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As an engineer I used to make snide remarks about the marketing department. I no longer do this because it turns out that what they do is extremely important.
–MagnetTag inventor Adam Cohen

Kickstarter Superstar Credits His High School Maker Education

new profile of Miles Pepper, the 23-year-old inventor of the FinalStraw(@SuckResponsibly) — a foldable, reusable drinking star that raised nearly $1.9 million on Kickstarter — isn’t just a worthy read for aspiring maker pros. It’s also a ringing endorsement of the benefits of maker education.

A key takeaway: it takes more than a good idea to bring a product to life. Pepper, for instance, says that he benefited from Northern California area Analy High School’s (@GoAnalyTigersProject Make class, which he says equipped him with the technical skills to protoype and bring a product to market, as well as other teachers who promoted an entrepreneurial mindset among students.

“We produced videos, but we also learned how to find clients, negotiate agreements and handle deliverables and deadlines,” he said.

The saga of the FinalStraw is ongoing: Pepper and his collaborators are currently looking for a factory to produce the straws.

Learn From This Guy’s Kickstarter Mistakes

Speaking of crowdfunding, Milwaukee engineer Adam Cohen bared his soul this week on the Make: blog about the troubles he’s had bringing his longtime project, MagneTag (@MagnetTag), to market.

MagneTag is a scoring system for foam sword battles, like a combination of laser tag and fencing. Cohen spent years on the prototype, and he was confident with the outcome — but his Kickstarter campaign failed spectacularly. In retrospect, Cohen blames a combination of feature creep, poor understanding of potential buyers, and above all a lack of marketing polish.

“As an engineer I used to make snide remarks about the marketing department,” he wrote. “I no longer do this because it turns out that what they do is extremely important.”

If you want to support Cohen’s foam battle project, he re-launched a new campaign this week.

Here’s How to Test Early and Often

TechCrunch ran a worthwhile story this week about Kiwi (@kiwicampus), a startup working on a four wheeled, lunchbox-sized robot that delivers food on behalf of restaurants and courier services. Crucial to the project’s momentum is an unusual dedication to field-testing early products: the company is based at the University of California, Berkeley’s (@UCBerkeleySkyDeck(@SkyDeck_Cal) accelerator, so it’s been testing its technology by making real deliveries for area restaurants — so the pint-sized bots have become a familiar site on campus.

“I believe that sidewalks are sacred, and we need to create technology that interacts with people the best way possible,” said co-founder Felipe Chavez Cortes, who said that the bots have already completed more than 10,000 deliveries.

New Regulation Is Killing Smart Luggage Startups

New rules that ban lithium-ion batteries in suitcases are causing problems for the “smart luggage” industry, the maker-infused niche market for travel bags with built-in scales, tracking devices and, compression systems.

Take Raden, which was working on a Apple-esque white rolling suitcase with built-in location tracking and extra battery for charging devices, or Bluesmart(@bluesmart) — both of which folded after new voluntary guidelines imposed by airlines came into effect this month.

Raden’s announcement of its closing was gloomy, but hopeful: “Please keep supporting young brands and innovative products — we will be building new ones.”

Elsewhere on the Maker Pro Web

R&D firm Not Impossible Labs (@NotImpossible) launched a promising podcast this week titled “Podcast: Not Impossible,” which will profile individuals and companies solving extraordinary technical challenges. The first three episodes, which are already available online, look at new research in restoring eyesight, preventing deaths associated with childbirth and helping a paralyzed artist work again.

Contrasting New York’s New Lab (@NewLab) with Nigeria’s GE GarageMake:contributor Chumu Asuzu (@CaptainUnibrow) published a worthwhile piece this week about the effects that access — or lack of access — can have on an entrepreneurial community.

Remember Superpedestrian (@CPHWheel), the hackery Cambridge hardware startup that’s selling an electric rear wheel for bicycles? It’s reportedly breaking into the red-hot bike-share market with $16.5 million from investors including Nest (@nest) cofounder Tony Fadell (@tfadell).

Seasoned IoT reporter Stacey Higginbotham (@gigastaceylooks at two hardware startups that are trying to build a better door lock, Openpath(@OpenpathSec) and Latch (@latchaccess) — which is a much easier sell for businesses and apartment complexes than homes.

Still missing Maker Faire Bay Area? A new video roundup by fabrication expert Thomas Sanladerer (@toms3dp) looks at the best 3D printing projects from the event.