It’s April and, for most people, the beginning of Q2. Or Q1, depending on your fiscal year.
Things I Enjoyed Reading
Skydio blew up the hardware nerd internet last month (and even made Marc Andreesen break his Twitter hiatus) when they launched their drone and announced a round of funding. What makes their tech interesting is the choice of cameras (13 in all!) over sensors to build their guidance feature. Such a system requires crazy computer vision software with artificial intelligence, hence deepTech. While drones will be the rage for a while, most of the really impressive applications have been developed and deployed in Africa, providing access where there hasn’t been previously. We have Massive Dynamics, Zipline, and archaeologists to thank for this. In my opinion, analyzing cheetah footprints to protect cheetah species from extinction in a Namibian forest is as deep as it gets.
In the spirit of Women’s History Month, TechMakers had an impressive lineup of women in robotics, AI and science (NASA’s Katherine Johnson and Mae Jemison, Adafruit’s Limor Fried or Lady Ada), talk about their stories. One is forced to think about the visibility of women in this space, and in other valleys where there isn’t Silicon. Gearbox’s Brenda Livoi and FreshDirect’s Angel Adelaja are people I find inspiring in this regard and luckily they tell their stories too.
As an engineering undergrad, I loved titles by Pearson/Prentice Hall. Different from Mc-Graw Hill, they focused on problem description and solving proofs from first principles, with little emphasis on solved questions. It is not surprising to read that they’re partnering with Little Bits to add modular electronic kits to their STEM curriculum. The kits will teach kids to invent devices that explain scientific concepts, again focusing on first principles.
When we see electronics, we rarely think about mining but there would be no manufacturing without that extraction. Cobalt, mined chiefly in the Democratic Republic of Congo, is witnessing increased interest with Apple, Volkswagen and Samsung looking to close long-term deals to forestall any shortages in the element which is required to manufacture lithium-ion batteries. At the same time in Ghana, illegal gold mining is threatening the arability of cocoa farms. Gold is a necessary component in many electronics and farmers are getting hip to the potential of reaping the fruits of owning a potential field, but this could easily go sour.
Side note: Temi and a colleague of his published an interesting paper on harvesting gold from computers a while back.
Things That Blew My Mind
The Olympic torch is lit with a parabolic mirror.
TinkerCAD can be used as a simpler form of Fritzing, didn’t think anything could be simpler than the latter.
Raspberry Pi launched the Model 3 B+, and now pis can be powered by an Arduino.
Kilowatt Labs released a beautiful whitepaper on specialized microgrids and how they can enable a low-carbon electricity network.
The second part of the Makerbot 3D printing design series is out: designing a drone.
From Concept to Market in Four Months by SupplyFrame.
Opening a 3D printing shop/lab? Start here.
Things To Apply For
The Hackaday Prize is open again, with a simpler theme: Build Hope. It is the biggest open hardware competition and this year has judges such as Ayah Bdeir and Chris Anderson. What are you waiting for?
The Ada Lovelace Fellowship is receiving applications until the 30th of April. The fellowship includes a travel stipend to attend OSHWA’s Open Hardware Summit and is intended to increase diversity in the hardware space.
Africa Connekt has reopened applications for its next round; applications close on June 15th and all you have to do is put up a profile. I know for a fact that they have a hardware bias.
A couple of years ago, there was an interesting challenge to design for agricultural produce (specifically products to prevent cassava from rotting before transportation from the farm to processing outfits); it was the first time I thought about the problem specifically and how much local farmers lose from this waste. Cold Hubs solves this challenge by building cold rooms in markets to safeguard produce. They have since secured seed funding from Fledge (which has a unique revenue-based financing model) and are growing to develop more rooms in markets. By co-locating the rooms in stakeholder farms, they increase the access farmers have to storage and in the long run bring the market closer to them.
Tweet of the Month
Don't worry guys, bananas will save us pic.twitter.com/2qjF4VQM1i— Marcel Dirsus (@marceldirsus) March 12, 2018
A Couple of Things
Next month, I will be in the shadows while Paul Birkelo, the MD of the Gearbox Foundation takes over the newsletter. His insight on the Kenyan hardware ecosystem being a member of BRCK, then Gearbox will be wonderful and I’m looking forward to it.
And I forgot to add a link to my blog where I wrote about partnerships that are necessary for technology innovation in the last newsletter. As a mea culpa, complement that post with Ben Einstein writing about Predicate Companies.
Meanwhile, an SOS: I’m in New York and would really love to check out New Lab. If you can introduce me to someone over there, please reply!
Big thanks to all those who sent in links.
Ka ọ dị,