Tinkers: How Technology Brings Out the Scientist in Everyone

This summer, I took a friend on a drive through beautiful Cape Elizabeth, Maine. After devouring a lobster roll, we hopped on some large rocks and sat down, staring into the beautiful, crackling waves. I have always harbored a healthy love and fear of the deep ocean. I want to learn its secrets.

I shared this thought with my friend. “I wish I had a science-brain,” I sighed. “But I don’t.”

My friend, who is both a mathematician and science enthusiast, laughed. “I think everyone already has science-brain. We all want to discover things. Scientists are just the people who actually try it.”

English: Depiction of the 50 machines composin...

English: Depiction of the 50 machines composing the “Global Village Construction Set” by the “Open Source Ecology” project (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Palmer Luckey, the founder of Oculus Rift, echoed this sentiment in a recent We the Geeks event. “The people who make technology are not some elite breed of people who think on a higher level,” said Luckey. “We’re pretty much exactly the same…we are just interested in technology and passionate about it, and if people become passionate about it, they can make amazing things too.”

As do-it-yourself (or DIY to culture vultures) movements pick up steam in the ecological and agricultural spheres, it has become apparent that tinkering is transcending far above “Grandpa in the basement with a transistor” levels. Technology is proliferating, and so are ways of using it to make life more efficient, fun, and insightful. Why wait for someone else to invent, buy, and build?

Patrons of the Chattanooga Public Library no longer need to wait. Their celebrated makerspace, known as the 4th Floor, provides community members with a place to play. Library patrons (particularly children and teens) can utilize the “gigabit library” to code, play with 3D printers, and create digital art, proving thousands of naysayers wrong about future generations: if we give them the tools, they will tinker, and they will build.

Another great example of community development and open source exploration is housed within blueprints for bulldozers and backhoes. Open Source Ecology provides blueprints for the Global Village Construction Set, from which users can build sustainable shelter, farming equipment, and other tools necessary for a newborn community. With these blueprints, small-time developers can get started with less capital and more adaptability to the needs of individual communities.

Creation is shifting out of the hands of patent lawyers and into the fingers of children, of third-world developers, of the grandpas in all of us. Next time I visit the ocean, I plan to explore with my own underwater robot, brought to the shores of the Atlantic Ocean by OpenROV. We are all tinkerers by nature. So stretch out that science-brain and try it for yourself.

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