It’s been one hell of a week, and this is going to be one hell of a blog post.
The last week has been a whirlwind of robot building , traveling, 3D printing, programming, presenting, and most importantly, attending the 2012 Open Hardware Summit and World Maker Faire. I’ve got lots of exciting updates, so read on!
Building the Aracna Quadrupedal Learning Robot (Spring 2012 – Last Week)
I spent countless hours with my associates in the Cornell Creative Machines Lab getting our Aracna Quadrupedal robot ready to walk. I’ve been involved tangentially in this project since last semester, but I recently stepped in to completely rewrite the embedded firmware in C and to develop a new wireless control scheme. Amazingly, we actually manged to pull off this complete code re-base in the last few weeks, just in time to present it at the Open Hardware Summit. Aracna is a completely open source robot for investigating machine learning algorithms. Using external feedback (image tracking, accelerometers, etc), researchers can use Aracna as a platform for developing evolutionary algorithms. Because Aracna is a designed with non-intuitive leg-linkage mechanisms, it’s an ideal platform for using machine learning to teach the robot how to walk. A wirelessly connected computer commands Aracna and evolves gaits based on feedback from the robot and a tracking system. You can learn more about Aracna in my portfolio entry for the research.
Attending the 3rd Annual Open Hardware Summit (September 27th)
I’ve been looking forward to attending this year’s open hardware summit since the moment I left last years summit. As is generally the case, it was a star-studded (at least in the open hardware world) array of speakers talking about everything from patent law to open source fashion design. Dustyn Roberts & Catarina Mota did an absolutely amazing job organizing the summit, and the new location at the Eyebeam Art and Technology Center in Manhattan was perfectly suited for the event.
The idea of open source hardware is still a new one, and it’s constantly evolving. As a result, many of the talks focused on figuring out where to “draw the line” when it comes to open source. Other talks touched on concepts relevant to open hardware developers, including FCC regulations, patent law, and hardware cloning. The recently formed Open Source Hardware Association (OSHWA) will be working hard to continue developing concrete open hardware definitions. At the summit, they unveiled this excellent video detailing what “Open Source Hardware” really means:
You can become a member of OSHWA by supporting them on their website. Naturally, I signed up for membership within minutes of Alicia Gibb (OSHWA Founder and President) announcing it at the summit. Check out my sexy new badge (it’s also on the sidebar of my blog):
In addition to being an attendee at the OHS, I was also there along with fellow Cornell researcher, Eric Gold, to demo the Aracna Quadrupedal evolving robot that we’ve been developing. Aracna was very well received by the summit attendees, and I’m looking forward to continuing to develop its capabilities. You can learn more about Aracna on the Creative Machines Lab website, and all the open source materials are available on GitHub. Check out this brief video I took at the summit of Aracna going after my beer:
I took tons of photos at the summit, including shots of lots of the demos, Aracna, and the talks. Check them out below.
Visiting the new MakerBot Retail Store (September 28th)
On Friday, I had some time to kill between the summit and the start of Maker Faire, so I paid a quick visit to the new MakerBot Store in NOHO, Manhattan. It was announced very shortly after I left my summer employment at MakerBot to head up to Cornell for grad school, so it was exciting to go see it in person. They did a great job with the store design, and the window display is nothing short of mindblowing. Check out some photos I took of the store.
Attending the Pre-Maker Faire “Maker Dinner” (September 28th)
On Friday night, I attended the Maker dinner event, which is held every year for the “Makers” to come get some free food and set up their booths before Maker Faire starts the following day. While being served paella by Make Magazine founder, Dale Dougherty, was exciting, the highlight of the evening was the 2012 Makey Awards. Element14, where I serve as a tutorial creator, community expert, and blogger, won the Makey for best educational program. It’s exciting to be part of an organization that has been recognized by the maker community as one that is strongly contributing to educating people around the world.
Unsurprisingly, the winner of the Maker Hero award was Jeri Ellsworth (pictured to the right). Like me, Jeri makes educational engineering videos, and she is an all around bad-ass. I personally find Jeri’s work to be very inspiring, so it was really exciting to finally meet her in person this weekend.
The remainder of the evening was spent setting up the BlueStamp Engineering booth where I volunteered for much of the weekend.
Attending the World Maker Faire (September 29th-30th)
It would be futile to list all the things I did and saw at this year’s Maker Faire, so I’ll try to just hit the key points. As I previously mentioned, I spent about half of my time manning the BlueStamp Engineering table. For those who don’t know, I was a teacher at the BlueStamp Engineering program this summer, where I taught engineering principles to 11 students. Each of my students developed their own projects over the course of this 6 week program, and many of them came to Maker Faire to exhibit them at our table. Better still, some students continued to expand upon what they had learned over the summer, and they brought additional projects that they had made in the time since finishing the BlueStamp program. It was great to see all my students again, and I was glad to see that many of them had continued to develop their projects. We were stationed in the “Young Maker” tent, which meant we received lots of traffic from many soon-to-be engineers who were excited to learn about how they, too, could make such awesome projects.
I also spent some time fielding technical questions at the MakerBot booth (I do some electrical engineering work for MakerBot). MakerBot recently announced the Replicator 2, so there were naturally lots of excited attendees who wanted to see our new machine in action.
While not working, I wandered around the Fair grounds and attended a few of the talks and demonstrations. While stopping by the IEEE booth, one of the IEEE representatives recognized me as IEEE’s 2012 New face of Engineering, so we obviously had to snap a picture of me at the booth. I enjoyed checking out Jeff Rowberg’s progress on his Keyglove, Matt Mets’ work on his LED dome, and seeing the exciting new product offerings from both Arduino and Parallax.
Check out all the photos I took below. These too, are available in full resolution on flickr.
Analyzing the Maker Movement
To wrap up the whole experience of the Open Hardware Summit and Maker Faire, I wrote a blog post over at element14 analyzing the Maker Movement and the impact that I believe it can have on the world in the coming years.