Geek heroine Jeri Ellsworth put up a YouTube video explaining how she might build a $10 version of the $5000 audible turn warning system recently installed on Portland public busses. In the comments, someone posting as "peterbartek" (the name of the CEO of TranCert Marketing, the company that installed the $5,000 systems under discussion) told Ellsworth that her video had "set back the progress of women 100 years" by criticizing the company's products. Peterbartek went on to talk in detail about the company's products and the complexities in designing "mitigating devices."
But when Ellsworth's supporters called Peter Bartek to task for telling her that she had betrayed her gender by criticizing his products (one Ellsworth Twitter follower wrote ""@peterbartek The only way Jeri Ellsworth could set back women 100 years would be by developing aï»¿ time machine in her guest room."), Bartek claimed that his YouTube account had been hacked, disclaimed all responsibility for the discussion, and then stopped answering emails altogether.
Phil Torrone at Make is skeptical of this story about hackers, and instead believes that Bartek was engaging in the long engineering tradition of crapping on women for being women:
When people ask me (or my partner, a female engineer) why we don't see as many women posting their projects, or participating as much online in the engineering community, we usually give specific examples instead of speculating "why?" Here's a good example that really got us upset (TriMet's talking buses, YouTube, sexism, online imposters: It's complicated By Joseph Rose, The Oregonian).
Jeri created a video showing an alternative way to make a noise-making device and strategy for TriMet's new audible warning system for pedestrians. Jeri has also has made a low cost body scanner, transistors, how-to videos, many engineering projects and she's one of the best engineers I know!. Jeri lives in Portland, OR and the bus system there is trying out a warning system, like any good engineer, Jeri thought about other ways to do it, and shared it.
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