I spent last week in Carbondale, IL. I went partly to speak at the Southern Illinois University Innovative Systems conference, which is kind of a mini TED put on by the Engineering school for its students, with talks given by some very interesting people talking on a wide variety of topics. (I’m a little embarrassed that they have me listed as the founder of CRASH Space on the program, but I did my best to correct that.) My talk was about DIY home fabrication, primarily focusing on the MakerBot.

The presentation may not make much sense without my talk, but here it is if you’re curious. I’m still optimizing it, and it may undergo some serious changes as I prep it for another presentation.

I also went to Carbondale to do some MakerBot demos and talk about making your own stuff with students, ranging from pre-school to graduate students.

The opportunity came up because I’ve been helping Joseph Deken, the founder of the non-profit group New Blankets, which looks to use technology in educational ways, primarily for underprivileged children. They have two MakerBot Cupcakes which I have been helping to upgrade, tune up, and maintain while they live at CRASH Space. We took them to Carbondale to show people that personal manufacturing is a very real thing.

The students really got it, but it was interesting to see the different motivators. The really poor kids liked the idea that they could make their own stuff. Just because having “stuff” is a marker of status when you don’t have a lot of money to buy stuff. I printed out the Empire State Building for one girl who said “This is the closest I’ll ever come to that place” as she walked away. It broke my heart that she felt so little opportunity to see one of our country’s great landmarks, not so terribly far away from where she lived.

In general, the reaction was one of possibilities, not limitations – which was my hope. The Engineering students in particular immediately began thinking of items to fabricate for their own projects.

New Blankets is trying to launch a Makergarten (what I would refer to as a hackerspace on this here blog) which I am anxious to see. Carbondale is a lovely town, and as the academic home of Buckminster Fuller, it fully deserves to have it’s own space for creative engineering awesomeness.

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