There's a significant debate going on in the hackerspace/maker community over acceptance of funding from DARPA, the research organization of the US Department of Defense to underwrite the creation of high school makerspaces.
The 'Yes' side of the argument is personified by Dale Dougherty, the founder of MAKE Magazine and Maker Faire, while Mitch Altman, a pioneer in the hacker/maker movement, is vehemently opposed to the point that he is actively boycotting Maker Faires and related activities.
Both sides of the debate are presented in detail by both Dougherty and Altman in the "Makerspaces & the Military" segment on this week's episode of Spark.
For those not already familiar with the excellent programming by Spark, it's a regular 'radio' broadcast (also available via podcast) produced by the CBC. Spark's charter is to create "An ongoing conversation about technology and culture."
Last week I visited the iheartengineering headquarters in Brooklyn and was surprised to find that they have managed to build a rapidly expanding business around the print-on-demand model and unique product designs. Besides their abundant creativity, the heart of their business is a first generation MakerBot 3D printer that manufactures parts as orders come in the door (or over the internet).
It's not unusual for them to keep the printer running for hours, and sometimes days, at a time when orders peak. They've developed some special techniques for producing large parts with some unique fill patterns that I will post more about later.
Most important, the work, and the business model, that iheartengineering is pioneering convinced me that all the buzz about 3D printing generating a rebirth of manufacturing and creativity in the U.S. is much more than just hype. It is a practical and achievable goal, one that may soon be a reality for a growing number of start-ups.
’Affordable 3d Printers Hit The Market…? (Video)’ continues
I've always wanted to build a R/C helicopter but thought that the technology and learning curve would be much more than I could squeeze into my limited schedule and budget. Tuesday night, Randy MacKay and Jiro Hattori totally blew me away and evaporated all my misconceptions.
They visited Tokyo Hackerspace and were kind enough to share the work that they have done with Arduino based drone helicopters, based on open source software and hardware designs from DIY Drones.
I'm so incredibly jealous. Lady Ada over at AdaFruit Industries has all these great toys to play and experiment with, and she's figured out how to do it while enriching all of our hacker lives and making a little money to find more great stuff.
The 'toy' that triggered this post for me is some conductive rubber stretch cord that acts as a sensor. It's like being able to pull on the end of a resistor and have it's characteristics change linearly as it gets longer and shorter. Way cool! And it is incredibly cheap. She's priced it at less than ten dollars for a full meter and even includes a pair of alligator clips and a 10k resistor. Science teachers, for example, could dice it up and have enough for each student to have a piece for experiments.
The only drawback that I can see is that the sensor takes a little while to recover after being stretched, though I guess that could be compensated for in some applications by using two sensors in opposition.
As usual, the AdaFruit website has a great related tutorial page so you can learn while having fun.