Helin Haga is employed as the Coordinator of External Funding in AHHAA and until the end of September 2015 she was the head organizer of the Researchers’ Night Festival, the biggest science festival in the Baltic States. In 2014, she introduced the Maker Faire brand in the Baltic States for the first time and was the head of Tartu Mini Maker Faire 2014, which attracted over 100 makers from not only Estonia but also from Latvia, Russia, Poland, Finland and the United States and resulted in the second edition, Tartu Mini Maker Faire 2015 being organized a year later.
Helin is currently leading over 10 international projects at AHHAA including MAKE-IT, one of the aims of which is to systematize the theoretical framework of the ever-growing maker movement in the world.
How did you end up joining the #maker movement?
How did you end up joining the #maker movement?
In 2014 I was looking for ideas to spice up the greatest event I have ever run- the Researchers’ Night Festival in Estonia, which is the biggest science festival in the Baltics. So, I turned my head to the #makermovement and, after looking into what the local makers were doing, realised that importing the Maker Faire brand to the Baltics was the best way to add an innovative edge to the festival. Everything went as planned and in September 2014 the Tartu Mini Maker Faire was born (and rerun in 2015).
What do you most value in the innovation/maker environment?
I truly admire the free spirit, which all the makers I have met seem to possess. They are driven by their interests, not by the conventions of the society and, by sometimes going against the grain, they work towards their dreams. They are real life dreamcatchers and world changers, which I find very inspiring.
What’s the maker movement outlook in your country?
Although makers have always been around in Estonia as Estonians have, throughout generations, been raised as a do-it-yourself nation (almost every Estonian I know has renovated their home/built a machine or a contraption/fixed gadgets/invented something smart and useful during their lifetime), the official #makermovement philosophy has only been around and catching on during the past 8 to 10 years.
I believe that, with a little bit of support and motivation, the systematic gathering of makers in publicly known and recognized makerspaces, hackers’ spaces and labs around the country will become more and more popular with each year because the interest is there already.
In your opinion, what features in your city/destination/country is more appealing to an innovation-oriented crowd?
I think that the internet-based solutions and e-governance achievements of Estonia are THE aspects that allure the biggest crowds to the local #makermovement. Estonia (sometimes also called E-stonia) is small, dynamic and very prone to adapt to change/try out new technologies/solutions and this makes the country such an excellent test lab for innovators. Also, the local youth travel a lot, speak English fluently and wish to change the word while always keeping their roots and heritage in mind, which makes them great learners and idea sharers.
You seem to have been able to create such a nurturing environment around your FabLab/makerspace/hackerspace in (your country). What does your audience look like? Who do you mainly target – students, inventors, or… ?
Our audience is very broad ranging from kindergarteners to seniors because we are, after all, a nation of only 1.3 million people and believe that no one should be excluded. As I mentioned previously, Estonians love learning and are very hands-on, so having all generations involved is relatively easy. Due to the demographic situation, the most active age group, though, are school children aged 7 to 15 but young adults aged 18 to 30 make up the second largest target group. Professionally, the audience is very diverse- there are students, including student inventors, university professors and teachers, entrepreneurs, adult patent-holding inventors, musicians, artists, journalists, freelance Great Thinkers, parents and guardians, bypassers… You name it, we have it.
What do you consider your greatest goal as EMW’s Ambassador?
I think that supporting the local maker community in order to help the makers from different walks of life to network with one another so that they could launch new collaboration projects would be one of the main goals for me. Another goal, which I consider to be as important as the first one, is helping the local makers feel that they are part of a global community by joining the EMW.
What kind of events are you planning to organize during the EMW?
At AHHAA we will dedicate 1 June or the International Children’s Day to the #makermovement and have a public event aimed at families. Around the country, however, I expect to see makers open their labs and makerspaces, set up public displays and come with other fun formats.