Went to the Bay Area Maker Faire — attendance estimated at 125,000 for the weekend, clear 95°+F weather, ridiculous sardine-can crowd conditions, meh-to-magnificent-to-magical — total geek-out heaven — a rare venue that unites the universe of creative makery and Burner mockery — where a guy in kilt and goggles and a girl in strings of bottle caps and LED lights feel right at home... even celebrated.
Rube Goldberg is alive and well next to the next Einsteins, Jobs and Musks. In short, I can't wait for 'til next year!
Maker Faire is a creative, cacophonic, enthusiastic explosion (often literally) to entertain, explore, astound, delight and wonder at. Involvement and immersion in the "maker experience" is an important part of what makes The Faire work.
I highly recommend Maker Faires, wherever you are with over 120 featured and mini Maker Faires all over the USA and including Tokyo, Rome, Detroit, Oslo and Shenzhen!
Inventors can gain ideas, inspiration, knowledge, instruction, mentors and collaborators at Maker Faires, as well as the myriad of maker spaces that are popping up all over the place.
Katharine Burr Blodgett (1898-1979) invented coatings for glass that made it anti-reflective, coined "invisible glass." She was the first woman to be awarded a PhD in Physics from the University of Cambridge in 1926.
Katharine held eight patents as a scientist who contributed to breakthroughs in cinematography, plasma physics, deicing aircraft wings, poison gas adsorbents and improvements to the light bulb.
Here are three women who have some things in common. What do you think they are?
Stephanie Kwolek (1923-2014) created the unusually lightweight and durable new fiber that DuPont later developed into Kevlar, used in everything from military helmets to sports equipment to fiber-optic cables. She worked for DuPont for 40 years.
She was the only woman to be awarded DuPont's Lavoisier Medal for outstanding technical achievement. DuPont has made billions in revenue from Stephanie's work, yet she never benefitted directly. After she retired she worked specifically to introduce girls to scientific fields, and tutored in chemistry.
I don't know her well, but Mary Lou Jepsen (1965-) is one of my favorite people. An explorer, entrepreneur, pioneer and moonshot dreamer, I first found out about Mary Lou through my friend Edward Cherlin, who was working with the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project, developing educational resources for children. He told me about the laptop's screen, which could switch from full color to daylight-readable black-and-white. I said "What?"
Mary Lou was a co-founder of that project with Nicholas Negroponte and the lead inventor of the "$100 Laptop." The OLPC project is so valuable to teach how powerful constraints are for truly breakthrough product design.
Mary Lou Jepsen — one of TIME's 100 Most Influential People in the World — is a very long way from being done. Her work in optics, computers, screen technologies, VR, AR, wearables and now medical visualization wearables is astonishing. I can't wait to see what she does next, and is one of my favorite people to follow. Watch her TED Talk here.
What does this have to do with inventing? I'll get to that in a minute...
This is a really well-done film... at least all Americans should see it, although it will have global appeal. I'm not going to review it here either.
I saw "Hidden Figures" this evening... a fascinating bit of history that most people had no idea about. I didn't until the trailers came out, and relatively recently. I had two big questions after seeing it:
So, a Call to Action to all inventors is to work on something like renewable energy, a combination of high-efficiency solar, wind power, safe/sane nuclear power, wave/current power and other energy generation — everyone wins! Jobs are created, less pollution, etc. And regardless of global warming, this would be a boon to all. Instead of a "Space Race," how about an "Energy Race"?
What other Big Ideas could inventors work on collaboratively to make a difference to all humanity?
Go see Hidden Figures... get inspired to do big things!
Recently finished listening to the audio book narrated by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author... Audible is a great resource! Mr. McCullough goes into fascinating detail about their early lives, their supportive sister Katherine and learned father Bishop Wright. Seems David even writes using language that emulates American-speak during the early 1900s.
There is great detail about their academic research, exhaustive and careful experiments, countless prototypes and tests... even building their own small wind tunnel to test wing shapes, which they fashioned after years of watching birds in flight. The book also details their lives after that first flight through continued test flights and constant improvements. And they did it all for less than $2,000. Samuel Langley had about $70,000 of US taxpayer money at his disposal and never did produce a machine that actually flew. Look for a future post about spending money on inventing!
The brothers Wright did it all themselves too. When they got around to powering their glider, they had to design and make their own propellers. They couldn't find an engine that suited them, so they built their own.
They were singularly focused on flying too. From the book, Wilbur Wright was quoted about the newfangled automobiles that were around at the time: "He could not imagine... how any contrivance that made such a racket and had so many things constantly going wrong with it could ever have a future." However they could certainly imagine a future of powered flight, and persisted until they claimed the ultimate prize.
Back at the end of September I posted about Dave Zuverink's Slim Pack, his third success through Kickstarter. With 1,236 backers he raised $206,572 of his original goal of $20,000, and pre-orders are still coming in as he works to fulfill them.
I finally got to sit down with him for a follow-up and found him very thoughtful, quiet and meticulous about his work. He told me he's finally getting comfortable about leaving his [great] job to work on his own products full time. $200K sounds like a lot of money... and it is!... but you have to remember the cost of materials, manufacturing, labor/assistants, packaging, shipping, etcetera, and a lot of Dave's time invested.
This has nothing to do with cars, let alone Audis, with the exception that this process "vehicle" is proven on the test track, well-built and fast. For my startup consulting work I developed the "A6 Process" for getting things done in a group. These six steps also apply to your work as an Interdependent Inventor. They are, in a particular order:
Acceptance. This step is where you make the commitment to your project based on what you've discovered so far... what you know and don't know. This is the step of trust. Trust in your team if you have one, and trust in yourself. This is going with what you've got... with confidence!
Assembly. Okay, you're going for it! This step is gathering your team, your resources and your resolve to move forward in an organized way. This is like preparing for an Arctic expedition — getting your team, your dogs, your gear and essential equipment together, and putting together your initial plan and checklist.
Agreement. This is your Solidarity Pact. You and your team, or advisors, or helpers or friends all need to be on the same page and understand clearly what needs to be done. Roles and responsibilities need to be clearly stated and understood by all stakeholders.
Action! Self-explanatory... I hope. At this point, "just do it," to follow Nike's sage advice. You've prepared for this moment, so act with confidence based on Steps One through Four.
Adjustment. This final step in the A6 cycle is for reflection, evaluation and next steps in preparation to... go back to Step One: Awareness. What happened? Why? What do I need to change to be better this next round?
I wrote those three words in that order for a reason... I think they represent a progression of sorts, and there are distinctions between the words.
"I have no private interest in the reception of my inventions by the world, having never made, or proposed to make, the least profit by any of them." — Benjamin Franklin, who brought us the lightning rod, bifocal spectacles, the Franklin Stove, and... in a large part... helped invent America itself!
"You have to have a big vision and take very small steps to get there. You have to be humble as you execute but visionary and gigantic in terms of your aspiration. In the Internet industry, it's not about grand innovation, it's about a lot of little innovations: every day, every week, every month, making something a little bit better." — Jason Calacanis, American Internet entrepreneur, angel investor, author and blogger.
"If you think good design is expensive, you should look at the cost of bad design." — Ralf Speth, CEO of Jaguar / Land Rover.
And, to cover all bases I quote you the words of one of my heroes: “I am enthusiastic over humanity’s extraordinary and sometimes very timely ingenuity. If you are in a shipwreck and all the boats are gone, a piano top buoyant enough to keep you afloat that comes along makes a fortuitous life preserver. But this is not to say that the best way to design a life preserver is in the form of a piano top. I think that we are clinging to a great many piano tops in accepting yesterday’s fortuitous contrivings as constituting the only means for solving a given problem.” — R. Buckminster Fuller, inventor, architect and designer.
I support the inventors, innovators and designers of the world, and am committed to providing the best resources for them to prosper. I welcome your stories of success and insight for publication here!
Behold the humble paper clip. From an article in the Atlantic, we learn in 2010 Americans bought 11 billion of them. E-l-e-v-e-n, b-i-l-l-i-o-n! Why? I think it's because Angus MacGyver used them so often as tool to save the day. U.S. Patent #64,088 was awarded to Samuel B. Fay in 1867, but it didn't achieve wide-spread use until William Middlebrook invented the machine to mass produce the Gem Paper Clip in 1899.
There's a great quote from a wonder-filled little book by the brilliant Paola Antonelli, Curator of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art, NY. The quote follows:
"The paper clip is constantly being reinvented and improved upon, but it is a set of eight qualities that every paper clip strives for and that none has yet attained in unison. The paper clip should not catch, mutilate or tear papers. It should not tangle with other clips, and should be able to hold a thick set of papers securely. A thin paper clip is ideal, since it takes up less space in files, requires less postage for sent document stacks, and uses less wire, keeping it cheap. It should be easily used. While no paper clip has yet achieved all eight qualities, it is one of the easiest to use and most enduring products ever designed, and shows no signs of being replaced." — excerpted from "Humble Masterpieces — Everyday Marvels of Design" page 193, by Paola Antonelli.
This excerpt is particularly interesting to me because of the eight qualities to strive for. I'm still in possession of several round paper clips that I received from the inventor back around 1990. I hope I uncover his name and more info from one of the Invent! Magazine issues I'll be re-publishing soon. I photographed it sitting on the cover of Paola's book (below right). I believe it may possess all eight qualities Paola named above! (Paola, if you're reading this, let me know and I'll send you one so you can judge! And if you're the inventor I met back in Invent! days, please contact me!!