This webwatch features the inaugural Maker Faire at the White House, a hand-held molecular sensor that is a runaway success on the Kickstarter website, and an interview with Kiwi IT entrepreneur Victoria Ransom.
Inaugural Maker Faire at the White House
On 18 June, the White House hosted some unusual guests – a robotic giraffe, insoles that can recharge your phone, a cube of programmable arrays of LEDs, and a great many 3D printers — including one designed to go to the International Space Station. It was the first ever White House Maker Faire – to recognise the contributions of ‘makers’ who bring creativity and technical ability to a broad range of projects.
Maker Faire is “a gathering of fearless, curious and inventive people who enjoy learning and who love sharing what they’ve made with one another”. Although they’ve been in existence around the world since 2006, it’s only relatively recently that the explosive growth in the number and quality of these events has occurred. This year, over a hundred Maker Faires are already scheduled in cities all around the world.
In his opening remarks at the launch (www.whitehouse.gov/maker-faire ), President Obama said that “this event celebrates every maker — from students learning STEM skills, to entrepreneurs launching new businesses, to innovators powering the renaissance in American manufacturing.” And he called on people across his country, “to join us in sparking creativity and encouraging invention in their communities’.
President Obama challenged the community to come up with new ways to support makers through initiatives such as creating more places to make things; places to share ideas and collaborate with like-minded people in a supportive, open, and friendly environment that encourages creativity and spurs innovation.
In the spirit of creating amazing things, the Kickstarter website has announced a new sub-category devoted to Makerspaces.
Hand-held molecular sensor
SCiO is a new device that enables users to collect information about any food, medicine, plant or physical object simply by scanning. It claims to be the first molecular sensor that fits in the palm of your hand and its being marketed as a ‘must have’ device for “anyone who would like instant information about the things they interact with and consume every day”.
The device was launched on the crowdfunding website Kickstarter, and for under US$200 the first 100 backers could get a maker's kit which includes a "bare-bones" SCiO, full CAD drawings, and two years free access to any app the company develops. Delivery date is expected to be December this year.
“Think big and work really hard”
It’s always great to see media coverage of an ex-student doing well. Victoria Ransom grew up in New Zealand before moving to the United States where she developed three companies, one of which she sold to Google. She now works for Google in Silicon Valley as a Director of Product. In a television interview on TV One’s Sunday morning Q+A programme, Victoria answered some questions about the characteristics of entrepreneurs, NZ’s growing technology ecosystem, and the country’s potential for economic growth.
In terms of entrepreneurs, she says the biggest predictors of success are ambition and hard work. "I think that a really common thread amongst successful people is to think big and work really hard to strive to get there. In my case, I think: risk-taking and thinking out of the box and not trying to have an ordinary and linear career."
She is optimistic about New Zealand’s potential for growth but outlined several areas that need greater focus if the economy is to thrive, and had some encouraging words for Technology educators.
"It's hard to create a robust tech industry if you don't have access to good engineers and people with technology backgrounds," she said. She believes practical assistance through scholarships and subsidised fees for tertiary technology and science courses could help attract a broader range of students into these fields.
In encouraging a more enterprising approach, she pointed to the advantages that the more nimble smaller start-ups can have over the bigger players, emphasising “it's easier to compete than you think”.