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Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

postheadericon Open Source Ecology: Interview with Founder Marcin Jakubowski

The Global Village Construction Set (GVCS) won our Green Project Contest at the beginning of 2011, garnering the most votes of all the eco-friendly projects submitted. Marcin Jakubowski founded Open Source Ecology, a network of farmers, engineers, and supporter, whose main project is GVCS, “an open source, low-cost, high performance technological platform that allows for the easy, DIY fabrication of the 50 different Industrial Machines that it takes to build a sustainable civilization with modern comforts.” GVCS is like a life-sized Lego set, and each of the machines uses interchangeable parts, motors, and power units. A few of their machines have been featured on the pages of MAKE. Jakubowski (pictured above at right alongside Lawrence Kincheloe and the open source plasma cutter) is immensely busy, to say the least, but he took the time to answer a few questions for us and give us further insight into OSE’s massive undertaking.

1. Tell us about Open Source Ecology. How was it started?
Open Source Ecology (OSE) was started to contribute to a global commons of open source information — with a particular focus on the tools of production. I started OSE in my last year of my PhD program, as a response informed by what I perceived to be a general societal lack of true collaboration and openness, which I saw even in academia. I noticed that even academia was turning into branches of proprietary corporate research and development, as opposed to the original mission of culturing open knowledge toward the benefit of everybody.

2. How do you find others to collaborate with? Can anyone get involved?
We publish video and other documentation on our blog. Anyone can get involved. We are currently reorganizing and putting up a new website. Our focus is to facilitate meaningful involvement from a large group of global collaborators — and we are reorganizing with this central mission in mind.

LifeTrac, one of the first tools created in the GVCS.

3. How did you conduct your research to pinpoint the industrial machines included in the GVCS?
We took each of the basic services required for a community infrastructure, and selected the best tool to meet that need. We evaluated these tools by the Product Selection Metric to quantify the importance of our selections.

4. What is your prototyping process? And what are the challenges of making machines that have interchangeable parts, motors, and power units?
The prototyping process follows all the steps from conceptual design to CAD to fabrication to testing, while considering all the desirable properties, known as OSE Specifications. For a more detailed description, you can see our 30-step development template.

The main challenge in this process is interface design. The challenge is how one interfaces, or fits together and connects the wide array of disparate modules and interchangeable parts. While mainstream industrial design focuses on dedicated functional parts, we need to design the additional element of interchangeability for interoperability. This is not a trivial issue, yet it is critical for designing a more human-friendly, lower cost, multifunctional technology set. In Lego blocks one simply snaps two blocks together to connect them. With real mechanical hardware, this is not as easy, as the heavy weight, different power levels, and different geometries need to be considered. We have demonstrated that interchangeability is indeed feasible with life-sized mechanical hardware.

Global Village Construction Set CEB Press

The GVCS Compressed Earth Brick Press.

5. How many machines in total do you hope to prototype? How many are already done?
We’ve identified 50 of the most important machines that allow modern life to exist –- the tools we use every day — everything from a tractor to a bread oven to a circuit maker. We have so far built 8 prototypes and we have one full product release; the Compressed Earth Brick press. Our goal is ambitious: to finish the 50 tools within 2 years and a $2M budget. We are currently reorganizing to meet this goal, and we are optimistic about the development. I have recently been selected as a TED Fellow, and we expect this to put us to the world stage. We got featured in Grist Magazine and Gizmodo recently, and our momentum and team is building.

If you are interested in joining the development team, we are looking for subject matter experts and organizational development assistance. Our greatest current challenge is not interest in the project, but absorbing new participants. We are working to address this issue. We are also developing our nonprofit funding component, where we think that a significant portion of funding for the rest of the Construction Set will come from foundations and individual donors. Contact us at opensourceecology@gmail.com if you can help.

6. Are the machines being currently used anywhere?
Our machines are being used and tested at Factor e Farm. You can see videos on our blog from last season, starting with this blog post and moving backwards. Moreover, we have sold 3 sets of the Tractor-Soil Pulverizer-Earth Brick Press package, which we will produce in our forthcoming production run in April. These will be our first examples of people using the equipment outside of Factor e Farm. These users’ applications include a startup CEB construction business and an organic farm.

7. Tell us about OSE Tour USA.
This is our lecture tour throughout the USA. I have been invited to a number of speaking opportunities to raise awareness and support for the project. If you are interested in hosting a lecture and if you can cover travel and an honorarium, then we are open to invitations.

Great work on an amazing mission, Marcin and the OSE crew! Once again, folks, if you want to get involved and help out, check out the wiki, the blog, this great little video of GVCS described in 2 minutes, and contact OSE at opensourceecology@gmail.com.

postheadericon Open Source Ecology: Interview with Founder Marcin Jakubowski

The Global Village Construction Set (GVCS) won our Green Project Contest at the beginning of 2011, garnering the most votes of all the eco-friendly projects submitted. Marcin Jakubowski founded Open Source Ecology, a network of farmers, engineers, and supporter, whose main project is GVCS, “an open source, low-cost, high performance technological platform that allows for the easy, DIY fabrication of the 50 different Industrial Machines that it takes to build a sustainable civilization with modern comforts.” GVCS is like a life-sized Lego set, and each of the machines uses interchangeable parts, motors, and power units. A few of their machines have been featured on the pages of MAKE. Jakubowski (pictured above at right alongside Lawrence Kincheloe and the open source plasma cutter) is immensely busy, to say the least, but he took the time to answer a few questions for us and give us further insight into OSE’s massive undertaking.

1. Tell us about Open Source Ecology. How was it started?
Open Source Ecology (OSE) was started to contribute to a global commons of open source information — with a particular focus on the tools of production. I started OSE in my last year of my PhD program, as a response informed by what I perceived to be a general societal lack of true collaboration and openness, which I saw even in academia. I noticed that even academia was turning into branches of proprietary corporate research and development, as opposed to the original mission of culturing open knowledge toward the benefit of everybody.

2. How do you find others to collaborate with? Can anyone get involved?
We publish video and other documentation on our blog. Anyone can get involved. We are currently reorganizing and putting up a new website. Our focus is to facilitate meaningful involvement from a large group of global collaborators — and we are reorganizing with this central mission in mind.

LifeTrac, one of the first tools created in the GVCS.

3. How did you conduct your research to pinpoint the industrial machines included in the GVCS?
We took each of the basic services required for a community infrastructure, and selected the best tool to meet that need. We evaluated these tools by the Product Selection Metric to quantify the importance of our selections.

4. What is your prototyping process? And what are the challenges of making machines that have interchangeable parts, motors, and power units?
The prototyping process follows all the steps from conceptual design to CAD to fabrication to testing, while considering all the desirable properties, known as OSE Specifications. For a more detailed description, you can see our 30-step development template.

The main challenge in this process is interface design. The challenge is how one interfaces, or fits together and connects the wide array of disparate modules and interchangeable parts. While mainstream industrial design focuses on dedicated functional parts, we need to design the additional element of interchangeability for interoperability. This is not a trivial issue, yet it is critical for designing a more human-friendly, lower cost, multifunctional technology set. In Lego blocks one simply snaps two blocks together to connect them. With real mechanical hardware, this is not as easy, as the heavy weight, different power levels, and different geometries need to be considered. We have demonstrated that interchangeability is indeed feasible with life-sized mechanical hardware.

Global Village Construction Set CEB Press

The GVCS Compressed Earth Brick Press.

5. How many machines in total do you hope to prototype? How many are already done?
We’ve identified 50 of the most important machines that allow modern life to exist –- the tools we use every day — everything from a tractor to a bread oven to a circuit maker. We have so far built 8 prototypes and we have one full product release; the Compressed Earth Brick press. Our goal is ambitious: to finish the 50 tools within 2 years and a $2M budget. We are currently reorganizing to meet this goal, and we are optimistic about the development. I have recently been selected as a TED Fellow, and we expect this to put us to the world stage. We got featured in Grist Magazine and Gizmodo recently, and our momentum and team is building.

If you are interested in joining the development team, we are looking for subject matter experts and organizational development assistance. Our greatest current challenge is not interest in the project, but absorbing new participants. We are working to address this issue. We are also developing our nonprofit funding component, where we think that a significant portion of funding for the rest of the Construction Set will come from foundations and individual donors. Contact us at opensourceecology@gmail.com if you can help.

6. Are the machines being currently used anywhere?
Our machines are being used and tested at Factor e Farm. You can see videos on our blog from last season, starting with this blog post and moving backwards. Moreover, we have sold 3 sets of the Tractor-Soil Pulverizer-Earth Brick Press package, which we will produce in our forthcoming production run in April. These will be our first examples of people using the equipment outside of Factor e Farm. These users’ applications include a startup CEB construction business and an organic farm.

7. Tell us about OSE Tour USA.
This is our lecture tour throughout the USA. I have been invited to a number of speaking opportunities to raise awareness and support for the project. If you are interested in hosting a lecture and if you can cover travel and an honorarium, then we are open to invitations.

Great work on an amazing mission, Marcin and the OSE crew! Once again, folks, if you want to get involved and help out, check out the wiki, the blog, this great little video of GVCS described in 2 minutes, and contact OSE at opensourceecology@gmail.com.

postheadericon 10 questions with Jeff Potter of Cooking for Geeks

Jeff-Potter---making-ice-cream-with-liquid-nitrogen-(low-res).jpg

Working at O’Reilly Media headquarters, I’d been hearing the buzz about the new book Cooking for Geeks for quite some time, so I was thrilled when I saw author Jeff Potter filming a video in the Make: Labs on how to hack your slow cooker into a sous vide rig. Anyone interested in the science behind food and cooking needs to grab a copy of this unique and fascinating book. Check out the video Jeff was filming for a taste, and then hear what he has to say to 10 questions we asked.

Subscribe to the MAKE Podcast in iTunes, download the m4v video directly, or watch it on YouTube and Vimeo.

1. What inspired you to write Cooking for Geeks?
I so want to answer “I was hungry!” and leave it at that. I’m lucky to have parents that took time to cook with me as a kid growing up — food and cooking was just something that was part of my background. When I got to college, I was surprised to learn that this really wasn’t a very common thing; most of my classmates didn’t know how to cook. And I also discovered that I didn’t really know how to cook dinner — just breakfast and dessert, since that’s what my interests had been as a kid. (Who me, sweet tooth? *Never.*) I spent the better part of a decade learning to turn out a good meal, pretty much by trial and error. In many ways, Cooking for Geeks is the book I wish I’d had ten years ago, so that my trial-and-error stage would have been much, much shorter.

2. Tell us how Cooking for Geeks differs from conventional cookbooks.
Most cookbooks are just collections of recipes. They’re really notes from one cook to another, reminders of quantity and steps. But it’s rare for a cookbook to actually step back and look at the bigger picture. Being a geek — somebody who’s curious how things work — I wanted more than just “do this, do that” type of instructions. When it comes to cooking, having some basic food science actually ends up being incredibly important.

3. What’s your background? What kind of geek are you?
Let’s see, part German, part English, part Norwegian, part Irish. I studied both computer science and visual art at Brown, so I guess you could say that my “geek cred” comes from the CS degree, although really I think anyone who applies any sort of scientific approach would auto-qualify as a geek.

4. When did you start making cookbooks?
My mom dug up one from I think it was 1984? It’d been a class project where each student was assigned to bring one recipe to contribute. I liked pancakes a lot as a kid, so my page was pancakes.

5. You write, “Cooking is about community, and sharing knowledge and food is one of the best ways to build community.” Explain.
We all eat, and we all rely on others to some degree or another for food. Whether you’re talking about the farmer that supplies the grocery store or the cook who’s put together the meal in front of you, food is a social thing. And if you look at community, so much of it is built up around taking care of each other, and cooking and eating food is one of the most important things that we do together. Regardless of your spiritual and political beliefs, sitting down together and breaking bread has the ability to bring people closer together.

6. What’s your favorite food hack to wow the masses?
Sous vide, hands down. If someone only has time to try one thing, I’d recommend sous vide. It’s probably one of the most important culinary techniques to have come around in the past few decades, but hasn’t yet really made it big on the consumer scene.

7. How do you celebrate/embrace failure?
With a bottle of either champagne or whisky? Just joking, although isn’t it funny how certain drinks have moods attached to them? There’s short-term failure — whoops, I burnt the dinner — which I generally don’t care too much about, besides trying to pick out the obvious lesson and improve my understanding of how things work. Then there’s long-term failure — whoops, I just spent 2 months on research that is going straight into the trashcan for no reason other than “it just didn’t work out.” I don’t really look back long enough though to be bothered by what I’ve done. It’s generally “On to the next thing!” with me.

8. What new idea has excited you most recently?
Well, there’s generic stuff, like “the internet” which is really code for “disruption of traditional models,” such as things like TV over the web. (If you think what happened to the music industry was tough, wait until you see what happens in the next 5 to 10 years with TV — decoupling content creation from content distribution is going to radically change the way we consume, and fund, media.) Then there’s specific stuff, such as understanding smell and flavors, and thinking about how new combinations of ingredients can be algorithmically deduced. Bernard Lahousse has done some great work in this area, and has a neat online tool for doing just that (see foodpairing.com).

“Exciting” generally means up-beat, but I think Douglas Coupland’s “Pessimist’s Guide to the Next 10 Years” will turn out to be incredibly prescient.

9. Who are your inspirations?
This is going to sound cheesy, but my parents. They worked hard; and sometimes that work paid off, and sometimes it didn’t. I think it’s too easy to see public figures — sport players, actors, politicians — and idealize them, but the danger with that is you never really see just how hard these people have to work to get to where they’re at, whereas when you know someone beyond their public image, you get a real sense of who they are and what makes them tick. Not to say that public figures shouldn’t serve as role models, but I think too many people look at their achievements and desire the payoff without the work, and without understanding what the odds are really like.

10. What advice would you give to apprehensive chefs just getting started?
As one of the interviewees told me: “Just get in there and try it.” It might not come out the way you expected, but that’s OK. And learn to see where things are going, and adjust accordingly. Regardless of the profession, every example of a great creative outcome I’ve seen has been the result of a tight feedback loop: do something, see how it comes out, adjust, repeat. I can’t think of many examples or people I’ve interviewed where they just sat down and knocked out the perfect whatever on their first attempt.

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postheadericon Colin Miller explains the Gadgeteer hardware system

Colin Miller has been working on the Gadgeteer system for the .Net environment and talked to us about it at World Maker Faire.

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postheadericon Potter’s Lawnmower Wheel maker interview

potters-lawnmower-wheel.jpg

The last in our interview series with makers presenting at World Maker Faire New York this weekend is with Michael Owen, who is bringing his Potter’s Lawnmower Wheel. Necessity is the mother of invention, and as a potter, Michael created a tool he needed out of what he had access to. Here’s what he shared with us.

1. Tell us about the project(s) you’re bringing to Maker Faire.
I’m a potter who needs more equipment. I’ve used every type of wheel made and feel that the type I’m making is the best. Unfortunately these things go for a couple thousand bucks each. Mine is made from an old riding lawnmower deck. Still under construction so the value is still to be determined.

2. How did you hear about Maker Faire and why did you decide to participate?
I ran across the magazine a few years back and my bud Nick Normal invited me to get into this NYC event.

3. Tell us about yourself. How did you get started making things and who are your inspirations?
I’ve been making things since early childhood. Always around tools, so I guess I’d have to say my dad was my big inspiration.

4. Is your project strictly a hobby or a budding business? Does it relate to your day job?
I hope it’s a budding business. I’m trying to build up a community studio. I was involved in one when I lived on Maui back in the early 90s and found that clay was a natural for sharing tools and ideas.

5. What new idea (in or outside of your field) has excited you most recently?
I’m very interested in algae farming for biofuel production and ocean restoration technologies. Water purification is the other big one.

6. What is your motto?
Focus on excellence, and life will have meaning.

7. What advice would you give to the young makers out there just getting started?
Hang around with people who have the skills or tools you lack. Give your knowledge away; forget about getting rich.

8. What do you love most about NYC?
So many great people from outside the U.S.

Thanks Michael! Folks in the New York area, come out to the World Maker Faire tomorrow and Sunday at the New York Hall of Science and check out the hundreds of inspiring handmade projects on display.

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