Friday, November 13, 2009

Tinkering Makes Comeback Amid Crisis

The CareerTech Update lead me to an article in the Wall Street Journal (11/12, A1, Lahart) which reported that tinkering is making a comeback in the US. New technology such as contemporary milling machines and other computer numerical controlled (CNC) tools, more widely available because of decreased costs, has contributed to this trend, as have increased interest among students for mechanical engineering, and for hands-on work. MIT engineering professor Michael Cima said that the current financial crisis has also fostered a desire for creativity and innovation with tangible results. Whatever the causes, workshops called hackerspaces have been turning up across the US at a rapid pace in the past year, as has interest in do-it-yourself technology. While declines in R&D spending has prompted some concern from experts about the state of innovation in the US, the Journal notes that this tinkering among students and enthusiasts represents R&D that is outside of official figures.

I am intrigued by the idea of "Hackerspaces." These are workshops for people to share tools and ideas and they are popping up all over the country (there are 124 hackerspaces in the U.S., according to a member-run group that keeps track, up from a handful at the start of last year). I wonder if "Hackerspaces" could be another form of economic innovation/development that Oklahoma's CareerTech system could offer in their districts? It seems like a great fit: hackerspace to incubator to technology park or local business district.

Honestly, there aren't a lot of good things about difficult economic times, except every downturn seems to spur creativity and a state of excitement will always ensue. I'm amazed by young entrepreneurs and their level of creativity. The CareerTech system in Oklahoma has been supporting entrepreneurs and small business since its inception and it is my belief that this partnership will continue to grow over the course of time. What do you all think of hackerspaces???

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