Engineering for all

Prof. Paul Wright is quoted in an article on the “maker movement” published by the National Science Foundation:

Without the right tools, the maker movement would have had a hard time getting off the ground.

According to Paul Wright, a mechanical engineering professor at the University of California, Berkeley, a number of things happened in the last 10 years that are making it possible for more people to create and build their own one-of-a-kind creations.

“Simple microcomputers are less than $100, 3-D printers have come down in price, design software is more or less free on the web,” says Wright.

These tools, conceived of and built by scientists and engineers, help young inventors “jump right in and do something,” observes Wright. That said, today’s makers will need a little help if they hope to scale up their inventions for commercialization.

With funding from NSF, Wright and collaborator Bjoern Hartmann are working to develop a web-based manufacturing service that they hope will help translate the creativity of students, hobbyists and inventors into products, and help launch new start-ups in a wide variety of consumer sectors.

“If makers want to start a business and make their prototype into a product, they will have to make many more by the thousands and make the product user-reliable,” says Wright. “We are providing free access to virtual-expert systems that advise on re-design for robustness, re-design for final assembly, et cetera.”

To Wright, one of the best things about the maker movement is the message that creating things can be fun.

“Engineering has always been that that way for those of us on the inside,” says Wright. “But maybe we needed another external culture to add a bit more sizzle.”

Read the full article here: http://www.nsf.gov/discoveries/disc_summ.jsp?cntn_id=131735&org=NSF

For more information on the Citris Invention Lab, visit http://invent.citris-uc.org and have a look at the video below.

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