Headline Sep 06, 2014/"The Maker Revolution"


CULTURE does incredible things : A great culture may even herald a new industrial revolution by changing how science is taught and by boosting innovation.

For Technology and  Society :  The  'Maker'  movement is both a response and an outgrowth of digital culture, made possible by the convergence of several trends.

New tools and electronic components let people integrate the physical and digital worlds simply and cheaply.

Online service and design software make it easy to develop and show digital blueprints. And many people who spend all days manipulating bits on computer screens:

Are rediscovering the pleasure of making physical objects and interacting with other enthusiasts in person, rather than online. Currently the preserve of hobbyists,  the  maker  movement's impact may be felt much farther afield.

Start with the hardware. The heart of New York's Maker Faire was a pavilion labelled with an obscure Italian name : ''Arduino''   -meaning the strong friend. Inside the visitors were greeted by dozen stands displaying credit-card sized circuit boards.

These are  Arduino  micro-controllers; simpe computers that make it easy to build all kinds of strange things : plants that send  Twitter messages when they need watering-

A harp made of lasers, an etch-a-sketch  clock, a microphone that serves as a breathalyser, or a vest that that displays your speed when riding a bike.

Such projects are taking off because Arduino is affordable : basic boards cost $20-, can easily be extended using add-ons called  ''shields''  to add new functions and has a simple programming system  that almost anyone can use.

''Not knowing what you are doing is an advantage ,''  says Massimo Banzi, an Italian designer and engineer who started the Arduino  project a decade ago:
To enable  students   to build all kinds of contraptions.

Arduino has since become popular  -selling around  200,000 units in 2011 because Mr Banzi made the  board design   ''open source''  -which means that anyone can download its blueprint and build their own version.

And because he has made much time and effort getting the engineers all over the world involved with the project.

This openness has prompted a sizeable  ecosystem  add-ons. They include a touch-screen, an illuminated display and a support for W.-Fi networking.

Other firms have built specialised variants of Arduino.

SparkFun, for instance has developed Lilypad, a flexible micro-controller that can be sewn into clothing  -think blinking T-shirts-  along with other many add-ons.

Applying the  open-source approach in hardware has also driven the development of maker movement's other favourite piece of kit, which could be everywhere at the Maker Faire in New York: 3D printers.

These machines are another way to connect digital and the physical realm: they take a digital model of an object and print it out building it up, one layer at a time, using plastic extended from a nozzle.

The technique is not new, but in recent years  3D  printers  have become cheap enough for consumers. MakerBot Industries, a start up based in New York, now sells its machines for $3,000.

The output quality is rapidly improving thanks to regular upgrades, many of them suggested by users.

None of this action in hardware would have happened without a second set of powerful drivers : software, standards and online communities. Arduino, for instance:

Relies on open-source programs that turn simple code into a form that can be understood by the board's brain. Similarly, MakerBot's  3D printers depend on a standard way to describe physical objects, called STL, and affordable software to design them.

Some basic modelling programs,  such as Google SketchUp and Blender, can be downloaded free.

The Serving of the knowledge continues. Thank you for reading and see you on the following one.

With respectful dedication to the Students, Professors and Teachers of the world. See Ya  all on !WOW!  -the World Students Society Computers-Internet-Wireless:

''' Classic Inventions '''

Good Night and God Bless!

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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