On December 23rd, Emi Watanabe
and I went to Kampala, Uganda for about 3 weeks. The goal of this trip was to work with Paola de Cecco and Village Energy
to help fix the three 3D printers they have (a Rapidbot and two Printrbots), teach solid modeling skills, and work on the designs of the solar products they are creating. The purpose of these solar products is to enable local entrepreneurs by manufacturing the products locally, training cell phone technicians on how to use and set them up, and sell them to the more remote villages of Uganda that need them. We funded the trip with a crowdfunding campaign
through a nonprofit organization, ReAllocate
. We were funded mainly by family and friends, something that I find extraordinarily incredible and I appreciate so much.
The reason I went was because the opportunity to be helpful presented itself. Paola was in need and between the skills of Emi and myself, we hoped that we could be helpful. I have a degree in mechanical engineering but I'm doubtful that the skills necessary for a project like this are due to the lessons I learned in the classroom. The skills that are necessary are the skills I've learned through internet communities that are working on open source designs (both hardware and software). The skills I learned tinkering with electronics in a small apartment while going to school. The skills I have gained by growing up in a rural area, in which the idea of self reliance was deeply established in me by my parents. The skills I have gained by spending over two years teaching electronics, making, and troubleshooting to students aged 8 to 40 years old.
I'm hopeful that philanthropic endeavors will be the next progression of the maker movement. The time in which those of us who have learned so much and have been enabled in ways that we didn't think possible a few years ago, can go out and teach others, enabling them the same way that we have. The democratization of knowledge that has been given to us through the internet has allowed us to learn rapidly. Through internet-based open source projects like Arduino and Reprap, I foresee huge strides in what we, as a global society, can do. We now have the platforms to work together, determine and create possible solutions to real needs around the world. It is getting to the point were we don't even have to invest a lot of money or even time to begin doing it. We are so close that it is already starting to happen
. By globally collaborating on these open source projects, we can build and change so much faster than any other point in history. 3D printers have been around for a few decades, but it took the open source style of development only a few years to turn it into a disruptive manufacturing movement. Cost has been drastically reduced, quality has increased hugely, and it has enabled large numbers of new businesses built on the creation of these machines. So, we have access to the knowledge, we are getting access to the tools. What are we going to build with them? At this point, I don't know, but it has the potential to be huge.