This issue highlights the rise of “maker culture,” and how new technology, such as 3-D printing, makes the path from concept to physical reality much simpler and shorter than traditional construction techniques and tools.
I wonder what Mr. Waseleski, my eighth grade shop teacher, would think about these trends and technologies? Back then, all boys were required to take two years of shop class. (Girls took home economics.) The underlying assumption—even in a suburban school—was that we were all in training to become tradesmen. Mr. Waseleski viewed his job as training us to become skilled factory workers.
We learned how to use a few tools, but mostly I remember spending hours sanding things by hand, using each piece of sandpaper until there was hardly any grit left. The concepts of “being creative” and “rapid prototyping” were certainly not among Mr. Waseleski’s priorities!
In the intervening years, shop classes have largely disappeared, at least as a requirement. Children grow up using their hands mainly to type on keyboards and to operate game controllers.
But we are seeing a growing interest in constructing tangible objects, where participants do things not because they have to, but because they want to. We can make objects at the push of a button that traditionally would have taken hours of cutting, drilling and (of course) sanding.
Consider how programmable smartphones have enabled developers to create and disseminate applications that perform a huge variety of tasks. Now: Imagine what creative people will be able to do with these new manufacturing technologies.
Randal E. Bryant
Dean and University Professor
School of Computer Science
Jason Togyer | 412-268-8721 | firstname.lastname@example.org