Make, DARPA, Altman

Mitch Altman's public parting of ways with the Make folks over their acceptance of a DARPA grant has gotten lots of press (well, it was on slashdot anyway). I'm less concerned about the source of the money the Make fellas have received (which seems to be Altman's concern) than what they plan on doing with it. Here's the list from their response (my emphasis added):
  1. Work with engineering and science educators to develop teacher’s guides for MAKE projects that will help educators integrate making into their own curriculum. All materials that we develop under the program will be made available for free under a Creative Commons license. [which flavor exactly?]
  2. Develop modular specifications for low-cost makerspaces in educational settings. We want to encourage schools to establish makerspaces, so we are providing some basic guidelines on the costs of getting started. You can find a draft of these specifications on
  3. Write an overall guide to teaching the practices of making for educators, mentors, and others who help coach students to become makers. This is similar to the guide we’ve written for the Young Makers program. (see
  4. Build a collaborative online platform that can be used by teachers and students to select projects, monitor progress, and generate student documentation for the work. This platform will allow students to work beyond their own classroom with other students and mentors
  5. Integrate new design tools for CAD and CAM that help students become familiar with 3D design and personal fabrication. [open source tools? there seems to be a significant gap in free software capabilities here]
  6. Prototype a low-cost, open-source CNC machine that can be affordable for schools to use.
  7. Over three years, build a network of up to 1000 participating high schools.
  8. Showcase the work of students at Maker Faires and bring students together to meet each other and other makers in the community.
Sounds like a very ambitious program, and I really wish these guys lots of luck with it. Since the taxpayer is footing the bill for this, the main thing I care about (as you may have noticed from the post about Stanford's online course offerings) is getting the work funded by this effort available to the public under free (as in Freedom) licenses. In that regard, this is nice to see: All the software we develop as part of the program will be made open source. All material developed for the program will be made available online under Creative Commons.


  1. Since the Make folks did not actually link Altman's concerns (fair play fellas!), here's some 140 characters at a time:

    2 Apr Mitch Altman Mitch Altman ‏ @maltman23
    I'm organizing a panel at HOPE #9 (July 13-15, NYC) about DARPA grants for hackerspaces. Let's talk about this!

    2 Apr Mitch Altman Mitch Altman ‏ @maltman23
    Making & hacking is about taking what is, improving, and sharing. DARPA is about furthering the goals of the military. Not much alignment.

    2 Apr Mitch Altman Mitch Altman ‏ @maltman23
    Yes, DARPA created the internet. Why? So military scientists could communicate in the event of nuclear war. Not to help us.

    2 Apr Mitch Altman Mitch Altman ‏ @maltman23
    It's official. I'm greatly saddened I won't be helping at US Maker Faires after they applied for and accepted a DARPA grant.

    And his concerns from facebook: I'm totally into the goals of Maker Faire and MAKE Magazine. I'm also totally into one of the goals of the grant, which is to teach kids through hands-on learning. But the main goal of the grant is to create high-quality engineers for the goals of DARPA. This is what I don't want to help.
    and here:We do not need money from organizations that don't align with our values. Hackerspaces are not about the money. They are about exploring and doing what one loves. Once we start accepting money from organizations that do not share our goals, then what kind of self-censorship are we willing to make in order to increase our liklihood of getting more of that grant money? What project am I willing to stop doing to make it a bit more likely to get that grant? What projects am I willing to do to make it a bit more likely to get that grant? We really do need to think about these things before just going for the money. Let's talk abot this!
    and here:My main reason for making my decision public is to encourage public discussion on this important topic. I'm glad it's working. We really need to consciously make choices on what we do for money. In my mind, it is not about the money. My hope is that we do what we do because we are exploring and doing what we love (whatever that means to you!).

    To further this public discourse, I am organizing a panel on the topic of DARPA funding for hackers and hackerspaces, at the upcoming HOPE #9 conference in NYC, July 13-15. I would love to have Mudge on the panel, since he is a proponent of DARPA funding for hackerspaces. If anyone knows Mudge, please ask him if he would be willing to make use of this forum to air his views.