Leah Buechley rocks and I have been impressed and moved by her since we met. When she was working and researching at the MIT Media Lab High Low Technology Group, Leah also had a tremendous impact on Learn 2 Teach, Teach 2 Learn.
She and her graduate students had a deep understanding for the need for making to extend to under-represented groups and set aside slots in their Media Lab education research workshops for our Boston youth of color. Because of Leah, many of our youth got to experience soft circuits, computational design and paper electronics first hand and at Learn 2 Teach, Teach 2 Learn we were early and enthusiastic adopters of these technologies.
Leah also was generous in giving us samples of conductive threads, conductive fabric scraps and other materials so that we could experiment and make them available. This summer, we were able to offer Open Style Lab teams access to some of the scraps and pieces and electronics that we still have from Leah to help them design accessories for people living with disabilities. You can find a great little video of Open Style Lab's work with footage of them working at the South End Technology Center @ Tent City here:
Leah is now preaching (and the church says "Amen" indeed!) how to rethink who "makes" and what they "make" to take the story of making off its present center around fairly well-off White and Asian guys to include and celebrate women, people living with low incomes and under-represented groups.
At the 2014 Fab Learn conference, I heard of the impact of Leah's ending keynote to attenders, but was unable to find the video footage. Today I had the pleasure of watching what I believe must be an extension of her Fab Learn n a Keynote Address to the Eyeo 2014 Conference. In this video, Leah speaks about the deep connection between making and being human, breaks down what "maker" and "making" has come to mean and suggests ways to complicate how we think about making in terms of its breadth and who is considered to be a maker. You won't be sorry you took 30 minutes out to watch it!