Making Stuff Up

What if there was a vending machine that gave you a free beverage if you tweeted at it?

A team of Tucson innovators got an old rusty soda machine with the intent to repaint, redesign, connect the non-soda-delivering device to an Internet-ready computer programmed to give you a free pop when you tweeted #AZMakerHouse.

You can meet the makers from last weekend's Make-a-thon and other members of Tucson's creative community during Maketopolis on Saturday, March 1, at Maker House, 283 N. Stone Ave.

Xerocraft, Startup Tucson and Maker House issued a call to arms in the growing do-it-yourself and "makers" community in the Old Pueblo to participate in Maketopolis, a family friendly daylong event to showcase Tucson's future innovators and inventors of tomorrow. "We are trying to shake things up here," said founder of Startup Tucson Justin Williams. "We are trying to grow the innovation culture here in Tucson. We have a lot of creatives, talents, great resources like the University of Arizona and there are a lot of innovative people here. We are trying to pull them together."

"It's critically important for the growth of our community, economy and for the potential in retaining employers like Texas Instruments and attracting new ones," Williams said.

Despite the high concepts, ideas and mechanics, everyone is invited. "This is for anyone who is curious on how things are made, problem solving, education for kids and adults, arts and crafts. All of that is a critical process. This is for people interested in science, math and technology."

In the beginning of 2005, Williams formed the local trade association tailored to the aerospace manufacturing and information technology. Later he originated the Tucson office for the Arizona Technology Council. In 2011, Williams launched Startup Tucson to scout and develop young talent to spur innovation and entrepreneurship.

"This is a long standing tradition in our region. If you think back to what a maker is, it's someone who uses their own skills to create a solution to a problem they see," Williams said.

"There's a company that was founded by a professor in the first weekend we started Startup Tucson. He created a mobile app that helps predicts bottlenecks in traffic and provides behavioral incentives for people to travel early, or late or take a different route. In doing so, it brings down the costs of building new roads. Shortly after it was founded, the company raised about half a million dollars in investments and secured millions in contracts in the last six months."

"This comes from a very "maker culture" of civil engineering (the building and designing of roads), but it also involved software development and entrepreneurship. It's really making an impact in our economy," Williams said.

"You need these sorts of skills, whether it's through a hobby, research, employment or your own company. These sorts of creative, innovation problem solving skills are the heart of the maker movement, startup community and critical in reshaping Tucson's economy for the next generation."

Maketopolis runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, March 1, at Maker House, 283 N. Stone Ave. For more information, search for their event page on Facebook.

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