Maker Pro News: Baltimore’s Startup Scene, Robotic Ethics, and More

Maker News
Maker Pro News: Baltimore’s Startup Scene, Robotic Ethics, and More

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“We bought a CNC machine immediately, started playing around,
and very soon had our first big job.”

–Because We Can Co-Founder Jillian Northrup


Maker Pro Cities: Baltimore

Tomorrow marks the start of Baltimore’s fifth annual Innovation Week, an extravaganza that highlights the city’s complex business community with events ranging from technical discussions of biotech research at Johns Hopkins to food innovation to an appearance by former TED Conference Music Director (and, back in the 80s, singer of “Hyperactive!”) Thomas Dolby (@ThomasDolby).

Baltimore’s technorati don’t see the city’s startup sector as another clone of NYC or the Bay Area. Instead, they position it as a diverse community of entrepreneurs and dreamers who are willing to experiment to find a sustainable path forward for a city that’s seen its share of economic challenges.

Kevin Plank, the founder of Baltimore-based sportswear giant Under Armour, is betting on that future. Last year, Plank launched a combination makerspace, incubator, and whiskey distillery in a 140,000-square-foot former bus garage.

“It’s like joining a gym, and you can go and meet other entrepreneurs like you,” Plank said of the space, which is called the Foundery. “You can talk about how to get financing. You can take a class on how to sew.”

Also in the business space is Open Works, a 34,000-square-foot makerspace that prior to opening its doors in Baltimore this past week embraced an unusual degree of transparency as it prepared to launch: General Manager Will Holman(@objectguerilla) blogged for Make: about the community, marketing, and business machinations that go into starting a new makerspace. The entire series is an invaluable trove of documentation for anyone who’s thinking of launching a makerspace in his or her own city.


Maker Pros at World Maker Faire

World Maker Faire is just one week away! Each week, we’re highlighting a few of the maker pros you’ll be able to meet in New York City on October 1–2. Without further ado:

UFACTORY (@ufactory3D) will be on site with the uArm, its open-source desktop robotic arm. (Conversation starter: they’re hiring.)

Formlabs (@formlabs) may be a big deal now, but when the company launched just five years ago, it was a longshot concept by three MIT students who met in the institute’s storied “How to Make (almost) Anything” course. Come hang out at the Formlabs booth.

UP (@UPbridge_gap) will be showing off its eponymous, Kickstarted development platform (pictured above), which is aimed at makers who want to upscale a prototype into a mass-produced product.

Oh, and a word to the wise: if you want to attend for free and would like to help Faire-goers young and old on their path to becoming makers, consider volunteering to be a an instructor at the Learn to Solder Booth, one of the most popular activities at the Faire — if you work a five-hour shift, you’ll get a one-day pass to Maker Faire, a complimentary T-shirt, and other goodies.

Tickets for World Maker Faire at the New York Hall of Science are still available! Get yours here!

Designing From the Ground Up

Design studio Because We Can (@becausewecan), run by Jillian Northrup andJeffrey McGrew, uses CNC fabrication to create incredible buildings, interiors, and installations that blur the line between the three — sometimes they’ll design not only a building but also all the furniture on the inside.

The studio’s client list, which includes Google, Clif Bar, and the Wikimedia Foundation, speaks for itself. In a Make: spotlight this week that’s a must-read for any would-be maker pro, Northup opened up about the history of her work with McGrew, the company’s day-to-day work, and the nerve-wracking investment in its first CNC machine back in 2007.

“We bought a CNC machine immediately, started playing around, and very soon had our first big job,” Northrup said.

If you’re hungry for more, check out this 2012 interview and this 2014 Maker Connections episode featuring Northrup and McGrew.

Elsewhere on the Maker Pro Web:

Technically Brooklyn ran a worthwhile profile of Varun Adibhatla (@vr00n), the director of the new Navy Yard incubator Urban Tech Hub. “I have fond feelings for Brooklyn,” Adibhatla said. “It’s not replicating Silicon Valley.”

Facebook has acquired hardware startup Nascent Objects, which creates frameworks to streamline manufacturing processes. “Together, we hope to create hardware at a speed that’s more like software,” said Regina Dugan, the head of Facebook’s secretive Building 8 fabrication space, of the acquisition.

Step aside, Isaac Asimov: researchers at the British Standards Institute are working on a standard of ethics for robotics research. The goal, according to University of the West of England robotics professor Alan Winfield, is to take the “first step towards embedding ethical values into robotics and AI.”

Photographer Matthew Sutor used a 3D printer to create the WYNG, a gadget that attaches to your camera’s flash to diffuse the light. The idea touched a nerve: online retailers including Amazon soon started stocking the unit.

Speaking of 3D printing, Surrey Nanosystems, which created the world’s darkest material, has successfully coated a 3D-printed object with the blacker-than-black Vantablack.

On the Make: blog, Predictable Designs president John Teel (@JohnTeelEE) is back with a new guide for designing a microcontroller circuit. And speaking of circuits, check out Mathias Edman’s tiny, elegant Commodore 64 emulator — which he may start selling soon in small batches.

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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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