All posts by Maker Faire Rome

Meet the Innovator – Stefano Capezzone

Meet the people who are changing the world we live in: Stefano Capezzone.

Stefano Capezzone1

 

 

Stefano Capezzone is an electronics engineer, entrepreneur and maker. In 2002 he left his job as Marketing & Communication Vice President at big Italian firm to found his first start-up. Since 2015 he is a member of the Digital Champion Team of Rome.

 

 

1. How did you end up joining the maker movement?  In the ’80s, as a student      and passionate electronics hobbyist, I experienced the excitement of technological innovation carried by the first 8-bit microcomputers. Later, during my professional career I have always been involved in digital innovation and I experienced the growth of the information technology and the development of open source software that made computing a commodity. However, only in the last years I found again in the maker movement that kind of enthusiasm that derives from direct contact with the technology. It ‘a movement that operates in the manufacturing sector in a way that has many similarities with the hacker movement in the ‘90s that has transformed and democratized the software sector. When I met the guys of Roma Makers I decided to support their project and to invest also part of my time in the realization of the first Fablab in Rome.

2. What do you most value in the innovation environment? I think that the real value of innovation lies in the ability to make the new technologies available to everyone. Only by breaking down the barriers that keep high the cost of entry to new technologies it is possible to create social innovation and improve the quality of life in a nation.

3. What is your idea of a perfect innovation ecosystem? An innovation ecosystem must be able to create a network between excellences and positive energies that exist in the territory, encouraging the sharing of knowledge and the contamination of different disciplines. Nowadays the classical division between science and technology on one hand, and liberal arts on the other hand is absolutely outdated. Art and design have become an integral part of the development processes of the most innovative technological products. Innovation often comes unexpectedly from areas apparently distant from those which are eventually affected. Let’s look at phenomena such as Arduino, a product born in a design school, designed for artists and creative that today is changing the market of the electronic boards for the embedded systems. The Network is an important structural prerequisite to ensure the dissemination of knowledge and the flow of ideas in an open source model. Recent history shows clearly how the open source models are able to get a tremendous acceleration of technological progress by encouraging cooperation between communities made up of a very high number of strongly motivated people. For a traditional corporate R&D division is not possible to compete with these communities, also with large investments.

Digital Champion

4. From your experience as Digital Champion, what kind of activities…do you feel are lacking in the innovation environment that might help maximizing the efforts? In the current environment  movements and networks that generate innovation working from the bottom are not enough sustained.  The network of Italian makers is one of the most important and active community in the world, there are other networks and initiatives that are able to make innovation also at the social level, however, the innovation support policies are still guided by a top down logic. The system tends to stimulate the creation of business initiatives through the use of capital, most of the incubators and business accelerators for startups are managed according to the logic of the financial world. The short-term target price of the incubated companies is a goal that could bring stakeholders to underestimate the innovative potential of many projects that eventually are not funded. Institutions and administrations should fill this gap with actions that are able to remove the obstacles that often hinder the development of initiatives that could have positive impacts on the innovation ecosystem. Very cheap actions –  as the assignment of unused public spaces to associations and networks that carry out innovative and useful activities for their own territory – may be a factor sufficient to support initiatives that are able to grow and become self-financing in the medium term. These projects, developed from the bottom, can create that kind of network, mentioned earlier, able to support the perfect innovation ecosystem.

5. 3D printing and digital manufacturing are most quoted;  however, there’s more to the maker movement than just filaments and printers. What do you feel would be worth deepening the knowledge of?   Among the technologies that characterize the maker movement, the 3D printer is probably the least frequently used but certainly It is the most striking for the public. The idea of  generating a material object starting from an empty plate is fascinating. Actually, the 3D printer is a prototyping tool. For a designer, it is important to get his hands on a physical model of the product he is designing. Through the prototype he can easily see any design flaws more than through a rendering picture plotted on screen or paper. The development cycle of new products is drastically shortened if it is possible to realize low-cost prototypes. The 3D printing technology is not a new technology, It was developed many years ago. The real innovation is the cost reduction of 3D printers due to open source projects conducted by makers. The real impact of the maker movement in the manufacturing sector is just that. Suddenly all technologies involved in the manufacturing of modern high-tech products became available at a very low cost. Numerically controlled machines such as CNC millings and laser cutters, combined with the rapid prototyping technologies in the field of electronic and computing, allow the set-up of digital fabrication laboratories able to realize (almost) anything. Network cooperation, creativity and open source projects permitted the cost reduction of the digital fabrication technologies. Today it is possible to realize a fabrication laboratory or fablab with investments that are measured in tens of thousands of dollars, that is almost two orders of magnitude less than the investment required only a few years ago. Through the creation of a network of digital fabrication laboratories located across the country It is possible to realize a model of manufacturing industry which is able to make products with a high degree of customization in the neighborhood of the final consumer. It ‘a great opportunity to bring the manufacturing of technological products in Western nations, adequately remunerating the work of the new digital artisans and with great benefits in terms of saving resources for the planet. Indeed, in this scenario, the bits of the digital designs travel along the network instead of transporting worldwide the atoms of the final products. It would be worth deepening the knowledge of all the technologies that empower a FabLab to understand the true innovative value of the maker movement.

6. How can makers help solving the need of providing more and more diverse products and services in a scenario of cutting budgets  and reduced spending power?  The model of distributed digital fabrication just described permits to respond to these needs. The low scale digital fabrication process is able to realize products with a high level of customization and a cost compatible with the new spending power of consumers.

7. IDEO, a world-leading design firm, just hired a 91 years old to join the research team on projects related to aging, obeying a “participatory design” model. How valued is co-design in the making process? And what value does it carry with it? The value of the co-design is very important. Through the cooperation of individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds and from different educational and professional careers it is possible to perform the process of contamination that generates innovation. Many of the projects that are carried out in the FabLabs are conducted according to a participatory design model.

8. What’s the ‘innovation culture’ outlook in Italy like nowadays? How is the maker movement impacting on it? I am optimistic, I like to think that the innovation culture is starting to penetrate inside the institutions helped also by the strong activity and vitality of the Italian maker movement. The great attention that is perceived to significant events like Maker Faire is one of the most visible signal. The great success in terms of number of visitors of the last edition of Maker Faire is an element that can not be ignored by local politicians. It ‘a signal that among people there is a strong need for innovation.

9. What kind of model would you imagine for our innovation system in Italy? I like to imagine an innovation system that follows the principles of networking, dissemination of knowledge, contamination and open source as described so far, and that starts first of all from the school system.

10. In your opinion, what features should the Italian innovation system enhance in order to become more attractive to an innovation-oriented crowd (read: foreign talents)? Italy is a country culturally rich and potentially attractive to foreign talents. However it is necessary to simplify the bureaucracy that hinders today the birth of many initiatives and creates a breeding ground for corruption. It is also necessary to realize an easier access to financial and credit system.

11. As a Digital Champion, have you been able to create a nurturing environment around your activity? Was it difficult to achieve? Have you ever experienced any ‘loneliness’ in your effort to pursue your goals? The enviroinment in Rome is quite different from that of other smaller urban areas. Here there is a team of seven Digital Champions and we all came from organizations that were active for many years in the field of digital innovation, so we are used to interact with the institutions and governments and we know how to best promote our activities. Undoubtedly it is difficult to obtain concrete results and move bureaucratic structures that continue to operate according to the logic of the old policy, however, the huge media machine set in motion by Riccardo Luna, the Italian Digital Champion appointed by the current Prime Minister, is now greatly facilitating our work.

12. What is your greatest fear about the future of innovation? My greatest fear is that our politicians do not fully understand how urgent and necessary is to reform the innovation system. There are reforms that can no longer be postponed.

13. What do you consider your greatest achievement as a Digital Champion so far? The activity of the Digital Champions has just begun, it is still too early to assess the results. Being successful in less than a month to involve the whole network of Chambers of Commerce across Italy to organize simultaneously a training event about electronic invoicing was a positive achievement.

14. What is your greatest extravagance as an innovator? I do not consider myself an extravagant person, but when in 2002 I voluntarily left a great and safe job as top manager of a big firm to found my first start-up, I’ve have been considered extravagant by many colleagues and friends. What happened in the following years showed that this was the right choice to make at that time. Working as an entrepreneur allows me to be able to start the initiatives that I consider innovative. Innovation is the best weapon to overcome the crisis. In the Chinese language the symbol that represents the crisis is the same that represents the concept of opportunity.

15. What innovation do you think we should start investing on to make our world a better one? Investments in the maker model and digital fabrication technologies can have a great positive impact on our world.

16.If you may give an advice on innovation to the policy-makers , what would it be? The advice is to look closely at what is happening in the Anglo-Saxon countries on policies for innovation and at the same time to consider the experiences of the organizations, spontaneously born from the bottom, that are active in digital innovation.

___________________________________________________________________________After graduating with honors from the University La Sapienza of Rome, Stefano Capezzone started working at an high-tech company in the field of Artificial Intelligence. During the years of strong growth of the ICT sector in Italy, in the 90s,  he started a managerial career and continued to work on technological innovation till 2012, when he decided to embrace a new venture and launch his first startup.

Since then, he has continued to start business ventures on the front of advanced digital innovation, building around him a motivated team of partners and associates.

In recent years, his research and development has been directed toward digital manufacturing technologies and new industrial paradigms emerged within the maker movement. Since 2013 he started an important partnership with the Association of Roma Makers who runs the eponymous FabLab in the historical area of Garbatella in Rome.

 http://fablab.romamakers.org

Meet the Innovator – Interview with Tomas Diez

 

Tomas Diez3

Tomas Diez is a Venezuela born Urbanist specialized in digital fabrication and its implications on the future cities models. He currently leads the project Fab Lab at the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC) and coordinates Fab Academy program offered by the worldwide network of Fab Labs. His research focuses on the use of digital tools for the transformation of physical reality to find a more fluid relation between machines and humans.

___________________________________________________________________________1. How did you end up joining the #maker movement? By coincidence (some people even say that ‘makers’ don’t exist…), as every other big change in my life. I was about to finish my studies in Urbanism back in Venezuela in 2006, when I decided to leave the country and move to London, or Madrid or Barcelona. I did send more than 25 applications for internship at offices and research institutions since I needed to do my final thesis for my undergraduate studies. I got accepted into a couple, but I decided to go to Barcelona: I always loved the city, has been a reference during my whole undergraduate studies, and the offer at IAAC (Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia) was really attractive. Then at IAAC, I did a book about Taipei as my final project, but in the last weeks of my internships I got into the wrong meeting… I was sitting with all IAAC directors, and Vicente Guallart (IAAC founder and director at the time) said: “Neil Gershenfeld is coming in 3 months, we need a Fab Lab, and here is a book and the list of machines, which can do this?” There were only directors in the room, so it was the intern (me) who got the task. Once I started to read Neil’s book and research about digital fabrication I thought “forget about designing nice streets and plazas, this is the real way to change cities, by changing the production model and the role of citizens within it…” Then I started to get the Fab inventory and work with Victor Viña and Shane Salisbury (both great masters for me) to launch Fab Lab Barcelona early 2007.

2. What do you most value in the innovation/maker environment? I value the idea of bringing power to people, of having options and opportunities, which is the real idea of “equality” to me. I don’t believe in systems that establish pre-set paths for us, or systems that puts everyone at the same level by prescription. I think that we – as humans – need to have choices in order to evolve, and bringing to people both production tools and platforms to share and innovate is for me the most valuable thing we can do within the “maker movement” (even though I do not totally agree on this naming). We have been makers for many centuries, trying to re-balance industrialization that keeps production and consumption apart. It sounds odd for me to talk about ‘making’ as big news, as we have always been makers! I’d rather define us as protagonists of a transition time, once more, as we were back in the beginning of the XXth century, or at the end of the XVth century.

3What is your idea of a perfect innovation ecosystem? Many people say that all sectors should participate in this, which I agree. This might sound as a repetition but, for me, innovation should not only come from Silicon Valley copycats, or hipsterised makers: innovation comes from the unexpected, when you sit together with someone you are not supposed to be fitted with, when you find yourself in the same place with people that you would not even think to talk to in your life. So, yes: industry, government, society, education institutions, businesses… all should be part of this ecosystem and, for that – and for the unexpected – to happen, we need exchange spaces and platforms. I also believe that a good ecosystem is the one that can better adapt to its context, so better if we do not indulge in prescriptive formulas, or in formats to copy… Those ecosystems should be able to grow in each city or region out of their own skills and resources.

4. What kind of activities best defines your idea of a “smart city”? So far, “smart city” has been a branded term for companies and governments to sell services and products, and to justify related costs. I do agree that technology boast an amazing potential in enabling new approaches to city functioning and management. However, I share the “smart city” vision insofar it relates to the infrastructure but not when infrastructure are designed to control citizens! I was astonished when the Control Operation Room (COR) project at Rio de Janeiro won the best project at the “Smart City Expo and World Congress” in Barcelona, back in 2013: to me, COR is a kind of contemporary version of George Orwell’s “1984”. A NASA style room full of displays, monitoring the entire city. I could almost imagine the mayor of Rio acting like Doctor Evil, turning on and off traffic lights…This is not my idea of “smart”. 

On the other side, at the same event, our project “Smart Citizen” won the “Innovative Project” category, and again in 2014, the term “smart citizen” was by far one of the most used in the sessions with mayors, businessmen and researchers. The whole idea of the smart city does not make sense if is not happening through the empowerment of people: new infrastructures are ok but so are multiple opportunities to connect, share and learn allow to citizens. People’s empowerment goes in the opposite direction of control, so I bet we will see the two sides struggling often in the near future, as it has been happening for the Internet (without settling, yet).

5. How can cities solve the need of providing more and more diverse services, in a scenario of cutting budgets, while taking advantage of the opportunities that innovation brings up? To me, the key is where the money is being allocated. We are used to live in a surreal world, where almost everything is done by the government, at least in Europe. People just have to worry about going to work, earn money and go on vacations, being the Welfare State to take care of everything else. However, this model proved not to be sustainable any longer. In my opinion, we should push governments to create platforms and infrastructure for citizens to create their own jobs. I am not saying that everyone should pursue an entrepreneur career, or to launch his own company; rather, than we need to “diversify” how business is generated, and to pursue that goal, we need to be more willing to understand the contexts rather than just “import” global trends and create patterns of consumption. We need to work on creating new patterns of production, as they will have a domino effect, no doubts.  I am not calling for a revolution but for an evolution, an upgrade of current systems: what prevents from digitalize voting, for instance? What from implementing neighbourhood scale waste recycling hubs? Why are kids not learning computer science at school (properly), yet? Cities and governments should any longer be service providers but, rather, to become opportunities providers. It sound harder, I know, and challenging. Yet, it needs to be done.

6. What – in your opinion – are the characteristics of innovation as understood by urban planners? And by the local governments? To be honest, I think that “innovation” is risking becoming just another marketing tool. Every local government has been pursuing the dream of their own Silicon Valley, or their own “innovation ecosystem”. Some years ago it was the “green wash”; nowadays, the “fab wash” or the “makers wash” are somehow devaluating the cultural movement behind it. “Innovation” is becoming a marketing tool every time the impressive changes going on behind its scene are not properly communicated.

Nowadays, cities like Barcelona or Sao Paulo are seeing many initiatives, from public Fab Labs to public Maker Spaces. They will be the indicator to what’s next. Will the Fabrication Athenaeums in Barcelona just become like any other public space – operated by 9 – 5 people, just looking forward to leaving work asap? Or will it prove open to passionate leaders who will stay all night long if required to deliver a project? Will they be called to build an entirely new world on top of its infrastructure? We are facing a great challenge: will the fab labs end up being bureaucratized or being hacked and upgraded into something truly new? Urban planning is not only about the built space, and urban designers should not only design streets sections, roundabouts distribution or planning the transport strategies in a city. Urbanism is about the design of human interactions in the city, and for me is about building resilient platforms that can adapt the city to the needs of its citizens and anyone else that contributes to shape it. Empowerment of residents allows for better, more functional cities and an improved society. Technology allows us so; we are just at the beginning of a significant change…This is the time when many, diverse disciplines can eventually combine together and design a new development path

7. Ross Atkin, upon input by Bruce Sterling, recently released the “Manifesto for the Clever City”. Atkin goes beyond the idea of ‘smart’ to suggest a stronger attention to “inclusivity” as a key feature. How does the “clever” city idea fit into the scenario of “FabCity” you have been working on? I think technology is inclusive by itself, is part of its inherent value. We are gaining new capacities in order to design, develop and build solutions for whatever the needs, in different contexts, and technology allows us to do so. I like the “Manifesto for the Clever City”: it is simple and straightforward. Cities are complex: it is us, humans, who shape them, and humans are even more complex. Platforms are key to this process, as they can help to take it forward: regardless if digital or analogic, they should exist just to provide citizens a tool for self-empowerment. The public network of Fab Labs now developing in Barcelona is design to obey that need, as it provides citizens a new infrastructure. Similar to the libraries network, the Fabrication Athenaeums (the Catalan name given to public Fab Labs) project aims to “spread the news about innovation” all around town (each of the city’s 10 districts will enjoy its own FabLab) and being the “access gate to innovation” for all those citizens with no previous tech skills, to get them into digital fabrication, coding, programming and making. No entry level is required, and that’s very clever to me, isn’t it

8. Austin (TX) is foreseen to grow from 750.000 inhabitants to 2 million in a little more than 1 year, by massive investments in technology, connectivity and digital. Such a small city has become increasingly attractive and many are relocating to Austin from all over the world. What kind of model would you imagine for a European city, should it decide to pursue the same goal? In Europe we are seeing a reverse attitude: the young and talented are leaving big cities to go back to their parents, often much smaller, hometowns. Gentrification of previously dismissed areas or villages is an increasing trend. Europe moves slowly, and within many frameworks and regulations; that is often perceived as a limitation to independent initiatives. However, at the same time, some major European cities keep being attractive to an international, vibrant crowd: Barcelona, Milan, Amsterdam, London, Berlin and also Copenhagen or Ljubljana is polarizing knowledge and opportunities. The outlook seem to be different for Europe, many dynamics are involved.

9. In your opinion, what features should a Mediterranean city enhance in order to become more attractive to an innovation-oriented crowd? First: stop copying model from other cities. The idea that every city should boasts its very own Silicon Valley is just silly, and unfortunately has been pursued rather often so far. Mediterranean cities enjoy great value in culture, climate, social cohesion and some sort of freedom or informalism that make them vibrant and exciting. In Europe, especially in south Europe, we should work in order to enhance those values rather than trying to resemble San Francisco or NY. We should grow our own models out of our shared values rather than denying them. I understand that obeying the context and the local culture might take more work and cost far more, but the results will be priceless.

10. You seem to have been able to create a nurturing environment around your FabLab in Barcelona. Was it difficult to achieve? Have you ever experienced any ‘loneliness’ in your effort to establish a closer relationship with the neighbourhood it belongs to? We open the lab between 2006 and 2007; at that time there were less than 10 Fab Labs all around the world…the beginnings took with them some loneliness, indeed. We literally had to drag people in the lab in order to show and explain what we were doing. Take digital fabrication to a more personal level, closer to our FabLab users, was difficult but proved effective, in the end, also thanks to the joint effort with the IAAC’s Master of Architecture, the Venice Biennale with the Hyperhabitat pavilion and the Fab Lab House project. They all gained us lot of international exposure, and the challenge was local. When in 2011 a new mayor – Xavier Trias – was appointed and chose some members from IAAC and Fab Lab Barcelona to run the city with him, the whole idea about Fab Labs turned into a local policy, and Vicente Guallart (IAAC co-founder and Chief Architect of Barcelona) and I were called to lead the process. Nowadays is a different story. FabLabs are among the most visited place – we are booked almost every day – and we work with our neighbours on a different scale: from opening a restaurant within the fab lab, to act as a service and produce in behalf of third parties, to organize and host events or teaching at the local universities.

11. What is your greatest fear about the future of innovation? I fear some might approach innovation with superficiality, and turn it into a mere marketing tool, as it might endanger what has been done so far. I am also afraid of this eagerness for models to be replicated: each system has to find its own one; copying does not necessarily do well.

12. What do you consider your greatest achievement as a fablab director? And as a fabcity dreamer? I feel very honoured and lucky to be able to work with the team I am in at IAAC and Fab Lab Barcelona. We share visions, projects and ideas. I think our greatest achievement has been to keep existing, as we went through great difficulties. We are very proud of who we are and what we believe in, and want to keep evolving and improving

13. What innovation do you think we should start investing on to make our cities better ones? Sustainable digital fabrication for everyone. Bring people back to make and produce, teach kids computer science and coding whilst at school.

14. What talent would you most like to have (or would you most like to steel from another innovator)? I think we can all be whoever we want, there’s all the genius we need in each of us. To tell you the truth, I would like to be a better musician.

15. If you may give an advice on innovation to the local policy-makers, what would it be? Value, foster, promote but do not indulge in putting yourself at the centre of the picture. Enhance local talent, smooth burocracy and support innovation. Most important. believe in people, trust passion.

16. What are you currently working on/what’s latest project? There will be a lot of news about our “Smart Citizen” project during the year. We are also working on better defining what the FAB City project is going to be in the next 4 years. Before starting a new project we want to make the current ones very solid and self-sufficient.

_________________________________________________________________________

Tomas Diez has participated in technological and social projects such as rehabilitation plans for marginal areas of Caracas, digital manufacturing installation Hyper-habitat for the XI Venice Architecture Biennale, digital fabrication of the first solar house in Barcelona, for the Solar Decathlon Europe 2010, the launch of Fab Labs in cities like Lima (Peru), Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) and Ahmedabad (India). He is part of the international team that drives programs Fab Labs and Informalism and Smart Cities by Smart Citizen, and of the team which will develop the Barcelona Fab City project in the upcoming years. Tomas is also co-founder of Studio P52 (http://www.studiop52.com) and now is launching the Smart Citizen project (http://www.smartcitizen.me) through a crowdfunding campaign.

 

Meet the Innovator – Interview with Diana Rendina

full size portrait1

Diana Rendina, MLIS, a media specialist/school librarian at Stewart Middle Magnet School in Tampa, FL. She is passionate about school libraries being a place for students to discover, learn, grow, create, connect and collaborate. This is why the one she manages features a #makerspace!

1. How did you decide to work for a school library? Was it a casualty or did you deliberately choose to join the school environment?                                                                       I originally started out working in the public library system while I was going through college.  Soon after beginning to work on my Masters degree in Library Science, I found that I liked the idea of being able to work with students and build relationships throughout the year, having more of an instructional/mentorship role.  My mother and my grandmother were both teachers, so I think working in a school environment was a natural fit for me.

2. What is your idea of a perfect innovation ecosystem?                                                               A place where students’ time is not constricted by schedules, with a plethora of tools and materials to build with.  A place with inspiring objects, artwork and materials to get the creative juices flowing.  Comfortable furniture and whiteboards for brainstorming.  Space to spread out to work on projects.  A least one fun, whimsical and unexpected element (like a LEGO wall).

3. What kind you activities do you run at your school library?                                                The open #makerspace, which is available to all students throughout the day, has a vertical LEGO wall made out of 64 LEGO baseplates, tables to build with LEGOs and K’nex, a whiteboard wall and whiteboard tables for brainstorming.  Students will be working on projects in this area throughout the day.  We also frequently have arts and crafts activites, such as weaving, Perler bead art, and origami.  Other activities we will use with afterschool clubs, classes and small groups include: learning about electronics with Snap Circuits and littleBits, exploring our Robot Petting Zoo with Sphero, Cubelets and LEGO Mindstorms robots and coding with Code.org, Scratch and Arduinos.  We’ve also done some no-tech activities like our Cardboard Challenge, where students designed and built games out of cardboard, inspired by Caine’s Arcade

4. You seem to have been able to create such a nurturing environment at your school library. Was it difficult to achieve? Have you ever experienced any ‘loneliness’ in your effort to foster the adoption of innovative practices in your library?                                      I work with an amazing group of students and a supportive faculty, so they really help to make my job a lot easier.  From the start, I have worked to build relationships with my students.  I learn their names, get to know what their interests are.  We talk about books, movies and current events.  I don’t tolerate bullying, put-downs or gossip.  I’ve worked hard to make sure that they know that this is a safe place for them, where their ideas will be respected.  I’ve had some push-back from faculty who are used to the more traditional concept of a library as a quiet, hushed environment where students come, get books and leave, but for the most part, my staff has been very supportive.  Most of them ”get” that our students are learning and growing through the activites we have in our library.

5. What are the characteristics of innovation as understood by school librarians?Innovation gives students the opportunity to think outside the box, to find a solution to a problem that no one else has thought of before.  Innovation allows students to create and explore, to find meaning in objects that others might not even consider.

6. What do you most value in the innovation/maker environment?                                          I value the opportunity for students to express themselves creatively and use their imagination.  It can be so rare in our testing filled world of education to find an opportunity to create stories around objects.  I love it when a student will come up to me with something they’ve built and tell me the story behind it.  They range from the practical (these are solar panels for the moon) to the whimsical (this is a swingset for a mouse).

7. What is your greatest fear about the future of innovation?                                                  My greatest fear is that if we continue to emphasize rigorous testing in our schools, we will hamper our students’ ability to think creatively and our teachers’ ability to create innovative class projects.  Our time in school is so caught up in preparing for tests and taking tests, that there is little time for students to tinker and innovate.

8. What do you consider your greatest achievement as a school librarian?                      My greatest achievement at my school has been redesiging the physcial space of our library to make it more student friendly.  The library was cluttered and difficult to move around in when I got here.  The books were horribly out of date, there was so much excess furniture that you couldn’t get to all the resources, and the decor was drab and uninviting.  Over the years, I’ve cleaned out the clutter, gotten us flexible furniture through a grant, and creating a variety of spaces for students to work, study and hang out.  A huge part of this was the creation of our Makerspace, and I’m very proud of how it’s come together.

9. What innovation do you think we should start investing on to make this world a better one? I think we should be investing in a high quality education for our children.  We should provide schools with the funding that they need to hire excellent teachers and a full support staff.  We should make sure that every school has a professional librarian and a well managed library.  We should fund a variety of technology for schools, including sufficent bandwidth, so that students can be immersed in the digital skills they will need to succeed in the world.  We should focus less on testing and instead should invest in projects that will allow for opportunities for creativity and innovation in our schools.

10. What talent would you most like to have (or would you most like to steel from another innovator)? I would love to have good handwriting.  I can barely read my own handwriting unless I write slowly and deliberately – I’d love to be able to quickly jot down some notes and actually read them later.

11. If you may give an advice on innovation to the parents of your students, what would it be? Give your children the freedom to explore things that interest them.  It might seem trivial or unimportant, but if a child has a passion to learn more about a particular topic, the things they can come up with are amazing.

12. What is you currently working on/what’s latest project? I’m preparing my for school’s second Mini MakerFaire and for the Gulf Coast Maker Con in Tampa, FL.  At our Mini MakerFaire, parents and students will visit our library and get to try their hands at a variety of hands-on projects, led by my student leadership group. At Gulf Coast Makercon,  our school is in charge of the young maker’s section, where we’ll be telling visitors about the awesome projects we do in our library, as well as teaching them how to make fun, simple projects like brushbots.

___________________________________________________________________________Diana participates actively in the International Society for Technology in Education Librarians Network, American Association of School Librarians and Florida Association of Media in Education, where she serves as a member of the Sunshine State Young Readers Award committee. Diana is a blogger and frequent speaker on the Maker Education Movement. You can find her on Twitter@DianaLRendina, and at Renovated Learning

ThrowbackThursday: Retro Computing

Texas Instruments

It has been quite a while since we started playing with home computers.

However, even if many of them were discontinued pretty soon, they will forever remain in our minds and we still recall memories of those times with a bit of nostalgia.
Which explains why any retrocomputing exhibition goes sold out!

It is not much about “looking backwords”, more about reviving a sense of innovation that has become so pervasive nowdays but has, somehow, for many, lost its original meaning. It is thanks to the #maker movement if that feeling of “pioneering the possible” is back, and becoming stronger and stronger, steering towards a “new renaissance”, as many like to call it.

To celebrate our very personal #ThrowbackThursday we are very happy to introduce you to the TI-99/4A by Texas Instruments. It was a very popular home computer in the early ’80s, but was quickly forgotten after the manifacturer discontinued it in 1984. That’s a shame, some say, because it boast good graphics and sound (including an add-on voice synthesizer), and had many fun games.

TI994A by Texas Instruments

The systems and cartridges are still pretty easy to find and relatively cheap, making it a good choice for adding to (or starting) a collection of vintage computers and video games.

Here is a nice video about it: http://ow.ly/KPhNb