Episode 17 — DIY

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How are the DIY and engineering communities meshing as prototyping and anlysis tools become more widely available? Chris and Jeff discuss the issue with a well-known inventor in this episode of The Engineering Commons podcast.

  • Since many engineering fields don’t require a license, there are few barriers to interested individuals learning and applying engineering theory.
  • Our guest for this episode is Steve Hoefer, a prolific inventor and maker, whose work is documented on the Grathio Labs website.
  • Steve was raised on a farm, so he learned problem-solving skills from an early age.
  • Although having a desire to write science-fiction, Steve minored in computer science while in college.
  • Steve’s first computer was a Texas Instruments TI-99, while Jeff was introduced to home computing on a Tandy TRS-80, nicknamed the “Trash-80.”
  • After deciding that the college scene wasn’t meeting his needs, Steve moved out to San Francisco to find a job building web sites.
  • Steve started freelancing in 1996, and hasn’t looked back since. His inventions include the secret knock gumball machine, and a sonar glove.
  • Clients turn to Steve’s problem-solving skills when they’re uncertain as to whether a solution actually exists.
  • Being a generalist has provided Steve with useful “cross-pollination” skills and insights.
  • Steve references a chart about knowing what you know.
  • Makers can be limited by issues they don’t know that they don’t know.
  • On the other hand, engineers may be limited by a lack of application knowledge that makers possess.
  • Steve is of the opinion that the maker movement may produce more engineering jobs, rather than decreasing the need for traditionally trained engineers.
  • Portfolios are important in conveying your skills and excitement to others.
  • Steve finds Stack Overflow a useful resource for finding answers and discovering possible collaborators.
  • Listeners can follow Steve on Twitter as @grathio, or contact him by email via steve ..at.. grathio.com

Thanks to Steve Hoefer for permission to use his photo of a “Quick And Dirty IR Camera Remote.” Podcast theme music provided by Paul Stevenson

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