Tag Archives: startup

Plotting a maker businesses meetup in Boston

A friend of mine suggested I find people to mentor me as I startup.

I naturally decided I should go Organize A Thing. To get a rough gauge of how many maker businesses / hardware startups there are in cambridge/boston, I skimmed through kickstarter by city (both cambridge and boston).
http://www.kickstarter.com/discover/cities/cambridge-ma/funding?ref=more#p1
(sadly, you can’t sort by both “boston” and “technology”

The spreadsheet is here:
http://goo.gl/0092S

There will be edit privileges for the next few weeks or so for that link unless something terrible starts happening. Feel free to contribute notes.

The conclusion was that somewhere upwards of 30 companies, I think within the last 5 years, have been successfully fundedο»Ώ: (see google docs for links to the kickstarter pages) (accounting for there are probably companies I missed on my skim, and for instance Twine, founded by MIT Media Lab grads, would probably be willing to be part of the network even if they are not in Boston right now).

Additionally, I was linked to this site that already does data around kickstarter when I asked whether there was a graph of OneTesla’s funding:
http://www.kicktraq.com/projects/onetesla/onetesla-a-diy-singing-tesla-coil

The Companies:

  1. Fuel: The world’s smallest cell phone charger
  2. drive with dash
  3. monkeyoh
  4. 3doodler
  5. Carbon Fiber Jewelry Rings
  6. The Orbit Turntable
  7. Loud Bicycle: Car horn for your bike
  8. Mini Pouch for your iPad Mini, Nexus, Kindle and more
  9. Pocket Monkey: The Wallet Utility Tool
  10. iStrike Shuttle- iOS controlled drone
  11. Convertable Axis Bracket CAB / The Ultimate Cheese-Plate UCP
  12. The Pen Project
  13. The Kick – a pocket sized lighting studio for photo & video
  14. Knut: Stay Connected
  15. Corter Leather Bottle Hook
  16. Cam Crate: DSLR Life Proof Camera Case
  17. diFeltro Fold, Italian handcrafted bag for iPad
  18. The Retina Project
  19. The Clip by LittleBonsai
  20. FXdoctor 8-Bit Fuzz Pedal’s US Tour
  21. CEE: The USB analog electronics multi-tool
  22. WALdok :: Wall Plug-In Speaker/Charger for iPhone/iPods
  23. Modkit – Electronics (Arduino) for Everyone
  24. Lockpicks by Open Locksport
  25. Inevitable: dystopian tabletop gaming
  26. BrickItUp!
  27. Twine
  28. Olopede
  29. onetesla

The meetup would be something like “share one lesson you learned” sort of lightning talk deal to create a supportive ecosystem of maker businesses.
As for whether an actual Meetup will happen… somewhere in my copious spare time…

[edit 3/31] some ones i missed: sprout pencil

Continued thoughts on online edtech startlols

Formalizing why my idea is a valid one (a good plan before spending several months / hundreds of dollars on it).

http://hackeducation.com/2012/11/21/top-ed-tech-trends-of-2012-maker-movement/

Maker culture isn’t turning to Sand Hill funding because this experience doesn’t scale or grow at Paul Graham rates. The experience, for each child, will personal and meandering. Great mentors can guide, good materials can enable, but there’s nothing to automate.
I’ve felt the incredible rising tide of Maker-Ed over the last 10 months, but that hasn’t made my work with actual kids move any faster.
LittleBits, MakeyMakey, and other funded projects in this space have found success producing a discrete tool/play kit that a learner can continually and non-linearly poke at. If someone shows me a graduated sequence of LittleBits learning targets and an web quizzes for assessing them, I will build a banana triggered junk kicking robot just for them. –andrew carle

Hmm. This criticism is super-concerning to me, because I’ve heard a lot of similar sentiment (fully kitted / canned labs) from friends of mine (e.g. from hall alum feldmeier, founder of openmusiclabs (hackaday)) I respect.
Maybe this is true. On the other hand, I can’t count the number of people I’ve had approach me or MITERS who are interested in making things but not quite enough and seem to just need a little guidance. Similarly, for myself, I found it useful to build something cool/awesome in order to learn the skills (not just technical skills, but also skills like how to find resources online, finding the courage to ask questions, how to ask questions coherently… okay still working on that last one) I needed to go forth and build my own cool projects. For learning, there’s no shame in copying as long as you credit your sources. No need to reinvent the wheel just yet.

[edit: 3/24/13] After talking a bit with +Josh Gordonson (blog / working on olopede), I have some further thoughts:
“Just do it.” So what. So it’s not a kit that empowers people to build everything ever. So what if by its very nature the kit is rather formulaic. There is still value in exposing people to cool things and showing people they’re capable of building and understanding these things. So maybe it’s not the most innovative / experimental online learning platform out there (right now I’m planning on following the learning creative learning’s path of not writing my own platform and really on tools existing out there). And even if I fail (to make a sustainable business), I will still have accomplished something useful to other people and to myself. Better than sitting here and fretting — even if I fail, less of a waste of time to have attempted to engineer this than to constantly research.

http://www.hackeducation.com/2011/07/19/the-wrath-against-khan-why-some-educators-are-questioning-khan-academy/

What troubles me about many of the criticisms of Khan Academy is that they are positioned against alternatives that are relatively scarce in the real world. Are Khan’s videos essentially lectures? Sure. But they’re better lectures than many students will ever get from their classroom teachers. Are there more effective ways of teaching some students? Sure. But many students (many, many, many students worldwide) will never have access to those teaching methods at any price, never mind for free.  —Michael Feldstein

I’ve been working in a public classroom for one of my classes, and teaching is hard. More on that in later posts, but doing things like asking kids “what do you think that is” (engaging them) versus “this is what’s going on” (lecturing them) is something that takes effort. Is this something that is transferable to the online world (because currently I only have udacity-style in mind, which is basically lecture based with “finger questions,” mid-lecture questions that check understanding and you raise your finger to show your asnwer)? Does it matter if you don’t have 30 kids compelled to be there and instead are addressing self-directed learner? Not sure.

I’m learning toward KISS — keep it stupidly simple. Do a bare-minimum, replica of existing work just cobbled together, for Aug 31. Hopefully that will give me enough momentum / convince people to help me to make it seem definitive that I can do this instead of landing a job.

Also, such an excellent image from that article:

obama marshmellow canon

Also, today I talked to Prof. Mitch Resnick when Dale Stephens (Uncollege) came to give a talk at the media lab. More about that later too! Briefly, there were some provocative comments, such as 
  • “If/When will an unschooler ever get a Nobel Prize in Science, and how do we get there?”
  • And I asked the same question mentioned earlier by another blog: where do we stand, university’s value to students versus university’s value to society? (university as public good)
  • Education becoming like a game, with loopholes, for premed and finance students
  • and a key thought that was surprising to me back when I first heard of it: common core (more rigid curricula) as a detriment to self-motivated learning. This is because the teachers don’t have time to be flexible and accommodate things, for instance some people from Harvard/MIT/Wellesley coming in and teaching about engineering and the design process.
Also, LOL, a comic about the increasing frenzy surrounding Massive Open Online Courses:
http://info.p2pu.org/2013/03/16/open-learning-webinar-the-proof/

MIT Founders’ Skills Accelerator 2013 application in non-form format

Ugh, the Founders’ Skill Accelerator application is in this dumb form format, where you have to fill out required questions on each page before seeing the rest of the application. I put in dummy answers and then compiled all the questions the application asks as of now.

In neat google doc form:
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1dgtuI_cpWE-TWoLtpPvW_wsbbLbqRnEQJoWFkgohl-c/edit?usp=sharing

I copied it below as well, but too lazy to fix the formatting.
==

http://entrepreneurship.mit.edu/fsa/faq
http://www.tfaforms.com/forms/resume/275181

Teams should commit to work in the FSA office space for the duration of the summer (June 1-August 31), and present at the Demo Day on September 7.

Page 1
Deadline: Friday, April 5, 2013 at 5pm EST
Bio (2-3 students) for each of us

How long have you known each other, and what have you worked on in the past? (Include past work done on this project, if applicable.)

Will the team member work in the FSA space Room E40-160 in Cambridge, Mass. for the duration of the summer (June 1 – Aug 31)?

Page 2
Your Project
We call each team’s work a “project” to emphasize the educational nature of the accelerator.

  • What problem are you trying to solve through your project?
  • Tweet us your elevator pitch — give us your elevator pitch in 140 characters or less.

  • Page 3

Proposed Milestones (aka how your team earns up to $20K!)
What do you want to achieve this summer? We will work with you to create rigorous yet achievable milestones, but we’d first like to hear from you. Where do you want your team to be by mid-September regarding customers, product, team, and finances? (list 2-5) For more explanation about milestones, including examples, please go to http://entrepreneurship.mit.edu/fsa

Proposed Customer Milestones (list 2-5 for each)

  • customers
  • product
  • team
  • finances


http://entrepreneurship.mit.edu/fsa/milestones
Page 4
Additional Questions
What inspired your team to get together and work on this project?

Who do you view as your competitors, and how do you differ from them?

Who is your target customer? (Hint: “Everyone” is not the right answer.)

Have you received any funding (including angels, family/friends, personal dollars invested, etc.)? Do you have any customers? (These two questions help us gauge your starting point, so don’t worry, there is no “wrong answer.”)

We will have a lot of applications for this program, so choosing our final teams will be tough. Why do you think you should rise to the top? What sets you apart from other teams?

 ==
Questions I need to ask:
Can I work out of IDC space instead (the MIT-SUTD international design center is a co-sponsor of this) of the E15 space?
Incorporation of media (e.g. video) into application?
Alternative resources (because way to hang by a thread until May 1st)?

Key dates:

  • Due Friday, April 5 at 5pm. (week after spring break)
  • Notified by May 1st.
  • Work in space for duration of the summer (June 1-August 31), and present at the Demo Day on September 7.

Notes:

A select number of teams (in 2012, there were 26) will be interviewed in person during the week of April 22. Of the teams interviewed, we expect to select 8 teams for FSA 2013, but the FSA organizing team has full discretion over the number of teams selected.

So… odds are not great. Stipends are nice. Stipends will feed me. Maybe I should look into trying to get no-strings attached grants from places?

I made a video about hexapods.

I made a video about hexapods! yay. I’d estimate it was a full 4 or 5 days working on it, learning final cut pro along the way. It basically covers my journey through 2.007 two years ago, and is meant to be a resource for students in the class.

Note to self: shortcuts: < > ctrl-= alt-w

Meanwhile, I think an instructable a week sounds like an excellent plan for Spring semester senior year.

emergency motor controller fail

just an update to say no, i did not successfully make a motor controller in 48 hours πŸ™‚
(see previous post for schematic: http://www.orangenarwhals.com/?p=152)
what was it? a 6.131 final project / motor controller for hexarideablepod (derived off of an instructables):

which works, but uses an arduino and two victor speed controllers — total overkill. also, terrible UI: it uses a hard to reach switch for fwd/bwd and foot pedals, which little kids have issues reaching even with the awesome!adjustable-car-seat.

block diagrams! ewww.

https://github.com/nouyang/hexapodtroller for the eagle sch/brd. You can see terrible routing here:

power board (4 FETs to make a full H-bridge)
sig board — attiny44 and four FET drivers (21844s). also, chain voltage regulators from 24v battery to 15v for drivers to 5v for attiny logic.

speed routing and my inexperience led to use of 24 zero ohm resistors and I still used a jumper πŸ™‚

hai zero ohm resistor friends
If you look closely, you can see some of the trace fails (compare IRL to board layout) which were probably due to too high error allowances when the fab module was creating the roland modela machine code. See: pins 8 and 9 on the top right side of the topmost IC, the attiny44. They’re connected on the board but not on the schematic. I used eagle’s erc/drc and it didn’t point out a warning so I’m going to assume it was mill code generation settings, not limits of mill capability.
I discovered how useful eagle layers are, even in the interface is terribly clunky.

I create zero-ohm resistors a dumb way that actually turns out to be helpful when populating a lot of them. Since they each have an air wire, I can set air wires to a nice contrasting color and see where they all are:

Another note, I milled out the moles CNC-ly too using GIMP to get the traces I needed, but :/ milled them out too small and had difficulty getting the 3.5mm spacing power connectors to go through the board — had to carefully use a vise.

This is what the final half-populated boards looked like:

Sensors! Data! (Internet of Things Startups / research)

A few friends and I are thinking of working on an open source everything [1] project over IAP (January).

Some research into people working on similar projects:
======
Many links from: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3276596
======
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/supermechanical/twine-listen-to-your-world-talk-to-the-internet
Twine — Cambridge, MA
~$100, automation oriented web app, 3 sensors, wifi connected. (oh hai mit media lab people o.o)

======
GreenGoose
http://greengoose.com/learn
Be a good egg. Learn More.
whoa sticker sensors! eeeeee!
ethernet base station, 250+ feet range, probably in $100+ closer to $200 range
tedx towatch http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=evKoXorLhqI
======
http://postscapes.com/companies IoT company listings
http://ifttt.com/wtf software only
======
SPOTS
http://java.net/projects/spots/pages/Home older SPOTS, not commercial (educational)
“small, Java-based, wireless devices developed at Oracle Labs. The SPOTs project is the place on java.net for development of open source code relating to Sun SPOTs. This includes system code, application frameworks, demonstrations, and applications.”
======
Rascal — Somerville, MA
http://rascalmicro.com/
$100+ (close to $200) open source hardware FTW! ^^ From the frontpage:

How the Rascal works
Basically takes care of talking to internet, web GUI, and data logging for your arduino-connected sensor

Can I steal the design? 

I’m giving you the design, so no, technically you can’t steal it. If you want to make your own version of the Rascal under a different name, or use it in a commercial product, go ahead. Seriously, do it. I’ll never saturate the market for devices like the Rascal, and I’m already working on the next design anyway. asdfjhadf yay oshw

=====
https://code.google.com/p/pubsubhubbub/ idk what are this. pushing atom/rss updates instead of making scripts constantly poll?
=====
Mbed
http://mbed.org/handbook/Tour — makes experimenting with microcontrollers easier
=====
TinkerKit
educational, <$50 range for sensors (requires Arduino, not designed with connecting to Internet in mind?)
http://store.arduino.cc/ww/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=16&sort=20a&page=2
=====
Grove Easy Prototyping Series
http://www.seeedstudio.com/depot/index.php?main_page=advanced_search_result&search_in_description=1&keyword=grovefamily
=====

None of the sensor platform-y ones are open source hardware, though. Or designed with the intent of enabling people to modify and extend the sets of sensors. >__> bwahahaha

Our idea doesn’t actually fall into “internet of things” because (at least initially) we’re aiming for Really Cheap ($10 or less a sensor).

Thoughts: conflict, we want lots of data so we’re aiming for inexpensive sensor boards and part of the cost-savings is not having wireless capability on each board. But that implies we want people to get lots of sensors (yay more data to crunch and visualize!), which means that’s a lot of data to read manually (will people have the patience? Perhaps it’d be like watering plants — not everyone is cut out for it)

My hope is that in two weeks, when we get to wireless networks in MAS.863, I will have the magic. See: http://fab.cba.mit.edu/content/tools/circuits/network_transport/

=====
More on the business-y side:
http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/top_10_internet_of_things_developments_of_2010.php
nice infographics: http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/cisco_50_billion_things_on_the_internet_by_2020.php
nice graphical overview of IoT idea and potential: http://wwwen.zte.com.cn/endata/magazine/ztetechnologies/2010/no5/articles/201005/t20100510_184418.html

Economic-y Research Reports
http://www.thehammersmithgroup.com/images/reports/networked_objects.pdf
http://www.mckinsey.com/mgi/publications/internet_matters/pdfs/MGI_internet_matters_full_report.pdf
http://laurielamberth.com/2010/09/chattering-objects-economist-covers-lamberths-internet-of-things-research-report/
=====
[1] (everything as in: hardware (schematic to gerber files), possibly our applications for various funds, software (data visualization), firmware (microcontroller code), businessware (using os shopping cart software like prestashop or zencart), research), documenting everything not just the final product — everything we learned and fixed)