The maker movement is having a moment, bursting into the consciousness of society, throwing its calloused-handed members onto center stage, TEDtalks, and Mike Rowe's social media pages. But don't let all the attention fool you into thinking that it is new. As makers will tell you, it's a love for doing that's as old as time.

The joy and necessity of creating is elemental as humankind, but as modern education has veered away from apprenticeships and the pendulum swung toward advanced degrees, it's a path that can sometimes imply less value. Within a college town, this weight can be felt even more strongly, dividing those who 'work with their minds' from 'those who work with their hands.'

The maker movement is turning those old school suppositions on their heads, creating an AND culture, using both their minds and never-stopping hands to create answers and solutions, innovations and sustainable art, that is benefitting the world around them. And here at Innovation Park, and their sister facility in Philipsburg, makers are changing the world.

In an article on the movement in Forbes, they said, “Maker culture leans heavily on the idea of constructivism—that is, the notion that learning is best done through doing. In the past, this learning technique was used heavily by craftsmen to train their apprentices. It was a perfect fusion of do-it-yourself wherewithal and immersion learning.”

For Josh Helke, CEO of Organic Climbing, the do-it-yourself culture was ingrained into his DNA. He grew up with a mother who was a potter, and remembers spending time at the kitchen table, licking envelopes for her mailing list.

“I come from a family of makers,” he says. “There's always been value, but I think the perception has changed a lot in recent years due to social media. It's easier to share your work. Before there was such a limiting factor with trying to publicize what you created, but now it's much easier to be known across many fronts.”

For Helke, his making became a business that makes functional, durable climbing gear. Now located in Philipsburg, he employs sewers who create chalk bags, backpacks and bouldering equipment that are one of a kind, thanks to their use of a huge assortment of colors and recycled cuttings. It's a line of work that has always had an implied hierarchy, the idea people and the assembly people, he says, and Organic Climbing empowers all makers in their company to take an active role in creating. “Anyone who is sewing anything is an artist,” Helke says. “And the respect is slowly increasing for trades like this. It's more than just dreaming it up – someone actually needs to make it.”

His company is poised well between the affordability of Philipsburg and the immense resources of Penn State. “I was recently giving a talk to an entrepreneurship class at Penn State and talking about the bouldering mats that our company has adapted and innovated and one of the students told me about research going on at Penn State to create a soy-based foam. This is the kind of thing that would work perfectly with Organic,” he says.

Finding the Venn diagram of artistry, affordability and sustainability is something that Helke continually pushes for. “I think makers have always been appreciated by a certain affluent

section of society, but we need to bridge those societal gaps and create US brands that are affordable, functional and just plain good.”

He echoes the words that are the secret handshake of every maker whose ever lived (it's easy to find words similarly spoken by Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison, George Washington Carver). “My heart is in making stuff. I am always spinning energy. I always have to be creating something.”

In existence since 2004, Organic Climbing is now industrial, but still retains its artisanal maker spirit, and Helke credits the emphasis on the process for much of their viral success. “It's easy to forget that everything that's made is made by a person. We put the emphasis back on that process.” And while he's seen some resistance to creativity since he's been here in central Pennsylvania, he's also seeing change, and a tremendous amount of energy. “There are a lot of super awesome people who are working very hard,” he says.

What's next for the maker movement, according to Helke? Taking what we've learned and teaching them to a bigger audience. “No one taught our generation to make squat,” he says. “And people were retiring and taking the tricks of the trade with them. We need to revitalize that, and teach it to the next generation. We need to teach them that if you take your energy to create a product and your company prospers, then you are rewarded. It's sweat equity, and it's a great thing.”

For Matt Woods, cofounder of Xact Metal, making things was something he couldn't stop doing, even from a very early age. When he was 12 years old, he asked his parents if he could have a motorcycle, was told no, so he tore apart the family's treadmill, duct taped the motor to his bike, and he was in business. Fast forward a few years later, he built a 3D printer in his Penn State dorm room with supplies he's amassed for $700, and instructions he downloaded from the internet. He used the printer to build drones, and a gadget to open and close his dorm room blinds.

“I guess I've always had the mindset that if I encounter a problem, I am going to make the solution,” he says. “That's kind of given rise to all of my creations and my ideas, and ultimately how I started Xact Metals.”

After a few years dabbling in 3D printers, he started to see a problem – 3D printing could create almost anything, but with plastic as the medium, the results were limited. He got involved with the Lunar Lion project at Penn State and had his first exposure to 3D metal printing at an on-campus lab that used materials that were so expensive that students did not have access. It changed everything for Woods.

“They said, you like to 3D print, right? So 3D print a rocket.... and I was said, 'But I'm just a student!'” Through the program, he was able to explore the new technology of metal printing in a way that wouldn't have been possible outside the Lunar Lion program.

“That was a calling for me,” he said. “I was fascinated by how much room for improvement there was.” When the Lunar Lion project ended in 2015, Woods found himself surrounded by a team of innovative, maker-minded students like himself, who shared his passion for building things.

He tasked them with the challenge of helping him build a prototype 3D metal printer that would be affordable for purchase outside of big research labs.

On a shoe-string budget, relying on financial help from family, friends and startup competitions, the team created a single metal 3D printer and effectively solved a massive problem within the 3D printing marketplace. “Today, one of our 3D metal printers is in the learning factory at Penn State,” he says happily. “That kind of closes the loop for me. We've been able to provide printers to all kinds of makers at a lower cost.” I had no access to this tech. Today, we have metal 3d printer in the learning factory. Kind of closes the loop. Access to our printers, which we created at a lower cost.

He's happy to see more access to tools and opportunities to learn by doing. “The maker culture is such a culture of doing and watching others do. It's tinkering. It doesn't matter if it worked, it's the act of doing it that matters. It's the trial and error. If you can blend your passions and the things you love and turn it into lifelong work, then work doesn't feel like work anymore.”