13 January 2013

A rant about the importance of STEM

The following is a collection of my responses to some folks arguing against the plan detailed in the following video: 



If SpaceX had a serious plan for going to the moon, they should Kickstarter that shit. I'd SOOOO pay for that! Hell I'd even leave the East Coast and go work for them to help make it happen. 


I miss the days where inspiration to pursue STEM was more readily available. Battlebots, Junkyard Wars, Gundams... My father watched the lunar landing as a kid, had GI-Joe toys of Buzz and Neil and the Apollo lander. He became an airliner technician as a result, and fathered and inspired a son who would go to MIT. But we don't have as much emphasis on technology today, it's more taken for granted. 

My younger cousins are growing up with the internet and powerful computing. We grew up with basic knowledge of a computer. Our parents didn't have that experience, that integration of our mind with our cell phone. Having Google at your fingertips. Maybe the home 3D printing revolution will create a whole new generation, our children maybe, where most kids grow up with CAD and design experience. It's not a mechanical engineering thing, no need to perform FEA or cost analysis or any of that. It's more... turning your red wagon into a go kart. Fixing your bike. Building a treehouse. 3D printing a toothbrush holder, or a toy. It breaks, make a new one with more material where it broke to make it stronger. Common sense, no engineering degree required. Imagine what amazing inventions this generation of designers will come up with when they do grow up? When they do get those engineering degrees?

They will be amateur engineers. More like artisans, really. True Makers. Like Deviantart.com contains thousands of amateur artists, Youtube contains thousands of amateur film directors, all those indie game developers and web designers. 

Aside: 
Here's how a differential gear works!


It's in everyone's car, and it's an AMAZING INVENTION! Thank you, 1937 instructional videos!

I approve of government/military funding of technological advancement. Like the DARPA autonomous vehicle challenges. The amount of knowledge attained in the past decade as a result of those challenges has been like cocaine injected into the vein of autonomous robotics. Yes, our cars drive themselves. Welcome to the future.





But DARPA is evil! Military funding! 

Yup, we know how you feel. So did the winners from CMU and Stanford, who went on to work for Google instead of the DOD. http://www.ted.com/talks/sebastian_thrun_google_s_driverless_car.html YAY TECHNOLOGY!

Sure, the latest DARPA autonomy challenge involves humanoid bots picking chainsaws up and operating machinery for "disaster relief", but the peaceful uses of this technology's development will be more numerous and adopted than the military uses. We're still decades from allowing a strictly autonomous being to fire a weapon without a human at the trigger, if it will ever be safe and feasible. Teleoperated Surrogate droids on the battlefield A La Predator Drones is far more likely. 

And iRobot's glorified RC car with a gun is hardly a "robot", in that it is not autonomous. Therefore we are not placing any decision to take a life upon an artificial intelligence. Plus, the videos of the iRobot Warrior 710 with an M4 on board are simply tests in teleoperation and aiming, not how the robots are ever actually used. The iRobot defense line are used almost exclusively for in/outdoor recon and bomb disposal. 

Meet Baxter, an inexpensive manufacturing robot for small business:

The inspiration for research in object recognition and ability to be "taught" no doubt came from NASA's spacewalking robot, which occasionally performs "outdoor" repairs of the ISS.

Rant over -_-

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