support for future activities. Partnering was our next key step: as soon as we heard that a FabLab Valencia was about to be built at the University, we reached them to offer our help whenever needed, and that way we were able to connect with the small maker communities around Valencia and co-organize the first Maker Fest in June 2014.

Not content to rest on the laurels, the makers kept growing, and global success arrived with People’s Choice award at NASA SpaceAPPS Challenge 2014 with project NextVision. Then came also GoSat (global top 5), HyperloopUPV (global top design concept) and MarsUPV (now global top 5). Now that I realise what we have achieved in such a short time span, with the resources we had (almost 0), gives me goosebumps.

As a non-profit organization, it is always hard to raise funds: we are students and we don’t have experience on that, but we believe there’s a lot of potential yet to be unleashed. Our dreams are now focused on having our own makerspace: a place with laser cutters, 3d-printers, circuit mills and basic tools for teaching others, teaching ourselves, and let the revolution begin.

With the Maker movement spread all over Europe, student maker communities have now the chance to shine more than ever: they are key players for local empowerment. We hope Institutions will understand that their support will be key for value generation in the future, fostering the values of collaboration, open innovation and, in the end, disruption. The growth of local maker communities will need to go together with institutional support if we want to fully unleash and value the real potential of the makers in Europe.

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