Crowdfunding the Future: The Best of December
One of the unfortunate aspects of labeling yourself a transhumanist or a futurist is often the perceived inability to do anything appreciable to advance your cause. Unless you’re a scientist or engineer, there’s little that the average futurist can do. Even politically, it’s often difficult to do anything more than support a technoprogressive standpoint, and hope that society slowly babysteps in the right direction. There are no cyborg rights protests to attend, no “Support Brain Uploading” 5K’s to run, and even futurist non-profits can usually do little more then spread awareness.
Crowdfunding changes that though. It gives scientists and engineers with big ideas and small pockets the opportunity to actually bring those ideas to life, and for futurists, it gives us the opportunity to play a direct hand in the future. This recurring feature article will help highlight the best ideas seeking your help each month. Here are some of December’s best.
1. Printrbot Jr. – Educating Children on 3D Printing
It’s obvious to anyone who is following the latest technological trends that 3D printing is going to be big in the future. Already 3D photo booths are opening to the public, and predictions for their future application range from simple, public-access 3D printing stations to being the beginnings of a post-scarcity world. Despite all these predictions, the importance of 3D printers and their operation remains entirely ignored within the primary education system. While this is no doubt due in part to the same lack of foresight that kept many schools from introducing computer literacy programs in the 1990′s, the part of the problem lies in the cost and high learning curve associated with their introduction into a curriculum. The Printrbot Jr. seeks to address just those problems. With its low cost, simplicity, and portability, the Printrbot Jr. lends itself perfectly to instruction in an educational environment that is all too often short on space, short on time, and short on funds. If you want to have a direct impact in promoting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) education in the school system, this is just the sort of project to consider.
2. Jade Educational Robot – Making Robotics Accessible
Just as the Printrbot Jr. promotes STEM learning by making 3D printing financially and intellectually accessible, the Jade Educational Robot seeks to do the same with robotics. By providing an easily programmed and affordable robot that can be employed in a classroom environment independent from computers, the Jade offers teachers the ability to introduce students to a range of topics that goes well beyond simple robotics. Just as importantly, the Jade Educational Robot is part of a larger campaign by its creators to promote STEM education. Having already conducted over 300 successful classroom and workshop sessions, it is obvious that Jade’s creators have struck on a novel and exciting way to generate interest and practical learning among students. Not every idea can change the world, but if a $249 robot can encourage just one child to become a scientist or engineer, then it’s well worth the price.
3. ATOMS – The Engineering Toy
As nice as the Jade robot and Printrbot Jr. might be for introducing students to engineering in the classroom, everyone knows that a child’s greatest influences are at home. Taking the toys that children already have, ATOMS transform them into living and responsive toys with the help of small, pre-programmed, and reusable modules. ATOMS allow children (or just playful adults) to experiment with 13 different modules, such as an iOS receiver/controller, motor, light sensor, IR laser and receiver, and sound sensor. Intended to launch with three starter sets – a monster construction set, a magic wand set, and an iOS control set – ATOMS will bring STEM learning into the home in a way that is fun enough to require no encouragement. Even if you don’t have kids, a $79 pledge will still get you an iOS control set, and if you can’t have fun with an iPhone-controlled Lego car then your inner child is probably long dead.
4. uBiome – Sequencing Your Microbiome
With as much research as is poured into research on personal health and medicine, it is remarkable how little we even know about our personal microbiomes. The truth is, our bodies are not our own; each of us is home to thousands of species of microbial life that impact our health and body is unknown ways. With their near-universal presence throughout our bodies though, it is undeniable that our individual microbiomes have a strong impact on our health. uBiome is the first step towards understanding the human microbiome. By making the largest yet attempt to sequence individual microbiomes, the uBiome project hopes to draw links to dozens of diseases and learn just what impact our microbiomes have on our health. By donating to the uBiome project, you can find out more about yourself and become a part of medical history. If you’re a fan of 23andMe, a uBiome starter kit is pretty much a must buy.
5. Comedy Choice – The Jet Vest
Please don’t give your money to the Jet Vest… unless you really want to. Human rocket packs have about as much practicality and importance as flying cars, but for whatever reason, some people still can’t divorce them from their aging vision of the future. As silly as the Jet Vest might be, you got to give the guy props for trying. Hell, donate a buck just to leave a comment and give ‘em a pat on the back.
If you know of any projects that you feel should be on this list in the future, please contact us by email, Facebook, or Twitter. Suggestions are always welcome.