This post is an amalgam of several news items I read recently.
First off an article on the LilyPad’s success in bringing women into electronics projects. From a post in BoingBoing:
“MIT’s Leah Buechley and Benjamin Mako Hill recently published a paper called LilyPad in the Wild: How Hardwareʼs Long Tail is Supporting New Engineering and Design Communities, about the success of the LilyPad microcontroller in attracting women to electronics projects. LilyPad is derived from the Arduino open processor, but was “specifically designed to be more useful than other microcontroller platforms (like normal Arduino) in the context of crafting practices like textiles or painting.” The Buechley/Hill paper shows that this was a successful strategy for engaging women makers and contemplates how to use the LilyPad approach to engage with women and girls in other science/technology/engingeering/math (STEM) domains”
Also read Mako Hill’s blog post “Feminism and Microcontrollers“. Discussions around the net have ranged from positive, to some reactionary that this buys into the sterotypes and women should use electronics in their original form just like hard core hackers do. Personally, I like the LilyPad and soft circuits. I think that Lilypad Embroidery by Becky Stern is awesome combination of arts. (Image: LIlypad Embroidery, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from bekathwia’s photostream).
Next up – Makers and Education
There was an NSF sponsored workshop on “Innovation, Education and the Maker Movement” on Monday following the NYC Maker Faire. It was organized by Margaret Honey of the New York Hall of Science, Thomas Kalil of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Dale Dougherty. Tom gave the opening speech, which Dale published in his blog. It gives a good summary of how Makers are changing the economy and education. I havent seen any other output from the workshop yet. After meeting kids and educators this weekend at the Maui County Fair VEX Robotics Tournament I am even more excited about bringing a makerspace to our island.
DARPA MENTOR bringing fab labs to 1000 high schools
DARPA has a Draft BAA out for a program called MENTOR (Manufacturing Experimentation and Outreach). This program “is part of the Adaptive Vehicle Make program portfolio and is aimed at engaging high school students in a series of collaborative distributed manufacturing and design experiments. The overarching objective of MENTOR is to develop and motivate a next generation cadre of system designers and manufacturing innovators, and to ensure that high school-age youths are exposed to the principles of modern prize-based design and foundry-style digital manufacturing.” They are looking to deploy digital fabrication equipment (3d printers, cnc, etc) to 1000 high schools globally and encourage partnerships with small business, non-profits, etc. It looks like they are going to be sponsoring various competitions “in the development of cyber-electro-mechanical systems of moderate complexity such as go carts, mobile robots, small unmanned aircraft, etc.” I would LOVE to get Hawaii into this program! Anyone interested in getting involved please contact me.