Make it at DePaul High Schooler Summer Camp

Here’s a PDF for download-and-print purposes. To be first in line when registration opens, sign up here.

Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

Modifying Nature for Electronics

Geoff Manaugh over at BLDGBLOG on the potential implications of looking at nature as a potential partner with technology.

What interests me here is the possibility that we might someday begin landscaping our suburbs, our corporate campuses, our urban business parks, according to which species of vegetation are less likely to block WiFi.

This reminds me, in some ways, of Schroeder’s ideas of “rewilding” that I wrote about a while back.

Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

CPS Tech Talk

Happy to announce that Sarah and I will be hosting a session on “Makerspace Considerations” for CPS’ upcoming Tech Talk. This is based off a post we co-wrote a while back. Look forward to seeing you there!

Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

TSW* Session 17 with Rob Rehr

Really fun interview with Rob!

Rob Rehr is an engineer at IDEO by day, and a hardware hacker and game developer by night. In this session, we talk about the work Rob’s doing in DIY retro game development, the add-on board he developed that uses the Nintendo nunchuck, and much more. Check it out!

Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

Thotcon Sponsoring IRL at DePaul

I’ve loved working on the Thotcon badges over the last couple years, and am excited to announce today that Thotcon is an official sponsor of the Idea Realization Lab at DePaul University. Thank you to Nick Percoco, Rudy Ristich, and all the folks at DePaul who made this become a real thing.

If you aren’t familiar with Thotcon, or the work that DePaul has been doing with the event over the last year (on their conference badges) check out last year’s writeup here.

Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

Bad Technology

After all, technologies can be bad because they fail to achieve admirable aims, or because they succeed in wicked ones. The most useful technologies can also be the most harmful—think of cars, which are crucial to the modern world yet kill over 1.25 million people a year. And when well-intentioned technologies fail, is it because they are fundamentally flawed or just ahead of their time?

None of these are really controversial. I Would add Facebook, mobile phones, and Uber.

Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

What is it about furniture and makers?

Many of the makers I know have a strange attraction to building furniture. Nate Matteson (TSW Ep 11) and I talked about his fascination with furniture making a few months back. Hayne Bayless, who was on the podcast (Episode 8), also had a great number of furniture artifacts around his house that he’d made. And recently I spoke with Aaron Hoover (@amhoov) who helps run the Higher Education Makerspace Initiative about his fascination with furniture (you can find more about that here and here).

Of course, there are many “ur” making activities. Pottery and weaving to name just two, but also metalworking, glasswork, etc. Furniture making, though, seems not to require one single craft skill, but a confluence of skills and ways of thinking through making. Perhaps wood (and wood joinery), perhaps metal, perhaps working with textiles and fabrics, and so on. The first pieces of furniture were made of stone, and fittingly, are thought to be dressers and cupboards. Things to hold things! This, I think, is one appeal: furniture making allows for multiple points of entry based on the materials-working knowledge you have.

There’s something delightful about creating a useful object that facilitates human experiences. Furniture certainly does that. It influences an environment, the people in the environment, and how they behave. Most of the times this is a positive influence: a comfortable chair, a table to eat at, a lamp to give you light. Sometimes, as Ingold writes about in Making, perhaps not so positive (Ingold uses the example of the spoon, which is not furniture, as an example of an object that makes things more difficult. After all, one could simply lift the bowl to their mouth. Something about this seems truthy to me, and also applicable to furniture).

So, why furniture? Where’s the pattern?

I suspect, in addition to materials-working, that it’s because furniture is a dynamic means of expression. Furniture can be both art and an evocation of formal skill mastery. Furniture can be playful and fluid, purely functional, or somewhere in between. And, importantly, its fluidity gives the maker an ability to surround themselves with self-designed contours. In a sense, it is both architecture and object design.

Even with IKEA furniture.

Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

Kumar “Battery Charger”

He devoted his life to tackling these problems—and was lucky to encounter an ambitious vice-chancellor at Warwick University, Jack Butterworth, who shared his analysis. Butterworth gave him “a table, a chair and a secretary” in the engineering department. “Battery Charger”, as he was known, did the rest, challenging the holier-than-thou approach of academia head on and forging close links with business.

Never heard of  Kumar Bhattacharyya until a colleague of mine sent this article over from The Economist. A man after my own heart. Here’s the book about him that they reference in the article. Already bought my used copy.

Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

Really Great Supply Chain Security Talk by Bunnie

If you’ve ever wondered about the different ways someone might use hardware as a way to exfiltrate data, Bunnie goes through a bunch of different exploit vectors in this talk that he shared over at his blog.

Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

Interesting Article on Mobile Makerspaces

The mobile makerspace idea has fascinated me for a while now and, in fact, I’ve been working on a proposal for such a program in Chicago. Campus Technology recently wrote a piece about the Nebraska Library Commission receiving a ~$500k grant to bring these kinds of labs to rural areas. I really like this idea, as it spreads the makerspace concept to otherwise unreachable areas: technology deserts. From the piece:

JoAnn McManus, who is the project manager for the program, noted that typically only larger libraries can afford to set up makerspaces. The Library Commission wanted to provide that opportunity for smaller, rural communities. “We are showing small rural communities in Nebraska what a makerspace look like and how the community will react to it,” she explained. “They’re finding it’s much easier to fundraise around bringing in a makerspace in their community when they’ve already developed interest in it.”

Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus