Saturday, December 17, 2011

Why Fab Lab & The Golden Circle

One of our board members shared this with me last week.  It was a transformational Ted Talk by Simon Sinek on messaging, be it for products or missions, etc.  The focus was on how leaders can inspire followers and clearly communicate objectives.  The talk is about 20 minutes and well worth your time.

Here's a link:

The gist of it was that people don't buy what you have, they buy what you are and why you do what you do.  The thing they buy or do is evidence that they believe what you believe.  Simon refers to this pattern as the Golden Circle.

At the center is Why, radiating out to How and finally to What.  His point is that many leaders or organizations start their message or vision or sales pitch on the outer circle and with the What of their message.

For a product, the What is what it does or features it has or things it can do.  The typical message then communicates the How.  The How is how it accomplishes those features or activities.  Finally, the Why is answered or in many cases is not answered at all.  The Why is why the organization exists or the vision was created or why the leader leads.  Often the case is that the Why is left to the listener or consumer to figure out on their own...the Why is implicit, instead of explicit.  Ambiguity about Why can be the disasterous.

Simon points out a number of examples of companies or organization or products which use the What-How-Why process, including TiVo.  TiVo, by the way, is not particularly successful despite the fact that it's practically a verb.  They failed to communicate the Why, lost market leadership and became commoditized.  Commodities are cheap and ordinary.  Is that what you want?

The successful leaders start their message or vision with Why, then proceed to How and that order.  Apple is a classic example, Simon notes.  People buy Apple products first and foremost because they believe in the Apple vision...a more creative, energetic and individualized life.  They believe in this vision and are compelled to buy Apple products as evidence of their belief.  Apple products will probably never be commodities.

So how does this apply to Fab Lab Tulsa?  Good's my answer:

Why Fab Lab?
  • I believe in Fab Lab because it's a movement dedicated to the next industrial revolution, except that it won't be industrial, it will be personal. 
  • I believe in the Fab Lab movement because it's a step-change in the practice of creation, fabrication and production. 
  • I believe in Fab Lab because it is the leading global concept in empowering people to improve their lives through technology.
  • I believe in Fab Lab because it is collaborative, cooperative, creative, friendly and revolutionary.
  • I believe in Fab Lab because our children deserve better access to mentors, experimentation, positive learning environments, and technology.
How does Fab Lab realize these beliefs?
  • Fab Lab Tulsa provides public access to industrial grade computer controlled machines, electronics and open source design software.
  • Fab Lab Tulsa offers access to artists, students, teachers, inventors, businesses, entrepreneurs and the wider community.
What does Fab Lab Tulsa do?
  • Fab Lab Tulsa offers training on the machines and software.
  • Fab Lab Tulsa is available to the public through memberships and limited free public hours.
  • Fab Lab Tulsa provides a limited selection of free plastic and wood raw materials which people can use responsibly to build things they want or need.
Now, answer me this...Do you believe in Fab Lab Tulsa?

If so...then help us achieve our Why...our vision for a more visionary, independent and creative future.

Contribute to Fab Lab Tulsa.  Your contribution matters.

Matt Norris

Board President
Fab Lab Tulsa, Inc.
Tulsa, OK USA

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Some Post Halloween thoughts

We've got a DONATE button now!  We're still in fundraising mode.  Your tax deductible contributions are welcome.

If I didn't say it before, October was a super busy month at Fab Lab Tulsa.  It was a great month but busy.  October was our first full month for operations, and there are some good things to report:
  • We have over $8000 in pledges from the general public to support the lab.  These are in the form of Jumpstart class registrations.  If you have registered, please pay and attend the class because we need the money =)  And thank you for your support!
  • Start-up Weekend was a huge success.  Many thanks to Scott Philips, our entrpreneurship expert and Tulsa focal for Start-up Weekend.  He brought the concept to Tulsa and really gives it great attention.
  • Start-up Weekend experienced several great ideas but I wanted to brag about two in particular...first, a team developed a super portable ear clip mounted pulse-oxygen monitor.  You've seen these in hospitals clipped onto a patient's finger tip.  This one is more mobile and could be integrated into a bluetooth device and smart phone app.  Second, another team developed an adapter for the Apple Magic Mouse...look for this one on Kickstarter I'm told.
  • Our biggest supporter, Michelle Hardesty, hosted a Funder's Roundtable for us at the lab on October 27.  It was a great success and we are so lucky to have such an enthusiastic fan.  Many thanks to Michelle for her dedication.
  • Phase II of the San Miguel Middle School educational program is underway.  These kids and teachers are great; and many thanks to our dedicated education committee including Diama Norris.  The really great news is that our curriculum is the first of it's kind in a Fab Lab.  We're breaking new ground with this innovative approach to education.
  • Lt. Governor Todd Lamb visited the lab on October 13.  He was very excited, interested and asked great questions.  We made Fab Lab name tags for him and Governor Mary Fallin.  I'm so proud of our little lab...we're making a splash statewide!
  • We're finalizing the membership program right now.  Stay tuned!
  • The MIT Fab Director, Sherry Lassiter, visited us on Oct 20 for an evening speaking event.  It was great.  We had a nice crowd, about 35, which is excellent considering the short notice.  My favorite part of that night was that we met a couple from Dallas who drove all the way up to hear Sherry speak and to see the lab.  I'm humbled and excited at the same time to see such enthusiasm.
  • Sherry gave us some amazing compliments.  The jist was that Fab Lab Tulsa is the model she'll use when she talks about new Fab Labs.  She was impressed with the facility and our team.  Good work everyone!
I'm sure I've forgotten something.  Oh, yes...we now have a part time lab technician who's a real asset.  We will probably hire another part-timer early next year.  On the hiring front too...we are looking for an Executive Director.  Keep posted for details on that job search.  Hiring an E.D. will make our Board's job so much easier and mean better programming and services from the lab.

That's all for now!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The latest news

Oh my goodness have we been busy the past several weeks!  The Fab Lab Tulsa team has been going all out following the opening on September 13.

We've hosted over a hundred guests, dozens of tours and several smaller group meetings.  The response has been fantastic.  The Tulsa Hackathon was at the lab recently, and Tulsa Start-Up Weekend is coming up.  Fab Flight has started meetings there (global team building a UAV), and several engineering club meetings like the Engineering Society of Tulsa have held meetings.

Jumpstart classes are humming along too...join in the fun!

Our educational programming is off to a great start having had a successful Phase One program with San Miguel Middle School.  Phase Two starts very soon.  Further, we've made a great connection with Tulsa MET, an exceptional alternative school...and we hope to have one of there students working the lab in the coming weeks.

On the community side, we've got a great idea for an enhanced partnership with Philbrook...a bit more planning but we're on the right track.  Our volunteers have been canvasing the TU area with flyers and we're getting great response.  Josh Moseby was just at TU giving a great talk to some new engineers.

For the business arena, we're ramping up our outreach.  We're making great strides but need some help.  We're happy to take referrals for business or corporate memberships.

Along those lines, the Tulsa Metro Chamber has offered scholarships for memberships to Fab Lab Tulsa.  If you or anyone you know is interested in a scholarship let us know and we can work with the Chamber to determine your eligibility.

In other news, we still have to raise money...almost $100,000 before Dec 31.  We're a 501(c)3 organization and can write tax receipts for any donation.  See our Support tab to get more info.

That's all for now!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

City 5.0: The Economics of Personal Fabrication

Fab Lab Tulsa opened on a hot September 13th in 2011 amid the bussle of central Tulsa's Kendall-Whittier Neighborhood. It is incorporated as a 501(c)3 non-profit operating a 3500 square foot public access fabrication facility, making it one of the largest Fab Labs in the world.  Geographically, the nearest operating Fab Labs are in Kansas City, MO or Albuquerque, NM.  Remarkably there are no other operating Fab Labs in the entire Southern US. Its organization, its size and its location make Fab Lab Tulsa a truly unique enterprise.

This is all the more important because we are encountering a rapidly changing social and economic world. When dealing with change I like to quote a recent comment from the Executive Director of the Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa, OK, Randall Suffolk, which is “if you dislike change then you're going to hate irrelevance.” Economically, our nation, our states and cities must confront the notion of irrelevance with a robust response. This response, I believe, should be in the form and practice of personal fabrication.

Personal fabrication, like in a Fab Lab or Hackerspace or Makerspace, is making things you need with tools which are accessible to you.  This IS the next industrial revolution, except that it won't be industrial, it will be personal.  People will use and develop custom products or technology which will impact their lives in ways profound and ordinary...from creating your own smart phone to building a kitchen table so your family can enjoy a meal together.

Fab Lab is short for “fabrication laboratory”. It originated with Dr. Neil Gershenfeld in 2001 at MIT and has since spread around the world embodied as over 100 Fab Labs where people “make (almost) anything”. Projects made in the lab range from furniture, to stickers, to environmental sensors, to robots, to UAVs, to sculptures, to small houses. Really you can make almost anything. Hackerspaces and Makerspaces function on similar principles as clubs or co-ops, and number in the hundreds as well.

Using a Fab Lab like the one in Tulsa is simple...don't postpone your first visit until you have an idea.  Come by Fab Lab Tulsa right now to see the machines, enjoy a tour and make a sample project like a key chain or bumper sticker.

In a broader context, making things you need using a local fabrication shop, like a Fab Lab, has radical economic consequences, analogous to the automobile and it's effects on the formerly ubiquitous horse and buggy. We live in a world now with fragile global supply chains, expensive fuel, increasingly complicated products and systems, and a growing ignorance about the basic computing tools and technology luxuries in our lives. Natural disasters, wars and the like show us that our lives are intertwined with global events.

Personal fabrication presents another outlook. If you can make almost anything from readily available raw materials then long, fragile and expensive supply chains could almost be eradicated; thus minimizing the effects of labor strikes or disasters in far away regions. Fuel costs could be drastically reduced because only raw materials and supplies are shipped, not finished goods. The benefit is that raw materials are typically durable, compact and cheap, while finished goods are typically bulky, fragile and expensive. Further, knowledge and expertise of our everyday tools becomes pervasive because we either produce or see the production of our own goods. Not only does production become personal, on a human scale; education becomes personal, through experiential and peer-to-peer learning.

The key opportunity is not the transmission of physical goods, as is our economy today, but the transmission of data, designs and ideas. For example, a transaction in the fab economy might be the purchase of a bicycle. Presently, the bike is bought “ready to ride” at one of several retail shops. In the fab economy, the transaction might be in a Fab Lab where the computer design files and raw materials are purchased, but fabrication happens right in front of you, either by you or by someone else. A bicycle is a simple example but complicated technology or robotic devices could be done the same way.

The implications for our economy are far reaching. City zoning for industry could be discretized from large and monolithic production sites into multiple micro-sites which, by comparison, are exceptionally scalable for output and product type. Industrial parks and long commutes could be reduced or eliminated. In essence, because the conventional centralized factory concept is democratized into many mini production sites the paradigm of the industrial revolution is broken. Data and information, which is very cheap to transmit, becomes the primary focus of the supply chain. The notion of the retail economy is changed forever because the functions of production, distribution and retail are no longer separated. They are combined into a single personal fabrication micro-site.

The fab economy is already growing in the US and internationally.  Fab Lab Tulsa is among about 34 in the US. In other regions, there are three Fab Labs in Detroit alone and five in the state of Ohio. These are “rust-belt” regions which now recognize the step change which is required to leap frog national and global competitors. The most ambitious global Fab Lab project is in Barcelona, Spain. Spain, as the news reports, is an economy and government in crises. However, the city leaders in Barcelona, working with the four Fab Labs therein, have devised plan to bring Fab Labs to nearly every corner of their metro. Quite simply, Barcelona will be the world's first Fab City.

The city planners in Barcelona would tell you that a Fab City can be considered City 5.0. Version 1.0 was an agrarian settlement. Version 2.0 had basic transportation infrastructure but no utilities. Version 3.0 has modern utilities and infrastructure. Version 4.0 of the city, today, is electrified with modern internet communications and zoning ordinances. Version 5.0 is a city networked with fab labs which import raw materials and data for producing the city's needs ranging from environmental sensors to kitchen utensils; and which exports designs, data and intellectual property to be used in production in other locales.

The next evolution in our cities and in our economy is the adoption of personal fabrication. This approach to commerce is the ultimate just-in-time system which minimizes environmental impact, empowers entrepreneurship and education with cutting edge technology, and brings resources to the public the likes of which they've never experienced before.

Matthew Norris is Board President of Fab Lab Tulsa, Inc. and is one of the principal founders of the organization.  He and his wife Diama formed the Fab Lab Tulsa team formed in late 2008 and worked with local, national and international partners for three years to bring the Fab Lab concept to life in Tulsa.  He has dual degrees in mechanical engineering, and is a licensed professional engineer with over 10 years of aerospace experience in computer simulations, advanced material systems and biologically inspired structures.  He has one lovely daughter named Eva.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

FAB 7: some pictures

FAB 7 in Lima, Peru was a great experience. For me and my family it was also our vacation too. Here are some pics from the city of Lima and from the conference at the National Engineering University.

Picasa FAB 7 album

Enjoy the photos!

Fab House - Barcelona, Spain

Here's a link to some pictures during the fabrication of the Fab Lab house produced by Barcelona, Spain.

I'll keep a look-out for more pictures. If you find some, please reply with a comment.

FYI...the Incite-Focus Fab Lab is planning to build "tiny houses" (an actual technical term for houses less than 400sqft) in the Detroit area.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

FAB 7: day 5 (final)

Today is Friday, the last day of fab7. It was mainly a wrap-up day meant to summarize our accomplishments and set action items for our continuing work, for the conference is ending but our mission is not.

There are a few major points to make...first, fab global is getting more organized by assessing the charter and creating a curated list of official fab labs. This is good and long overdue. Second, lab equipment and inventory is being assessed and reorganized by cost. There is a vision for super labs with $10M scale equipment serving as nodes in the fab lab network. Third, the fab academy is being reviewed and tweaked. Fourth, we are beginning to examine an economic model for personal and distributed fabrication.

I am part of the team for the economic model. Our first goals are to examine rating systems for labs which are manufacturing goods, then to understand the terms and conditions of a purchase made from a fab lab, then finally examine an interface for connecting designers, fab labs, and consumers. It will be fun.

Finally...FAB8 next year is set for Wellington, New Zealand, whilst FAB9 is set for Japan. See everyone there!

FAB 7: day 4

Where to begin? Thursday, today, is the public day of the conference with a full slate of presenters. The range of topics is staggering and exciting. Cut-paste genetic fabrication techniques, DIY UAV drones, the economics of distributed fabrication, exotic materials and 3D printing are just a few of the subjects.

It was truly an amazing day. The talk which resonated most with me was that given by the deputy mayor of Barcelona, Spain. Their elected leaders are embarking on a crusade to make Barcelona the first Fab city. Barcelona presently has four Fab Labs with maybe a dozen planned. The aim is to reshape the city with an economy based upon distributed and personal fabrication. The implications are radical.

Just ask yourself this...what if you could make everything you needed (or buy things you needed) from a local fab shop like fab lab? And if this concept became popular, what would become of retail? What would become of mass production economies? What would become of global supply chains and international commerce? Think about these things and stay tuned. The next new economic model is coming.

Finally the day ended by recognizing the graduates of the latest global Fab Academy class. Job well done!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

FAB 7: day 3

Two words: fab flight

Fab global launched a collaborative UAV project today involving 4, and perhaps 5 labs to start. We have already mapped out a basic plan and work division for the functional systems and structures. We are looking at a large vehicle with sensing capabilities.

There's nothing particularly special about a DIY UAV. People do them now. The challenge here is two fold...using fab lab tools to fab everything including inertial navigation boards, and collaboration amongst global labs to design, build, test and fly a UAV. My opinion, based on my professional experience in aerospace, is that global collaboration is tricky at best.

For now, we need to settle on a plan, develop a layout and begin work division, with the goal of flying our UAV in year.

Join the Fab Flight team today!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

FAB 7: day 2

Our little Tulsa travel group took the morning off from the conference for 3 hour tour of local ancient ruins at Pachamac. They predate the Inca ruins at Macchu Pichhu. The tour was great. We saw more of Lima and learned a lot. I have never seen so many adobe mud bricks in my life!

We made it to the conference after a quick lunch of arroz con pollo just in time for a review of some NSF research on US Fab Labs. They are assessing the state and nature of the US lab network in order to identify patterns of communication and relationships. The written report will be produced later this year.

We bumped into more folks who are interested in our middle school curriculum, so it appears we have struck a nerve with an emerging need. Good stuff.

Fab Foo sessions followed once more. I sat in on a discussion about creating a fab game to teach principles of design and fabrication. A developer has been identified but needs fab gurus and curriculum tips. The day ended with a separate discussion on the rather disfunctional state of global fab lab collaboration, something that needs more work.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Day 1: afternoon (tardes)

So my Spanish is downright lousy as you can see, but that hasn't stopped me from trying :-)

On to the afternoon sessions. I attended one done by Sherry Lassiter, director of Fab Central at MIT. It was about getting a fab lab so I was keen to listen and contribute, given my recent experience with Fab Lab Tulsa. The session was enjoyable, touching on the elements of a fab lab including adhering to the charter, sharing your knowledge globally and having open access. The dicussion turned to sustainability models for funding and operations. This is challenge for most fab labs, globally as many are govt funded without long term business plans defined yet. As a global community of labs we need to crack this nut. I was able to share some experiences from the founding of Fab Lab Tulsa which were well received. I spoke with planned labs in Israel and Rio de Janiero afterwards.

It ended, we ate snacks and were off to Fab Foo, a free form discussion on emerging lab topics. Some of us discussed some rewording of the Fab Charter to better differentiate true fab labs from pretenders. Its not easy to do and there's more mission statement dialog to had.

Afterwards I returned to the hotel for dinner (pappas rellenas!!) and sleep. Good night.

FAB 7: day 0 and 1


Sunday opens Fab7 with an official reception given by the Mayor of Lima. Lima is a city of about 8 million people. To put things in perspective, one of its burroughs, Mira Flores itself has about 300,000 people; so to get an official greeting from the mayor is a great honor.

The reception included dignitaries from Fab Lab Barcelona, the city of Lima and the National Engineering University. Following were performances from the national youth orchestra, and several traditional dancers. I don't have pics yet. Buenos noches!


Trying to blog on the nook color live from fab7.

Just finished the AM session and was blown away by Neil's talk and the lab presentations. Maybe 10 labs gave short talks about their labs...very impressive, good work by all labs on topics ranging from education to make your own modelas. Neil talked on digital matter and intelligent structures.

Just had a wonderful lunch of authentic peruvian fare...rice, potatoes, pork and beef. Now we are off to the afternoon sessions!

Buenos diez!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Lima here we come!

FAB7 starts on Monday August 15 in Lima, Peru.  FAB7 is the global gathering of Fabbers from around the world.

The draft agenda is here.

Fab Lab Tulsa will be well represented with four of our directors in attendance.  We'll attend workshops ranging from organizing a lab to the distributed development of UAVs.  I'm looking forward to discussions on machines-that-make-machines, as well electronics design and assembly.  There are sessions called Fab Foo, but don't ask me what those are about now.  I'll let you know after the first one!

I hope to meet lots of new Fab Lab colleagues and learn about how other labs operate.  Fab Lab Tulsa, being a relatively new lab, has a lot to learn.

Besides, FAB7 we're going to see the sites in Lima, some ruins, museums and a culinary tour.

Stay tuned...I'll post pictures as I get them.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Five Myths about New Ideas

I was reading the Sunday Tulsa World newspaper today, reviewing the opinion page and found an interesting research based piece into myths about entrepreneurs, venture capital and innovation.

The original piece is by Vivek Wadhwa, in the Washington Post, here.  Wadhwa is the director of research at the Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercializaton at Duke University, link here.

Here the list of 5 myths:
  1. America's typical entrepreneurs are in their 20's.  FALSE, research shows that the median age is 40.  70% are married and 43.5% have at least one child.
  2. Entrepreneurs are like top athletes:  They are born, not made.  FALSE, 52% were the first in their family to start a business, and only about 39% had an entrepreneurial father.
  3. College drop-outs make better entrepreneurs.  FALSE, companies founded by college graduates have twice the sales and workforce of companies whose founder didn't go to college.
  4. Women cannot cut it in the tech world.  FALSE, few girls get encouragement from their parents to study engineering.
  5. Venture capital is a prerequisite for innovation.  FALSE, less than 5% of venture capital goes to early-stage companies.
I found all of this to be fascinating and reassuring to me.  There's still time for me to make my own mark in the business or non-profit world.

I was particularly struck by myths 1 and 5.  For myth 1, it's clear that you need experience in business and in the world before most people can really formulate, organize, lead and execute a business start-up.  It's popularly believed that "experience" is a detriment to entrepreneurship but apparently not.

For myth 5, I've had some very limited exposure to venture capital but the conference I attended in Feb 2011, most of which was taught by venture capitalists, showed us the S-curve and the "valley of death".  Most venture capital investment happens in the late stage when it appears that a company will finally break even.  Most early stage angel investment is made by families, friends or by raiding a nest-egg.  The opinion piece says it best...venture capital follows innovation, it doesn't cause it.

Hopefully, Fab Lab Tulsa will be a platform for entrepreneurs to demonstrate and develop their ideas so as to better attract angel and venture capital investment.

Have a great week!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A robotic bird with flapping wings!

Check this out from TED...a robotic bird which propels itself by flapping it's wings.  Truly amazing.  See here.

Festo, if you're not familiar with the company, does some pretty amazing bio-inspired design ranging from manufacturing and material handling to floating robotic penguins to the flapping bird.  It's a German company and they do some pretty impeccable engineering.  I'd love to see one of their labs and find out how they do such incredible work.

I studied German all through high school and was actually quite good, the intention being that my German skills could help me in my engineering career.  Unfortunately, I only had one short opportunity to use German when I was designing the cabin windows for the Airbus A380.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Our new sign!

OK so I posted to our main website too but I'm too excited about the sign and our progress just to leave it at that.  The sign looks great and we're thrilled to finally have some identification on the building...a real front door.

A special thanks to the Hardesty Family Foundation for their support!  And stay tuned for an upcoming about our grand opening...

Friday, July 29, 2011

My Friday Night

What do you do on a hot summer night when you and your wife trend toward the introverted personality type?

We connected the laptop to the flat screen and watched TED Talks!

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Creativity Summit a success + fundraising

Congrats and many thanks to our fine former Mayor of Tulsa, the honorable Rodger Randle.  The day which he and his comrades (Kevin O'Connor and Philbrook notably) organized was a great success with over 150 registrants and a day of stimulating conversation.  The topics ranged from art to theatre to education to business.

My talk on Fab Lab's was well received.  Our panel on rating Tulsa's creativity involved an artist, a journalist, a poet and myself.  Being one of the few technology guys in the room was a bit daunting but altogether exciting.

I can't say enough good things...the keynote speaker Nate Bliss, the lunch speaker Robert Sternberg, and the afternoon speaker Randall Suffolk were fantastic.  I was really struck by a statement by Randall, which was this "If you dislike change, you're going to hate irrelevance."

This really struck a nerve with me in my life, especially launching a new organization and plowing new ground in Tulsa.  It's all about relevance, and one of the chief motivations of our Fab Lab Tulsa team is to make our fair city and state more relevant in the days and years to come.

In closing, the event was great and I was honored to participate in the first one.  For a great audio piece, here's a link to a radio story on the event here.  Note that I can't control this audio link and I don't know how long it will be available.

Oh, yeah...if you want to come visit Fab Lab Tulsa, contact me.  My digits and email are on our website.  I'm always happy to give tours, especially if you're interested in making a donation!

Friday, July 22, 2011

My first Fab Lab Tulsa project!

So you may recall that my first real Fab Lab Tulsa project will be a carpet box for my daughter.  She's learning to crawl and walk and it'll be a great thing for her to shuffle up to and use to balance herself.  I'll cover it in shag carpet so she can grip it easily. 

Here's a picture of my simple 3D design below, along with a picture of the small scale cardboard prototype (made with laser cutter).  The next step is using the Shopbot!

Fab Lab Tulsa Interior Pics

So here's a round of pictures from the inside Fab Lab Tulsa.  Enjoy!

Go here.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Book Smart Tulsa, David Eagleman and the Philbrook Cats

So first, let me say WOW!  Fab Lab Tulsa hosted Book Smart Tulsa last night at the lab.  It wasn't our grand opening or anything but it was the first time we've really let the public into the lab before our grand opening later this year.  Get ready...there were an estimated 200 people at Fab Lab Tulsa last night!  The Fab Lab Tulsa team was so pleased and excited by both the response from our community and from Book Smart Tulsa.  Many thanks.

Again, WOW...the author, David Eagleman, was a great speaker.  He's a world renowned neuroscientist.  He was engaging, funny and well worth the time.  His book, Incognito, has been on the NYT best seller list for 30 days now.  Tulsa was city number 29 on a 30 city tour.  His final stop was NYC for a talk and a date with Steven Colbert on the Colbert Report.  See David's PBS promo clip here.

I had a chance to talk with him beforehand and he's a really nice guy.  Really smart too.  And he was totally intrigued by Fab Lab Tulsa.  His neuroscience lab is in Houston and he was a little disappointed that there's no Fab Lab Houston (yet).

All in all, I think Tulsa made a great first impression.  Kudos to Jeff Martin, Book Smart Tulsa and the whole Fab Lab Tulsa team.

Finally, I also learned about the Philbrook Cat Cams last night.  Apparently there are couple cats on the Philbrook Museum grounds which are now wearing little cameras on their necks.  I thought that was a pretty fun idea.  To see them go to YouTube and search for "Philbrook Cat".

More thoughts on creativity

As I continue preparation for the Tulsa creativity summit, I'm thinking more about the "ingredients" for creativity than I am about the products of creativity.  Products might include, but are not limited to:
  • patent filings and awards
  • business start-ups
  • art galleries and shows
  • live music shows
  • museums
  • theater productions
I'm trying to assemble a list of what it takes to spur creativity, which is not nearly so obvious.  I've done a little reading lately on the topic and here are some musings, just for fun...
  1. Creativity, I believe, is a process through which people solve an identified it an abstract problem, an aesthetic problem, an industrial problem or mere boredom.  So then, an ingredient of creativity would be the existence of interesting or compelling problems.  Oklahoma (fortunately or not) has an abundance of those.
  2. Effective tools, skills or intuition for identifying the root causes of problems.
  3. A "go for it" attitude.  Creativity bears fruit in action.
  4. Failure tolerance.  Taking calculated risks...again and again and order to really "go for it".  It's about getting the support you need to try one more time after things fall apart.
  5. Opportunities to act upon creative instincts.  In my case, it would Fab Lab Tulsa...which is so much more than a place to collaborate.  Fab Lab Tulsa is a place to turn ideas into reality.  If you're supposed to "go for it" then you've gotta have a place to do that.
That's all for now.  I'm a little tapped out after an amazing Book Smart event last night.  See the next post!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

3D Printer installed!

Our Objet Eden 333 3D printer has been installed.  We had some snafus with a busted print head, and the system only works with Windows XP 32-bit, but it's nearly ready for use.

Start dreaming Tulsa...then design your ideas and come print them at Fab Lab Tulsa!

While all of our other computers and equipment can be used freely, our 3D printer will require some additional cost considerations.  Resin is expensive, and its not geared for mass production.  We don't know what it'll cost yet but we're working out an arrangement for users.

Maybe users can print something small for free, while larger designs will be priced at cost (plus a nominal handling fee)?  We're not sure yet, but feel free to offer your comments.  We'll figure it out.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

More on creativity + ShopBot + 3D Printer

The website for Tulsa's Creativity Summit was just launched here.  Register now.  Looks to be a fun day hosted at Circle Cinema.

So Fab Lab Tulsa's shopbot is up and running now.  It took a few days longer than expected because the electrician who helped do the renovation was rather busy.  All that said, it's operational.  We're just squaring the machine and getting it set-up.

We're really lucky...who knew there was Shopbot user community in Tulsa, OK?  I didn't.  It turns out there are quite a few local users, one of whom is already developing beginning, intermediate and advanced classes for us.  His name is Dana Swift...when you meet him thank him for his help.

Lastly, our Objet 3D Printer arrived yesterday.  It's still in the crate because Objet is really strict about the set-up.  That should be done next week.  It's a pretty sweet piece of equipment and I'm exciting to begin using it.  By the way, I've been remiss...I need to recognize Engatech...they're a local engineering consulting firm who also sells Objet printers.  They made an amazing contribution by arranging for the donation of our 3D Printer!  Isn't that awesome?!  Special thanks to Clay Slaton and his team.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Rating Creativity - the Coffee Shop Index

I've recently been invited as a panelist for local creativity conference in Tulsa, OK, home of Fab Lab Tulsa.  The conference is spearheaded by former Tulsa Mayor Rodger Randle, now a professor at OU-Tulsa and director of the Center for Studies in Democracy and Culture.  The conference is July 27 and is intended to help describe, recognize and rate creativity in a civic setting.  My part is to help rate Tulsa's creativity.

So I've started thinking about how to rate an area's creativity and was inspired by this TED Talk by Steven Johnson.  In this video clip, he makes the point that creativity is slow and messy...his quote is that, with regard to creativity, "chance favors the connected mind."  He uses a quip about the first coffee house in London to make his point, coffee shops being generally "the 3rd space" in which people congregate and share ideas.  The other two spaces being home and work.  I don't drink coffee but my wife does and I've been to a number of coffee shops.

So how does this relate to creativity?  Are coffee shops a predictor of creativity?  I thought it might be neat to develop a coffee shop index, a simple quantitative study of the number of coffee shops per capita in a given metropolitan statistical area.  You could then rank metro areas, those with more coffee shops regarded as more creative.  Of course this is totally unscientific and really just for fun but I believe the essence holds true...the more spaces where people can interact, the more ideas can be exchanged and the more connections people can make.

Steven Johnson did a pretty thorough historical study to draw his conclusions.  My reading, including that on Alexander Graham Bell and telephone, plus this article here, lead me to similar conclusions.  Mr. Johnson says that chance favors the connected mind.  I suggest that there are really no totally original ideas; there are too many people on the planet and it's almost guaranteed that someone has your idea why not collaborate rather than compete.  If Bell had collaborated with the 1/2 dozen or so others who claim to have invented the phone at about the same time then we might have had iPhones 25 years ago!

OK, so here's the Coffee Shop Index ratings for Tulsa, OK USA:

City [People per Coffee Shop]
  1. San Francisco, CA [134]
  2. Seattle, WA [298]
  3. Portland, OR [299]
  4. Boston, MA [313]
  5. Denver, CO [374]
  6. Austin, TX [383]
  7. Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN [719]
  8. Kansas City, MO [742]
  9. Tulsa, OK [858]
  10. Oklahoma City, OK [921]
  11. Wichita, KS [965]
  12. Dallas-Ft. Worth, TX [1,137]
  13. Little Rock, AR [1,284]
My methods were pretty simple and, again, unscientific.  I used wikipedia to find the population of the given metro areas.  I used Google Maps to find the location then search for "coffee shop" on the map.  Any web listing which would've said coffee probably showed up.  For all I know, some tatoo parlor sold Starbuck's iced mocha from a vending machine and it appeared on my search for "coffee shop".  See, it wasn't scientific.  I did make sure that the map scales and zoom were roughly equivalent between metro areas so that similar land areas would show up in the search.  I did the best I could.

In the end, are you really surprised by the results?  I'm not.  With a little more precision, this index could be made a lot more robust.  BTW, the DFW and San Fran MSA's report almost equivalent populations of about 6.5 million.

Coffee anyone?

Whether or not you drink coffee, come to Fab Lab Tulsa...the newest and coolest place to collaborate, design, invent and have fun!