Maker Pro News: How Maker Skills Are Changing Engineering Education

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Maker Pro News: How Maker Skills Are Changing Engineering Education

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The idea is to create a comprehensive facility for startups with all basic requirements for product development under one roof. – Maker Village CEO Prasad Balakrishnan Nair

Learning From Failure

Ryan Hickman (@ryanmhickman), the co-founder of failed robotics startup TickTock, analyzed his own company’s failure this week in a can’t-miss Wired story. A key takeaway: your hardware startup doesn’t just need watertight tech; it also needs a product that people will actually buy.

Hickman, a former program manager for Google, experimented with four different robot concepts during TickTock’s year on the market, powered by advanced machine vision technology instead of the industry standard lidar. The bots were beautifully designed, particularly a spunky model that acted like a digital butler, following users from room to room to hold objects and carry out tasks. But none could land the confidence of investment gatekeepers, who worried — rightly, in Hickman’s wry estimation — that the bots would never land a dedicated user base.

“Every single investor said to us,” Hickman said, “‘I like your team, you guys are super technically strong, I believe you’ll build the thing you say you’ll build. I don’t think you’ll sell it.’”

Sneak Preview: Maker Faire Bay Area

It’s barely a week until Bay Area Maker Faire (@makerfaire) — details and tickets available here — and, as usual, the event is going to be a destination for maker pros. Here are a few of the participants we’ll be sure to seek out:

  • Arizona State (@ASU) professors Micah Lande (@micahlande) and Shawn Jordan (@shawnsjordan) will discuss how project-based maker skills are changing undergraduate education — and preparing students for the modern workforce.
  • Masakazu Takasu, an organizer of Maker Faire Shenzhen (@MakerFaireSZ), will talk about the maker movement and entrepreneurship in Asia.
  • The Hackaday Prize (@hackaday) awards more than $200,000 in prizes for socially-focused innovation — and open hardware advocate Stephen Tranovich(@QueerEngineer) will provide tips on how to make your project stand out to the panel of maker judges.
  • Skywalker Sound (@skywalkersound) audio expert Krysten Mate — whose most recent project was sound design for the Steven Spielberg blockbuster Ready Player One (@readyplayerone) — will talk about how a maker ethos has helped her career in sound design.

Maker Pros Around the World

Upfront (@AJUpFront) investor and hardware advocate Chang Xu (@_changxu) published a worthwhile essay this week about the structural forces that changed Shenzhen from a small town of 30,000 to an unparalleled force in global manufacturing in the span of under 40 years.

Another dispatch about international maker pros: startups were a major force at Maker Faire Vienna (@MakerFaireVIE), according to Make: contributor Goli Mohammadi (@snowgoli), where the theme was the future of building. Standouts included house-sized 3D printers by Doka Ventures (@DokaVentures), which are being used to fabricate entire buildings, Vivihouse (@vivihouse_cc), which is working on building multi-family homes out of sustainable materials, and the Centenarian Washing Machine, an appliance designed to last 100 years.

We also got another glimpse into the breakout Indian hardware incubator Maker Village (@makervillagekc), which is currently housing 45 startups and providing them with access to cutting-edge design and fabrication equipment.

“The idea is to create a comprehensive facility for startups with all basic requirements for product development under one roof,” said CEO Prasad Balakrishnan Nair. “We want to attract product startups from across the country by enabling support and mentoring services from technologists, industry veterans and business leaders with global competencies.”

Elsewhere on the Maker Pro Web

A new investment group with support from a Snap Inc. (@Snap) executive sees a future in old-fashioned books. Its first acquisition: Arcadia Publishing (@ArcadiaPub).

Google announced a new initiative this week to build a better ecosystem around its Google Assistant platform. Under the program, teams — including hardware developers — can apply for up to $100,000 worth of funding and support from the tech giant.

Massachusetts startup Soft Robotics (@SoftRobotics_JNannounced $20 million in funding this week for its pick-and-place machines that, instead of electronics manufacturing, are designed for the messy world of commercial kitchens.

Many cosplayers create outfits for fun, but others have turned the anime-inflected hobby into a business endeavor, selling bespoke costumes and props to fellow enthusiasts. This year, Maker Faire Bay Area will host our first Cosplay Prop Contest, featuring a panel of maker pro judges.

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DC Denison is the co-editor of The Maker Pro Newsletter, which covers the intersection of makers and business. That means hardware startups, new products, and market trends.

DC manages customer stories at Acquia, the digital experience company.

View more articles by DC Denison

Jon Christian is the co-editor of the Maker Pro Newsletter, which covers the intersection between makers and business. He's also written for the Boston Globe, WIRED and The Atlantic.

View more articles by Jon Christian


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