My company in NYC was doing a community
service day in the South Bronx. On the way there, I got waylaid on
the street by a short older man who said in a thick Jackie Mason
accent: "Young man! Do you want to learn electrical engineering?"
I was so intrigued that I followed him a few blocks away, past a whole
bunch of disquieting, Wile E. Coyote-style "Free Technical School in
basement: GO RIGHT IN! RIGHT THIS WAY!" signs, and found, basically,
an underground maker's lair consisting of a big unimproved basement
filled with chairs, boilers, and homemade electrical diagnostic
devices. Plus LCD monitors mounted on the wall, CAT6 cable, and
dry-erase boards filled with math. All the ingredients of a
supervillain's lair. Except used in the service of creating more
I was terrified the whole time (South Bronx! Three stories
underground! Genial elderly man who's spouting theories about
biodiesel to passers-by!), but it turns out that he's teaching a
highly employable skill, for free, to anyone with a clean police
record in a depressed neighborhood.
There are some pictures here, if you want to see the "Free elec.
school in basement go right in" signs for yourself.
I asked Amy Parness, the co-founder of Sparkle Labs, maker of fantastic educational electronics kits, to write a Medium post about gender and the business of being a maker business person. Her terrific essay calls out the problems with “pink girly engineering kits.” From Medium:
Zero UI is the new term for “invisible interfaces”—what happens in the future when all the clicking and tapping and typing is history: “If you look at the history of computing, starting with the jacquard loom in 1801, humans have always had to interact with machines in a really abstract, complex way.” [Fast Company]
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