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Education Science

DARPA + Makers + School = the Future of Innovation 70

Posted by Soulskill
from the broadening-the-base dept.
PerlJedi writes "The future of innovation in America is the Maker movement. A new project being announced on the Makezine blog aims to bring low cost innovation and alternative manufacturing processes to schools in hopes of turbo-charging the next generation of inventors in the U.S. From the announcement: 'The new Makerspace program, developed by Dale Dougherty of MAKE and Dr. Saul Griffith of Otherlab, will integrate online tools for design and collaboration with low-cost options for physical workspaces where students may access educational support to gain practical hands-on experience with new technologies and innovative processes to design and build projects. The program has a goal of reaching 1000 high schools over four years, starting with a pilot program of 10 high schools in California during the 2012-2013 school year.'"
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DARPA + Makers + School = the Future of Innovation

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    It doesn't matter how well educated and motivated Americans are for making things. As long as there is cheap trade with countries with more sane intellectual property laws and/or poor labor regulations, the USA cannot compete.

    It is not a knowledge problem, it is a legal one.

    • by i kan reed (749298) on Friday January 20, 2012 @11:14AM (#38762358) Homepage Journal

      This is incorrect. You honestly think most people on slashdot are unemployed? They're mostly very well paid IT people and engineers with a dash of everything else. There is an extraordinary difference in the productivity of the average skilled American worker and the average unskilled Chinese worker.(unskilled Americans and skilled Chinese left out of the equation now). It is on the order of a hundred times as much. Pretending like a lack of technical skills is valueless is no way to address problems in an economy where unskilled and non-technically skilled people represent the vast majority of the unemployed. Your gloom-and-doom assertions have no basis in fact, and betray a bizarre Luddite attitude that seems contrary to the techy nature of slashdot.

      It's just weird.

      • by Tsingi (870990)

        They're mostly very well paid IT people and engineers with a dash of everything else. There is an extraordinary difference in the productivity of the average skilled American worker and the average unskilled Chinese worker.

        So you are saying that a good education is important?

      • by hedwards (940851)

        And how many folks end up with jobs in IT versus those that tried but got discouraged by the low pay early on and competition from H-1B visa holders that were imported to artificially depress wages?

        • by i kan reed (749298) on Friday January 20, 2012 @11:53AM (#38763010) Homepage Journal

          I work with numerous H1-B coworkers. They are good people, on the whole and not deserving of contempt from just being foreign. On top of that, I am well payed in spite of whatever depressing effect they have.

          What you're forgetting is that when you hire H1-B, you're bringing talent and skill into the U.S. and increasing the health of the U.S. economy. Moreover, they're paying the same rent/food/electricity/transportation/tax costs every other person living in the U.S. is too. The real risk H1-B poses to the U.S. is not "taking our jobs" as the very low unemployment in those fields indicates, but rather that we send these workers home after their visa expires, and lose all the knowledge they brought with them and gained during their employment.

          It only "artificially" depresses wages if you consider their existence artificial. Personally, I'd be happier with a clear path to citizenship for H1-B workers.

          • by hedwards (940851) on Friday January 20, 2012 @12:06PM (#38763270)

            What about the talent that's already here? It made sense for us to snag Einstein, von Braun and all those amazing European minds before, during and after WWII because they were so exceptional. But, by bringing in people on H-1B visas to fill jobs that could be filled by ordinary IT workers all you're doing is creating a dependence on foreign laborers to get the work done. It's very much the same sort of thing as why food shipments to starving countries are only a stop gap measure. Long term you provide a disincentive to self sufficiency.

            Yes, those folks aren't bad people, but what you're failing to take into account is the folks that gave up and retrained before the economy went in the gutter and the number of positions which don't exist any more as companies cut back.

            • Let me fix that for you - Let's separate the two arguments here to keep this focused. The US took on minds from Europe before, during and after the war to deprive other countries the access to those minds. It was a political move and gave us access to their achievements. If the argument is that we bring on H1-B to deprive other countries access or because we have a lack of that knowledge then H1-B works, in part. It fails in that it doesn't require H1-B applicants to stick around permanently. The reali
          • But the whole point of the program is to send the scabs back. If they were permanent residents they would demand prevailing wages rather than working at 50% of the rate of an American (which will buy them a lot when they get back home).
        • by qzjul (944600)
          Those of us discouraged from going into IT went into engineering instead.
        • by Meeni (1815694)

          You know how much it costs to file H1B, do you? I mean including lawyer fees and everything. You also understand that the personnel you train at your expense on your processes, is going to leave you as soon as 5 years from now, not because they dislike the company, but because their visa will expire without a remedy. It is stringently difficult to get a job on H1 status, because you end up costing more than a citizen, all in all factored in.

      • by hackus (159037)

        You cannot compete with slave labor.

        The USAry is going to have to eventually make a decision:

        1) Race to the bottom where you have super cheap crap being made, by people that make $10 an hour.

        If you want to live and compete like FOXCONN employees, then thats great. We can put dorms and nets outside the buildings so people don't jump to their deaths in despair and misery working in such conditions.

        Isn't that iGreat?!

        2) Or Add to the equation, not just Free Markets, but Fair Trade. That means when you manuf

    • by Eil (82413) on Friday January 20, 2012 @12:03PM (#38763210) Homepage Journal

      There are so many things wrong with this comment that I don't know where to start. I'm 90% sure it's a troll, but I'll bite anyway:

      The problem is that we live in a society where everyone expects success to be handed to them. In the U.S., the poorest of the poor have a standard of living that outshines the majority of the rest of the world. We're all taught to get straight A's through high school, get a four-year degree while amassing crushing amounts of debt, and then after that we'll be able to land a job with a six figure salary and join a union that will keep us from getting fired no matter how little work we actualy do. When that doesn't happen, we complain that the government isn't creating enough jobs for us and then sit back to enjoy nice free unemployment checks while waiting for an opportunity to fall in our lap. What. The. Fuck.

      When (not if) China supercedes the U.S. as the new world superpower in the next decade or two, I sincerely hope my fellow Americans will get off their butts and realize that we need to *work* to maintain our standard of living and our place in the world. Even if it's unpleasant, even if it's not what we really want to do at the moment. Otherwise, I fear that I'm going to live to see the fall of the U.S. democracy. Given our history of foreign policy, I'm certain that the rest of the world will celebrate it much as we celebrated the fall of the Soviet Union.

      • by Anonymous Coward
        I don't think you will find a plurality of college graduates who expect either 100k or a union membership fresh from school. In fact, I'm constantly surprised by statistically significant poll-based findings describing students remarkably sober expectations. Your offensive insinuation that the goal of a union laborer is to slack off and retain their job is a shallow talking point assembled from a few carefully selected anecdotes by agenda-driven ideologues. There is no correlation between union membership
        • Bump. Someone sprinkle modpoints above.

          The current philosophy that China will over take the US in technology improvements or economically is based on non-sense from the media and fear mongers. *gasp* The fact of the matter is that there is such disparity in the Chinese economy they will soon be feeling the sobering effects of the rash growth and self-valuing yuan [businessweek.com].

        • Parent really deserves modpoints.

      • by Ihmhi (1206036)

        I've got none of that yet. I've got no degree (yet), no training, and no certs (also no debt though, woo!) - largely because I can't really afford the $300 a pop. I'd just like to work in some sort of office environment, even something like data entry, but I can't seem to get hired for the life of me. The days of talking with the manager and him giving you a two-week trial are over. Now you have to pass personality tests and sit through 45 minutes of radio buttons just to have your application probably dump

      • by phorm (591458)

        In the U.S., the poorest of the poor have a standard of living that outshines the majority of the rest of the world

        Where on earth did you get that idea? Yes, the poor in first-world countries may be better off than the poor in third-world countries, but living in the streets/alleys/etc of New York isn't going to be much/any better than many other countries.

      • When (not if) China supercedes the U.S. as the new world superpower in the next decade or two, I sincerely hope my fellow Americans will get off their butts and realize that we need to *work* to maintain our standard of living and our place in the world. Even if it's unpleasant, even if it's not what we really want to do at the moment. Otherwise, I fear that I'm going to live to see the fall of the U.S. democracy. Given our history of foreign policy, I'm certain that the rest of the world will celebrate it much as we celebrated the fall of the Soviet Union.

        You don't really think China is going to let that happen, do you? China's power brokers have been refining their techniques of control since the Qin unified China 2200 years ago. They are not going to abandon their current (successful) economic strategy against the US. You don't let a potential enemy redevelop an industrial base after you've spent several decades destroying it by flooding their their economy with inexpensive goods. Once they've killed off the industrial base, they will leverage all the

  • by mcgrew (92797) * on Friday January 20, 2012 @11:06AM (#38762190) Homepage Journal

    1. Cory Doctorow. It wasn't his best book, but wasn't too bad either, and did give one food for thought. Almost required reading for this topic; it's available at your local bookstore, or for free at BoingBoing.

    2. What good is being an inventor when a patent is practically impossible for someone who isn't filthy rich to obtain and defend? The rich not only have priveleges you don't, they have rights you don't. Actually, this is one of the subthemes of the aformentioned book.

    If I had the money to obtain a patent, I'd have several by now. The patent system is in serious need of reform.

    • by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Friday January 20, 2012 @11:13AM (#38762320)
      Patents are one of the few things you can get without a huge cost. They are within the reach of individuals. Defending them in court, on the other hand, can cost millions - so once you have your shiny new patent, expect companies to ignore it. The best you might manage is to sell it to a company that does have the resources to enforce it.
      • Justice is blind. Whichever side puts the most gold on the scales of justice wins!
      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        They are within the reach of individuals

        I'm right at the median income, and I couldn't afford to get one (and you're certainly right about not being able to defend one even if I could get one).

    • by Cochonou (576531)
      1. Cory Doctorow. It wasn't his best book, but wasn't too bad either, and did give one food for thought. Almost required reading for this topic; it's available at your local bookstore, or for free at BoingBoing.

      I loved some other books from Cory Doctorow, but I honestly thought this one was not worth the... oh well, it was free, so I cannot complain. But I would not really recommend it. I thought that the only thing interesting about the book was its setting - otherwise, it's just quite a boring story, w
    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      What good is being an inventor when a patent is practically impossible for someone who isn't filthy rich to obtain and defend? The rich not only have priveleges you don't, they have rights you don't. Actually, this is one of the subthemes of the aformentioned book.

      Which is why the whole "open source" movement is a great equalizer. If you got an innovation but no money, publish the heck out of it, which makes it ineligible for patenting. (Well, in the US you get a year, but most places the act of publishing

  • by sandytaru (1158959) on Friday January 20, 2012 @11:10AM (#38762264) Journal
    My middle school had a grant, either from DARPA itself or something similar from the local Army base, and used it to develop an elective for 8th graders called "Explorations in Technology." Students worked through labs as teams, and could pick which labs they wanted to work on. One of the coolest labs, and one that was filled before I could snag it, was the CAD lab with a laser cutter where the student could design their own pendant (either with their initials, or some other design) and then have it carved out of plastic with a laser. The Makerbot will fit right into such technology labs in schools lucky enough to have them.

    Other labs we had included building a model rocket, learning a few LOGO commands and creating a picture, learning not to be afraid of the guts of a PC (this is a slot! and it can hold add-in cards!), flying a space shuttle simulator, etc. This was 1994 - the labs today can probably include a lot more advanced things. This technology class replaced our shop class, though, so we lost the chance to learn to use buzz saws safely.
    • by Ihmhi (1206036)

      I seriously envy your neighborhood. I see too many places where the model rockets would be dismissed as "weapons" and/or "too dangerous". Don't even get me started on the laser or things like chemistry labs. Computer programming? You're teaching them to hax my AOLZ!

      No wonder why education in this country is in the shitter. -.-

      • Surprisingly, this was in Augusta GA, not exactly a hotbed of liberal education activism. But the school was where Fort Gordon shipped its students, so it was full of Army brats who were children of the Signal Corps. It's only now that I've begun to realize that my experience was definitely outside of the norm (I went to computer camp and there was always access to a computer someplace from about the time I was seven, even if it was just a crummy Apple IIe in the National Science Center's labatory.)
  • The two articles linked have a lot of verbiage without REALLY explaining what MAKE / the maker movement is. It seems to be some kind of digital design? Is this manufacturing using 3d printers or something? Can anybody enlighten the rest of us?
    • Yes. Makerbots are 3D printers small enough for personal use, using CAD software and appropriate drivers.
    • by Rich0 (548339) on Friday January 20, 2012 @12:05PM (#38763242) Homepage

      "Makers" are apparently people who have built 3D printers and think that this is the be-all and end-all of manufacturing technology.

      Sure, the fact that you can build one for $100 now is pretty neat. However, CAD/CAM was in vogue back when I was in high school. It indeed has changed the world, but not because anytime somebody wants a widget they take 3 hours to have some laser mill carve it out of steel.

      3D printers, and CAM in general are great for prototyping, but they're not going to make a dent in the cost of finished goods. Right now maker bots can only make 99 cent plastic toys - which some guy in China can already make for two cents, and which probably costs $1.50 in materials to make using a 3D printer. If you want to make new gears for your bike then you're going to need something capable of cutting through hard steel, and that isn't going to be $50 and made out of plastic. About the only thing you'd save making such things yourself is any patent rights for the design, and those aren't much compared to manufacturing costs.

      About the only thing manufacture-at-home is likely to be cost-effective at is counterfeiting currency - since its value is almost entirely fiat. I saw a neat documentary about some guy who was doing just that with casino chips. The neat thing about it was that when they finally traced him they couldn't arrest him since he lived in a state that didn't have legalized gambling and forging casino chips was consequently not considered a crime. He wasn't using 3d printers though - this was serious die-pressing equipment/etc.

      • by robot256 (1635039) on Friday January 20, 2012 @01:03PM (#38764296)

        3D printers, and CAM in general are great for prototyping, but they're not going to make a dent in the cost of finished goods.

        I beg to differ. While it is true that 3D printing cannot hold a candle to the efficiency of bulk injection molding, it is already bringing down the prices of other types of products. For example, I am involved with the design of a robotic mechanism that had lots of tiny, hard-to-machine parts and needed lots of assembly time. With 3D printing, we could basically print half the parts pre-assembled in shapes that would be physically impossible to either machine or mold (blind holes, internal cavities, crazy angles and contours, etc). The resulting drop in machine and assembly time cut the cost by a factor of ten, even when produced in quantity. Plus, since we don't have to order parts in batches, we can afford to offer them at a lower price while order volume is low.

        3D printers are also revolutionizing the replacement-part industry for cars, aircraft, and antiques. High-quality, high-strength parts can be made by printing steel or titanium, and also by coating plastic parts with metal. True, they won't replace your bike sprocket or drive shaft, but they can do a lot more than 99 cent plastic toys.

      • by Brietech (668850)

        I feel like this argument kind of misses the point. First, 3D printers (of the makerbot variety, as well as more traditional/expensive machines) have both come down drastically in price and improved drastically in quality in the last few years. The same goes for CNC milling equipment (and computing, and printing, etc.). No, they aren't appropriate for making a million widgets to be sold at 2 cents/piece, but they're perfectly appropriate for teaching people how to design things.

        A huge segment of the populat

      • by sootman (158191)

        > 3D printers, and CAM in general are great for prototyping, but they're
        > not going to make a dent in the cost of finished goods. Right now maker
        > bots can only make 99 cent plastic toys - which some guy in China can
        > already make for two cents, and which probably costs $1.50 in materials
        > to make using a 3D printer.

        I care about not wasting things. I can't wait until the day comes that it's affordable for me to make little plastic doodads to replace broken bits of plastic in toys and devices.

  • Roll yer own... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tsingi (870990) <<graham.rick> <at> <gmail.com>> on Friday January 20, 2012 @11:12AM (#38762312)
    I built a CnC machine (Computer controlled milling machine) It's a hoot. Building a fabricating shop is not that hard or overly expensive; if you have the skills to build and use one I highly recommend it.
  • I'm going back to school. I gots robbed!

  • To a school, grades are everything. Grades are what bring the funding. Grades are what bring the students. Educating students to a productive future is all well and good, but it is something to do in between preparing them to score highly on the exams. So what is the incentive for the schools to get in on this? Unless you can demonstrate a clear and measurable improvement in exam performance, there isn't much of one.
  • by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Friday January 20, 2012 @11:21AM (#38762496)

    In U.S and, increasingly elsewhere, patents are a threat to any would-be innovator, whether in high-school, or at a university lab, or in private industry.

    If DARPA really wants to enable innovation, it should pay for each high school to have a team of 20 patent lawyers.

    • by lakeland (218447)

      Given that patent lawyers almost universally support patents and inventors almost universally do not, surely if DARPA wants invention then it should do the opposite and encourage everyone towards being an inventor instead of a patent lawyer.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Cheap, Mafia-made makers.

    They tend to get all screwed up on cyber-drugs.

  • ....on the topic of whether or not the USA is still ( with "still" receiving a heavy stress ) capable of major innovation. The most innovating producst I saw in, say, the last year, were either open-/crowdsourced, Asian or - for a small minority of them - European. I am mainly speaking about my own field ( software architecture and design ) industries in which I have worked: aerospace, the software industry, and agriculture. It should give anyone reading this some food to mentally chew on if the USA need D
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Maker sounds like an interesting program. 150 plus years ago most young men became an apprentice and gained skills that last them a life time. Maybe we should repeal some compulsory education laws so that teenagers could have the option of being an apprentice.

  • Something tells me the end result of this is the US military as the global copyright police for physical objects.

    • by AHuxley (892839)
      The US military and state, federal private/gov groups are going to need/sell/build/work on a lot of drones and other devices.
      Until laws change and they can buy in complex sub systems from low wage areas of the world they still need the US "classified" or like paperwork.
      If a drone drops on to US suburbia "It was a Soviet era SAM..." may not stop the local press from asking more questions.
      So the US needs skilled workers but expect to see a lot imported form "friendly" cheaper places.
  • Is anyone else disturbed that it's DARPA involved in this? While I'm not entirely convinced that Maker is the "future of innovation", I really don't like the idea that the military is going to be holding the purse strings and directing the research. I have the nightmare feeling that the Pentagram would be happiest if the US were to become a country where the major industry was mercenary contracting. While Microsoft or IBM certainly aren't paragons of virtue they're still preferable to an organization mad
    • Many people in the Army have children too.
    • DARPA has a mandate to ensure the US military has access to the latest technology. If the US is not producing that technology then the US military will probably not have access to it.

      Same as they have an interest that the US can buy computers made from entirely US made parts with a supply chain they can verify.

  • This is timely - I'm just starting an effort to get a makerbot [makerbot.com] in our local middle school. Get out there and support engineering in your school!
  • This is a fantastic thing.
    Educating kids is THE long term solution for damn near all the problems that plague humanity.

    RANT TIME!
    Make. It's a culture thing. A lash-back against rampant consumerism. The buy, use, break, replace, cycle that expects everything to be expendable. Up to and including the workforce. We're in this race to the bottom of price but that comes bundled with long-term cost. A sort of DRM for products. When a tool from company X isn't compatible with the product from company Y, it u
  • I'm all for putting Maker's [makersmark.com] into schools, but wouldn't they have to lower the drinking age for that?
  • i love to hear you guy here.it's pretty good http://www.lixanindustries.com/ [lixanindustries.com]

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