No castles were stormed. No governments were overthrown. We’ve been experiencing a revolution in the worlds of engineering. It’s just been a quieter one than expected.
When open-source platforms and the maker movement started ramping up five years back or so, change came with its chants of “power to the people.” Indeed, the two trends that see individuals or groups of individuals create and possibly market products often without corporate intervention aim to do just that: give power of design to the masses.
As often accompanies change, fear came, as well. Fear that these self-proclaimed makers would take jobs from professional engineers, that open-source designs would work their way into high-level systems and leave them unsecure, that the design process would become a convoluted mess with every Tom and Sally Maker interfering and revising without end while flooding the market with underdeveloped consumer contraptions.
To be true, there has been some of that occurring. However, largely what we’ve seen is a flourishing interest in engineering brought by an easier approach to design. And while Tom and Sally Maker have created their share of flippant devices, we’ve also seen the rise of serious makers, sometimes call Pro Makers, like this month’s Embedded Systems Conference (ESC) keynote speaker Kipp Bradford.
Bradford, a MIT Media Lab research scientist, comes to ESC with numerous patents for his inventions and a background founding start-ups in the fields of transportation, consumer products, HVAC, and medical devices. Bradford actively pays forward STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) knowledge through open source and education. He’ll share his views on American Innovation and the gains of the maker movement on April 13, 2016, in Boston during ESC, an event owned by Design News’ parent company UBM. Find out how to attend ESC here and watch DesignNews.com for coverage of Bradford’s keynote.
Alongside engineers like Bradford who have come up through the maker movement, the clearest gains are what Design News Senior Technical Editor Chuck Murry describes as a “trickle-up” effect in his recent feature, ”The Maker Community Is Going High-Tech with FPGAs.” Beyond individual makers, industry leaders have backed open-source and maker designs, including Atmel’s strong support for Arduino and National Instruments alignment of maker and open-source practices into its broader design philosophies. As makers and students become more engaged with engineering techniques and disciplines, they’re likely to use them as tools in their professional careers, a trickle up, if you will.
The change that many feared when open source and the maker movement began to take hold has proved not to be a negative but a positive, growing STEM abilities, understanding, and careers. Engineering stands stronger than ever. The revolution has come without scorched castle doors or protests at state offices. It’s been much quieter than we thought, but don’t mistake quiet with unimpactful.
As you likely noticed by now in this column’s read, Design News has also experienced a change. As I step in as its new Editor-in-Chief, I look forward to meeting as many Design News readers as I can and learning what makes you, the 21st century design engineer, work.
You can find me at ESC this month or at [email protected] any time. Do reach out and do share your thoughts on the maker movement.