Yesterday I closed my laptop and went into the field! First I went to the East Bay Mini Maker Faire. I can’t wait to see how big the regular sized one is, because it was huge and inspiring. The Maker Faire is a faire by and for people who make stuff from leather working and pickling to robots and bio-printers! Some was for the kids, and it was inspiring to see how excited they were on being surrounded by cutting edge creativity. Some of it was being done by children, which was also inspiring, especially two 11 or so year olds proudly showing off their award winning robot. Plenty was more adult oriented and mind-blowing. I learned a lot and left extremely inspired and with a bunch of new resources for my unschooling.
I saw bronze casting in sand molds, and a blacksmithing demonstration. I saw silkscreening and soldering workshops. I saw all kinds of smart and simple art making techniques.
My favorite stuff was all conveniently in one building: robotics, 3D printing, and bioprinting. I learned that 3D printers are as cheap as $600 now almost fully assembled, and that they can be built out of 3D printed parts and a few cheap mechanical parts if you have the know how.
I talked to a member of Counter Culture Labs, a citizen scientist team based in Berkeley, who built a bio-printer out of mostly repurposed other stuff! He told me that there is a ton of money being put into bio-printing technology for animal cells, and he couldn’t compete with that, so he is focusing on plant cells. Their goal is to print a leaf capable of photosynthesis. Here is a short explanation of bio-printing:
Assuming you already know something about 3D printing, here is a Ted Talk about a direction that might go in:
There were two things that I had heard of but had very little understanding of that came up again and again. One is Raspberry Pi:
Raspberry Pi is a credit card sized computer that runs Linux and costs about $40. You can plug in a mouse and keyboard and program it and it is hugely popular among makers that use electronics. However I talked to Eric Maundu, the founder/owner of Kijani Grows, who makes incredible intelligent gardens. He said that instead of buying the “too expensive” Raspberry Pi, he just modifies wireless routers which already are tiny computers and can be purchased used for as low as $0.99 on Amazon!
The other is Arduino:
Ardruino is a microcontroller capable of receiving different kinds of inputs and giving out different types of output. It is also enormously popular and often used with Raspberry Pi to do incredible things with robots, sensors, motors and more. Thats about all I know so far about these things so far.
I could go on and on about the faire, but I want to tell you about another amazing resource that I found. Before I do that I highly recommend checking out the MAKE‘s website, which organizes the events, publishes a magazine, has an online store and is an amazing resource in general.
So the second part of this post is about the Sudo Room in Oakland. It is a hacker/diy space where I am now sitting and writing this. As I am writing this, right behind me I am eaves dropping on an interview a woman is doing for her web series with two scientists no older than me about “biohacking” or diy bio-engineering. Basically people experimenting on their own without major corporate or university affiliation. On the subject, one of them explained that while people are sometimes scared of hackers doing bio, worried that they will create a virus or something, it is far more likely that professional government funded scientists will do that. (They have). He said that people in their basement are usually more interested in doing helpful things that are difficult to find funding for, and the only real danger they pose is that of electrocuting themselves.
Remarkably, I just spoke to one of the scientists after their interview, and he was also a part of Counter Culture Labs, as well as a professional scientist/entrepreneur.
The Sudo Room has been sitting three blocks from my house since I moved here! Before I knew about this space I did my work at a coffee shop where I would generally overhear less interesting conversations. I’m going to be here all of the time.
The Sudo Room is free to come and hang out and use their resources, which includes a 3D Printer! To have 24 hour access you must become a member which costs between $0- $60 a month. That’s not a typo. Yesterday I came here for a online privacy and security workshop, which I missed most of because I was at the Maker Faire. It was an amazing smart group of programmers, hackers and socially minded people around my age hanging out and sharing knowledge. YES! To think, I could be paying thousands to sit in a crowded lecture hall!
Apparently these spaces are not uncommon. Check out this list of hacker spaces to find a space like this near you.
More on all of this soon! I gotta get back to my physics course!