Friday, March 29, 2013

The Great Meetup

Hey! So I have been to four Maker Faires the past two years, and I thought it would be a cool thing to do if I compared them and their relative size.

Huge – San Francisco.
This is the biggest Maker Faire. I would 100% recommend that you go to this. It was my first Maker Faire, and it is probably the best. They have the most presenters, the most shops, and the best entertainment. They always pull out all of the stops there. I went for two days and still didn’t see everything. It is a great starter Maker Faire if you want to get into it, and it is great for veteran Makers.

Big - Detroit.
Still has a carnival air to it, but It is much more intimate. It had a lot more shops and people trying to make money. It was still a great Maker Faire, and I would recommend it for more seasoned Faire-goers. You really get to meet a lot of great people, but you do not run into Adam Savage and Dale Dougherty in one hour there.

Small – Houston.
This one is much smaller and way more intimate. I met most of the makers presenting just walking around. Some I still talk to. It is a great place to go and register as a Maker, especially if it is your first time. It helps you learn the ropes, meet a bunch of new people, and you help the small Maker Faire grow. We want to make the Maker Faires all over the world as successful as San Francisco, and we can’t do that unless you help out at your local Maker Faire.

Mini – Austin.
Now, I know, Houston was a Mini Maker Faire, but it was much bigger than Austin was. Austin was much smaller. They only had about 15 presenters and a couple of companies and small shops selling stuff. It was a lot of craft stuff, but that might have been because of where it was. These are great starts for Maker Faires, but we need much more people in the area to come down and showcase some stuff to attract more people. With some work, we could turn Faires like these into ones like San Francisco.

Now, I don’t want you to take from this that small Maker Faires are bad. All of these Maker Faires were great experiences and I would recommend going to every single one I just found it interesting how they change the smaller and bigger they get. I think that we should try to go to as many Maker Faires as possible and really spread and evolve these great meetups. If it weren't for Maker Faire, I wouldn't be writing this blog right now, and I want to give that change to everybody.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Unlimited Future

Hello again! So today I would like to show you guys two YouTube videos, both by PBS. They are this one and this one.

The first one is an overview about what a 3D printer is and how it can change the world. They talk a lot about different copyright issues that could come up with 3D printing, which I find is a really important topic. We all have this ability to create whatever we want, and make unlimited copies of it. So where do we draw the line? How do we know when someone is abusing another person’s Intellectual rights? This will be a defining moment of the 3D printing industry. The video states that 3D printing should take a hint from the music industry. We should look at what worked and what didn’t with the music industry with the introduction of download programs like Napster.

The other video, from the PBS Idea Channel, talks about how Minecraft and The MakerBot could bring about the post-scarcity economy. The PBS Idea Channel takes a look at many different elements of Pop Culture, and creates “ideas” about how they can affect the world. They also go over how they affect us as humans, and backgrounds for many interesting topics rooted into our society. This video talks about the popular video game Minecraft, and the MakerBot and 3D printing. They say that these are the beginning of the “post scarcity economy” where we can create unlimited anything without wasting any resources.

Minecraft is a computer game created by the Swedish game developer Mojang. The game is based as a “sandbox” game, where there is no true story to follow, or set goals you need to accomplish. There are two modes to the game: survival and creative. In survival, you can harvest materials, create tools, discover rare ores, and fight monsters.  Creative, however, is something entirely different. There are no monsters, and all of the resources in the game are available to you infinitely. This means that you do not need to do any work. You have everything you need. You could harvest resources, but why would you? All of your time and energy are free for whatever you want. This allows people to use the game to create anything they could imagine. People have created the Taj Mahal, a scale model of earth, the Eiffel Tower, and a life size replica of the star ship Enterprise from “Star Trek”. I believe this game is revolutionary. Schools have started implementing it to use in their curriculum. The open world allows all kinds of classes to be taught with it. Mojang has even given people permission to modify the game, and add programmable computers, machines, and other systems into the game to make it more challenging.

The video says that the ideas of Minecraft show that once we are able to have unlimited materials, our true creativity will be able to blossom, and we will be able to make great strides in technology and design.
The video says that MakerBot is the first step to achieving this goal. A machine that can create anything digital and make it real in a matter of hours could change the world. This means that I could email you a spoon. I could have an idea for a toy, and in a day, I could actually have to toy and be playing with it. The MakerBot does use materials, but according to Moore’s law, as long as we keep using this, it can only become faster, better, cheaper, and easier to use. He says that we should think that Minecraft is a “proto-post scarcity caricature, and the MakerBot is a proto-whatever that machine from the Jetson’s was.” This is completely true. We need to look for ways to constantly improve our technologies. For though it might not happen in our lifetimes, we might just be able to make a post-scarcity world.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A Changing Tradition

Hey guys! So I am a Boy Scout, and recently I worked on my Eagle Scout Service Project, which was building a pergola out of wood for my school. I had a bunch of kids from my school come and help, and I couldn't help but notice (after my dad pointed it out), that most of the kids there had never made anything big out of wood. They did not know how to use tape measures to find the length you need to cut, how to mark the wood, how to cut it, and other things I had learned as a kid.

As a kid my dad and I always would work on some big wood projects. We would make bird houses, benches, just basic stuff. Truthfully my dad did most of the work on it, but he taught me how to measure wood, how to mark it, and even had me go through the terrifying experience of cutting the wood. These projects were some of the best memories from my childhood, and were the times that I really bonded with my dad. So the fact that these kids didn’t know how to do that shows that they never really did the same thing as me. I always thought of these projects as influential parts of childhood. Going out in the garage or something and making projects with your mom or dad. It really surprised me when I found this out, and I am not sure how I feel about it.

This really shows how kids are doing less and less with their parents, and probably staying inside on the computer or watching TV much more. This is not a bad thing though. It is great that kids are becoming more independent, and working with the technology that is paving the future. But still, it is something interesting to think about. Working with my dad on these projects was really one of the most important parts of my childhood. It was what really got me interested in making, and we still do it some today. I bet many of you did something similar to this with your parents. This shows that we are moving into a new time period where kids want to do these projects less, and the parents probably don’t want to do them any more than the kids do.

Take from this what you will. I just find it a really good example of how our society is changing. For better or for worse is what you get to decide.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Going Pro

Hey guys. Today I want to talk about another article in Make: Magazine issue 33. This article is named “Going Pro”, and it gives some great advice about starting a company off of your idea. It talks about the Author, David Merrill, who started a company called Sifteo. The company makes 1 inch LCD computers that interact with one another to facilitate different intelligence-driven games. He tells how he got his company started, and was able to start making a profit and having a substantial company based off of one of his ideas.

There are two great parts of this article. He lists reasons why makers can start making successful companies easier now, and warnings for when you do try to venture into making a living off of what you build. The world is changing. Supplies and manufacturing costs are down to the lowest they have been. As more startups are becoming successful, the more help you can find to make your idea a reality. Probably the biggest reason startups are more successful is because of the maturing internet. From having  your business in the world of bits, to generating donations to make your product, the internet is fast becoming the incubator for new small businesses.

One of the biggest places for start-ups is Kickstarter is a place where creators can put up their ideas; whether it is a new video game, a 3D printer, or even albums. People can then pledge money for that idea, and you can get a great idea of the market for your product. Some Kickstarters have raised over 2 million dollars.

But the article warns that makers need to be wary as they dive into starting a company. You need to not be so attached to their idea that they cannot see when it is failing and will not succeed. You also need to be aware of what company you want to create, and who you are trying to sell to. Cut your expenses. A lean company is a good company, but do not starve your company so that it cannot grow. You need to believe in yourself, and your idea. You are your biggest fan, and you can do anything you can think of.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Fostering Kid Makers

Today, I will be talking about this article in Make: Magazine, edition 33. It is called “Why Make?” and I really like it. The author, AnnMarie Thomas, talks about how she brought one of her friends to their first Maker Faire, and how their one question was, “Why?”

She says that Makers are really special because we enjoy simply messing around with a project as much as little kids do, and do not need any incentives, deadlines, and instructions.  As we get older, we start to question things. We want to know why we are doing this, if we are doing it right, and people will even not do a project because they believe they are not good at it. Our society has built us to not accept failure, to do things not because they are fun, or cool, but for some purpose that might not be relevant to you in any other way. We need to start thinking more like little kids. When I was three, if I saw a pile of Legos, or paper and crayons, or anything like that, I would be over there as fast as lightning messing around with it. It didn't matter to me how long I would be able to do it, or if I could draw, or anything. I just wanted to experiment and see what happened. A famous quote from my role models the MythBusterstm, “Failure is always an option.” It doesn't matter if your “spaceship” never actually flies or your paper airplane crashes, it was fun to make, and you discovered a way not to make these things. Thomas Edison once said, “I have not failed. I have simply found a thousand ways how not to make a light bulb.”

We need to foster this kind of thinking in our kids as they grow up, and act the same way around them. Show them your projects. Take them to Maker Faire. Teach them how to solder, to knit, to whatever. Kids are like giant sponges. The more stuff you expose them to, the more they will learn from it. Teach them to treat every failure as a success, and to never give up on their dreams. Tell them that nobody controls their life except them, and they can do whatever they want.

I will leave you with one last quote. Unfortunately I do not know who this is from:

“Don’t tell me the sky is the limit when there are footprints on the moon.”