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Wicker advisee Stephanie Santoso interns with White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

Monday, April 14, 2014

Ph.D. student Stephanie Santoso

ECE Professor Stephen Wicker’s Ph.D. advisee Stephanie Santoso is in Washington, D.C. interning with the Technology and Innovation Division of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) through the end of April. In this capacity, her research on emerging technologies will help her with several projects related to the “Maker” movement and the current development of makerspaces across the U.S.

What is the “Maker” movement?

The term “Maker” is frequently referred to those actively involved in do-it-yourself (DIY) activities, which are helping to drive the next era of American innovation. In the last decade, the U.S. has seen resurgence in DIY activities ranging from woodworking, knitting, and the undertaking of home improvement projects to developing and experimenting with new technologies and homespun ways of learning about science. These Makers are students, hobbyists, inventors, tinkerers, designers, artists, and engineers who are passionate about building and crafting with technology and science. The Maker community is diverse, spanning across all age groups and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Today’s digitally connected world has made it easier for Makers to find each other and build communities both online and offline. In local communities, Makers are forming groups that meet regularly to host activities and workshops. Many cities now have makerspaces, facilities where individuals regularly gather to work on projects and learn new skills. These makerspaces are often equipped with a variety of shop tools, manufacturing equipment, and technologies such as 3D printers, laser cutters, and computer numerical control (CNC) mills.

In makerspaces, people are informally learning about and using technologies that, up until now, have been largely used in industrial contexts. These spaces have also become sites of technological innovations, where new technologies are being developed and in some cases, eventually sold as products on the market.

Helping to grow and support Maker culture

The White House has launched an “all-hands-on-deck” effort to provide even more students and entrepreneurs access to the tools, spaces, and mentors needed to Make, and to encourage stakeholders to make significant commitments which further these efforts in communities across the country. (For more information on this initiative, visit www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2014/02/03/announcing-first-white-house-maker-faire.)

The Office of Science and Technology Policy is considering the role that Maker culture and makerspaces might play in improving STEM education in the U.S. and examining how makerspaces can stimulate and sustain new economic innovation through the development of new products and start-ups. OSTP is also exploring ways that increasing access to tools and technologies via makerspaces could contribute to the efforts of the Obama Administration to increase manufacturing in the U.S.

Through her internship, Stephanie is supporting their efforts by looking at how individuals that are actively involved in makerspaces are learning how to use various tools and technologies, from laser cutters and CNC mills to 3D printers, welders, and even sewing machines. She is also examining what types of programs, activities, and projects are taking place in these collaborative workspaces.

"My research focuses on emerging technologies. I am particularly interested in better understanding how technologies can impact notions of ownership and creativity as they move from the periphery towards mainstream adoption," said Stephanie. "For the past year-and-a-half, I have worked on a project using interviews and surveys to explore the intellectual property issues associated with 3D printing, including the patents concerning the technology and the questions of copyrights associated with the digital object design files created by users."

It is necessary to examine the IP issues of this technology when considering what kinds of regulations might be placed on it moving forward and how this could impact not only the growing commercial industry of 3D printing, but the peer production and open-source movement that has contributed to the development of technology thus far.

"Stephanie's work is an excellent example of the broader reach of electrical and computer engineering," said ECE Professor Stephen Wicker. "Whether computer-controlled 3D printers or smartphones, engineered objects create issues and opportunities in a broad range of fields while having major downstream social and legal effects.  Cornell's graduate field system gives ECE faculty the chance to participate in these opportunities."

"My work at the OSTP places 3D printing in broader social, economic, and education contexts,” said Stephanie. “It will enable me to explore how the technology is being leveraged to accomplish certain national goals around innovation, economic sustainability, and competitive advantage."

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy provides the President and his senior staff with accurate, relevant, and timely scientific and technical advice on all matters of consequence; ensures that the policies of the Executive branch are informed by sound science; and ensures that the scientific and technical work of the Executive Branch is properly coordinated so as to provide the greatest benefit to society.

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