Danny Rankin of University of Colorado Boulder joins the podcast to discuss the Atlas Institute.
Parker is an Electrical Engineer with backgrounds in Embedded System Design and Digital Signal Processing. He got his start in 2005 by hacking Nintendo consoles into portable gaming units. The following year he designed and produced an Atari 2600 video mod to allow the Atari to display a crisp, RF fuzz free picture on newer TVs. Over a thousand Atari video mods where produced by Parker from 2006 to 2011 and the mod is still made by other enthusiasts in the Atari community.
In 2006, Parker enrolled at The University of Texas at Austin as a Petroleum Engineer. After realizing electronics was his passion he switched majors in 2007 to Electrical and Computer Engineering. Following his previous background in making the Atari 2600 video mod, Parker decided to take more board layout classes and circuit design classes. Other areas of study include robotics, microcontroller theory and design, FPGA development with VHDL and Verilog, and image and signal processing with DSPs. In 2010, Parker won a Ti sponsored Launchpad programming and design contest that was held by the IEEE CS chapter at the University. Parker graduated with a BS in Electrical and Computer Engineering in the Spring of 2012.
In the Summer of 2012, Parker was hired on as an Electrical Engineer at Dynamic Perception to design and prototype new electronic products. Here, Parker learned about full product development cycles and honed his board layout skills. Seeing the difficulties in managing operations and FCC/CE compliance testing, Parker thought there had to be a better way for small electronic companies to get their product out in customer's hands.
Parker also runs the blog, longhornengineer.com, where he posts his personal projects, technical guides, and appnotes about board layout design and components.
Stephen Kraig began his electronics career by building musical oriented circuits in 2003. Stephen is an avid guitar player and, in his down time, manufactures audio electronics including guitar amplifiers, pedals, and pro audio gear. Stephen graduated with a BS in Electrical Engineering from Texas A&M University.
Special thanks to whixr over at Tymkrs for the intro and outro!
Welcome to the macro fab engineering podcast. I am your guest, Danny Rankin,
and we are your hosts Parker
Dolan and Steven Craig.
This is episode 231.
Danny Rankin is an instructor in the Creative Technologies and design program at the University of Colorado Boulder. Both of the courses he teaches and his individual research reflects a diverse array of expertise including graphic design, material fabrication, game design, hardware, hacking, sustainable agriculture, and large scale installation art.
So Danny was last guest on episode 171 60 episodes go main a drone,
that would that was about a year ago, right?
Yeah, I don't I don't know your time is not a real thing anymore. Time is all fake. So
have to admit I'd have to have now 231 episodes. This one by a longshot, or I sorry, not this one. Like your last episode was the favorite my favorite title of any podcasts we've done Manet's drones and other war crimes. And that actually references what we talked about, ya know,
we literally discussed managed drones and their various uses, including potential war crimes. I don't remember Honestly, I was probably super wasted. It's all gone now.
So thank you, Danny, for coming back on our podcast. Yeah, happy to be here. So whatever happened that project? I think it was a student that was making a drone that would put condiments on sandwiches. Yeah, I
mean, there were a couple of tests. I mean, they had a functional quadcopter. And then they basically were just working on a squeezing mechanism that was attached to it. I honestly, don't know what happened to it. I have a pretty strong feeling that like many of those projects, they got it partially working enough to document it for a class project and then promptly forgot about the entire thing afterwards.
It's in some corner of Boulder. Yeah,
I mean, it's probably in the lab with like a rotten Manet's bottle strapped to it somewhere. So yeah,
definitely, it has, it's not scenting flying around Denver dropping mayonnaise. Oh,
man, that would have been that would have been in a project if we made a sentient managed drone. Next semester, I guess.
Well, actually speaking about next semester, one of the, one of the topics we want to cover today is actually education during COVID. So not trying to bring the whole conversation down here anyway,
you know, it's fine. It's not like I don't think about you know, what's COVID? Again? What's that? Is there a thing? Is there a thing happening?
You know, that man is drone could replace servers at restaurants.
I know just what I
just read read robots flying around squirting.
That's like the classic engineering fix instead of just being like, why don't we just not go to restaurants for a while, we're like, no, why don't we develop complicated robots to replace all the functions of humans? So people can still go to restaurants? And I'm like, Cool. Yeah. Great. And
you think about it if it can't go to your favorite bar? What if the bar came to you in terms of a flying drone?
Yeah, but also, the bar comes to me at home, by way of me purchasing, you know, adult beverages and just having them at home. But yes, I am a fan of potentially air based hazards flying around glass bottles of alcohol flammable liquid, like kids would just like underage kids on the Hill would just like wait for the drone deliveries to go out and they'd like shoot them down and they'd score like a handle a Jack Daniels it was attached to a quadcopter and look
like net launchers and things
like RPGs and like surface to air missiles.
Yeah, all of these things that they would also have to develop, all for the sake of just grabbing a bottle of alcohol.
You can also brew your own alcohol at home without needing to be 21. Like that's a it's not an immediate gratification sort of situation. But like, you know, you don't have to be 21 to buy all the ingredients to like homebrew. Right.
That's a pretty high level of patience for a young youngster. I'd
say if that's the level of patience you have then like more power to you, right? Like, oh, I know I'm not gonna you know, slam this 30 rack of of Natty Ice. I'm going to actually take you know a couple of weeks and cold lager this in my my secondary fridge over here. I'm like, Yeah, you should underage drink you see
So Danny, how's uh, how's everything been being a professor? It during COVID
It's tough man. You know, like we in the spring semester, we went basically midway through, they were like, Oh, I think we might be switching and doing some remote stuff. And then the next day, they were like, No, that seems pretty. And then the next day, they were like, campuses closed, everything's done. And literally, like flipped on a coin. We went from being like, I wonder if this diseases serious to being like, Oh, well, I guess we're changing literally everything. So yeah, I was in the spring, I was teaching my graphic design class, game design, and another like smaller game design studio class. And all of those classes transition pretty well. You know, the, the game design one is tricky, because so much of that one is about like in person prototyping and rapid prototyping around like, you know, cutting out pieces of paper and testing stuff. And it's very hard to adapt that. But the students did some cool stuff, where they basically, I pivoted the course, to just have them develop games that were meant for remote play, like over zoom Skype sort of interfaces. So we did a lot of design exercises there. And I think, you know, the classes weren't the best when I tried to actually really switch to adapt them to the context, rather than just trying to say like, we're just going to do the same thing except over the internet. But yeah, so that's both. It's encouraging, because you're like, Okay, well, you can do it. And this educational experience can still be rewarding. But, you know, for a lazy person, like myself, it's like, oh, I have to do like, I have to rewrite all of these courses to try and make them work in any new way, was just tough. And, you know, I taught summer, I co taught with a friend of mine, kind of a bigger design introduction course. And it was really fun. We did like a ton of it was a masterclass, just like 14 days straight of just insanity, you know, four hours a day, cranking through projects and doing weird design experiments. And I think that the biggest thing that I noticed is just that, like, students don't respond. As actively, I always struggle with students, you know, just sort of sitting there and you ask a question, and everyone's just like, anything. And when you're behind the screen, it's even worse, because people are like, Oh, just turn my camera off. Yeah, so it's tough to try and foster those sorts of environments. And, and the school is trying to figure out how to do some version of in person learning in the fall, but it's still just a crapshoot, right. Like, sometimes they're like, we're gonna do amazing in person experiences. And then the next day, I get an email, it's like, Don't bank on that, from like, somebody below somebody else in the chain. They're like, actually, it might all be remote still. So be ready for the worst. Be ready for everything. Prepare for all scenarios. Great, cool.
I can imagine on university everyone's got those big inflatable like, bouncy balls that you get in roll around like a hamster
that like zooboo kind of resort.
But everyone's got them. So you've got like, 15,000 people on campus with zorbs rolling around
into that version of education. And you can be like, first person to pick up this piece of bacon gets 50 extra credit points and you're pulling it out into a field and so you can like irrelevant, grab it. I don't know why bacon I just first thing came to mind.
I mean, bacon bacon would just I mean, you'd have 1000 people run it reminds
me that game bacon Java play that game. It's like a like a camp game like a youth group camp game where there's like a thing in the middle of the room. And there's two teams, and they call numbers and both people two people try and run and grab the thing and then whoever gets it first has to hit the person with the thing.
I think it was steal the bacon. Yeah. Steal the bacon.
think that sounds familiar? Yeah. Something like, steal the bacon was a game.
Yeah. And that involves hitting people with the thing we used to do with the cow tongue. In my like church youth group growing up, they'd like have a rock hat tongue and you'd have to like grab a cow tongue and like, hit the other person with a cow tongue.
Yeah, I don't know. Maybe there's something strange about it because I went to a church campa young at a younger age and we had like a whole day that you had to carry a cow tongue around. And you'd like they we showed up in the morning to like assembly and they had trash cans full of cow tongues. And each team got a cow tongue. And they got sued for that because there's some serious problems with carrying around a rock out that day.
Yeah, I mean, it's Texas though. Cow tongues are just everywhere, right? That's just kind of how Texas when
it's hot enough that it was already cooked by like noon.
I mean, it was raining yesterday and there's like 40 Cal tongs in my yard now. Yeah,
that's just they grow. They grow like weeds there. Yeah.
It's gonna really confuse some people.
Education cat. Well, I mean, there's your pivot. And I don't know what they were trying to teach those kids with cow tongues, but we're gonna teach them engineering. No, I, I honestly don't know what's gonna happen in the fall. I try not to be cynical, but there's a part of me that thinks that the desire overall to try and have some version of in person learning is just to keep students from taking a semester off. Because I think a lot of students are like, You know what, I could probably afford to just get a job or hanging with my parents or whatever, for a semester or two, until things are back to more what I want. And if that happens, I mean, the university is screwed financially, right, just like in terms of tuition dollars, like a 10 or 15% Drop, I think somebody told me at CU attend for 10 or 15% drop in enrollment is like $250 million shortfall or something like that, like, just insane. So I mean, you know, there's pay cuts, and there's furloughs and my department's been pretty chill so far as we small pick, like a 5% pickup, which is a bummer. But everybody's doing it. And yeah, they're, they're just trying to keep it together. And the hard thing is figuring out both, you know, how do you make just education engaging overall, and now we have like, another layer of complexity to it. Yeah. So as far as fall goes, though, it's really it's, it's anybody's guess. I think that, you know, I don't mind the remote environment that much. A lot of the classes that I teach, I teach like big lecture with a lot of multimedia and stuff, but teaching people like physical computing and soldering and fabrication, I'm teaching like my intro to fabrication class in the fall, which normally involves me being like, this is wood. This is a tablesaw. Like that kind of stuff.
It's like the engineering birds and the bees.
Say, like, Yeah, this is this is metal. This is how you use an angle grinder. Like, things like that. I don't really feel comfortable just being like, watch a video of someone using an angle grinder. And then do it yourself. Because I'm just gonna, I'm just gonna have a kid on Zoom. Being like bleeding out there. Like, what do I do? Like don't call 911?
Kid kid, kid turns on smoking goes, what happens if your hand falls off? Like squirting?
First, you get an automatic A in this class B. Yeah.
Don't sue me, please, please don't
sue the school. It's a real bad time. Like if you got to do it. sue them just like maybe in a couple of semesters. Yeah, no, I don't know. Classes like that are tricky yet, like so I in the fall, I'm teaching a big graphic design intro lecture, which I teach every semester. And that one's pretty dialed in for remote, or hybrid, whatever it's going to be, we might do the lectures remote. And then they do small groups for practicum and kind of critique. And for the fabrication class, it might look like me making a bunch of demo videos, and then holding a lot of office hour blocks in the lab where like, three students come in at a time and use the shop, and I'm there to help and supervise. That's kind of how I'm building it right now. We have these like long lab blocks, and I was just going to be like, alright, well, you all have to watch me tell you how to do this stuff. And then you're just gonna come in and do it. And I'll be partially available sometimes. So I don't know. I hope it still works out that class is really fun to teach normally. And I don't want to lose it. But yeah, it's, uh,
you know, I'm really curious about that, because, well, that was one of the questions I wanted to go over was, you know, how do we get technology across, in, you know, if if things are so restrictive? And I'm almost wondering if it's going to be a lot more just holistic and open with the idea where it's just like, Okay, well, I can't really do everything for you, I can't really show everything. So you got to figure it out yourself.
Yeah. And I mean, on one hand, that's great, because there's a part of this whole learning thing where you're like, you're gonna learn it better if you actually just make the mistakes on your own. And that's a big philosophy of how I teach almost everything, but there are just gaps that happen when you can't see a person doing it right. Or, you know, a video is only giving you this two dimensional angle of this thing in the moment. And it's not really multisensory, it's, it's sort of this, you know, all of your senses are kind of just getting a partial part of the picture. And, you know, I can't be like, This is what it smells like when, you know, chlorine gases is released from here, plastics that you're not supposed to live on fire, right. Yeah, there's certain things parts of it that are just lost, I actually think for fabrication in particular, there's almost like an an intelligence or almost like a sixth sense that you develop about materials, when you've just worked with them long enough, and you sort of see them and you look at it, and I'm like, Nah, that's too thin, like, I can tell that that's going to break or snap, you don't have to do calculations on on the, you know, the sheer forces of something, you just sort of go. Yeah. And for me, I don't think I could do that every video, I think somebody showed me a thing. I'd be like, yeah, it looks pretty good, right? Whereas in person, I'd like turn it and go, Oh, no, these are literally all just held in with like, you know, non non tightened machine screws, you should probably, like redo this. So there's a lot of concerns I have just about the, the reality of making is embodied its physical, you know, and I already have a problem with students thinking that you just press start on a 3d printer, and it makes all of your machines for you. And, you know, having them one more step removed from the actual physical embodied building is a little. I mean, yeah, I got to figure it out. But it's definitely not a problem. I've I've cracked, yet this semester will be a crazy test of all of that, for sure.
You know, I'm actually curious about that, that what you just mentioned about 3d printing? Do you find that students have that kind of mentality before? You know, your classes? Or is that sort of like, when they have their first idea, they're just like, oh, I can just 3d print this?
Yeah, I think that we give them the idea. I don't want to, I don't want to break any young, you know, budding makers heart, right. So I don't want them to look at the shop and go like, I'll never be able to make anything, right. But I actually don't find that at least with the students that come into the university that that's the case, if anything, they have over abundant confidence, probably because they come from oftentimes, like places of privilege, where they like, things just sort of work out for them. Right. And when you have a sort of a privileged mindset, you're sort of like, yeah, everything is possible for me, because it just generally has been. And so for those students, yeah, they come in, and they're just like, I've heard 3d printers and laser cutters are just like the best. And, you know, I, a lot of them don't necessarily have like a appreciation for the difficulty of doing work by hand, or of actually like, learning to kind of listen to a machine and work with a machine. They think that even even tools that are not automated, right, not computer assisted, but like a bandsaw, right? You know, people shove a piece of wood into it, and they're like, why does the blade go sideways? And I'm like, because you're, you know, shoving a piece of material into with too much pressure. There's a there's a misunderstanding that tools just do things for you. And I think because digital tools like computers in particular, it really is like I click this thing, and it happens, right? You know, those kids don't know that when it was, you know, you clicked and maybe it happened. They don't know how hard it was. For me growing up on the internet, why the World Wide Web, I had to ride my bike uphill to the public library and dial in with a modem took 20 minutes to download a picture of a lady with her shirt off anyway.
At the library, I do find most of the people who believe that way with 3d printers, or have 3d printers and treat them that way. They haven't designed something themselves and printed, right, they usually go into Thingiverse and downloading some cool widget and then throwing it over on the slicer and then printing
it exactly. They don't realize that actually there's a give and take with any sort of manufacturing process that it's not just press a button in my wildest imagination comes true that you we still live in an era where you have to really think about the capacity and the capability of how machine works and what it can do. And yeah, I think the students learn that pretty quick. Because the first few times they called upon to make something and it fails, they go, what happened. And I usually first say, well, one, 3d printing is the worst. And two, you've designed it really badly. combination of the two. But yeah, I mean, I love using computer aided tools to make stuff because some of the precision and the angles and the kind of shaping that you can get. It's just not something that most people even with years of experience could really do. At the same time, though, it doesn't mean that it's a silver bullet. And I think that's true of any technology that you get a hold of, and it's a hard thing to teach. Because once again, you don't want to stifle people's creativity and enthusiasm. You don't want them to be like, No, I'll just make something boring. You know, you want them to be ambitious. So there's this sort of weird line to walk and in an era where you're not even sure if people are engaged fully because you're just seeing him through a screen. It's also really tough to to get that but the students have been surprisingly really honest and strong with their feedback about what they like and don't like and so far I've been impressed with the communication My students have given me on like, what's working or not? I think they're very much. The ones that are engaged with it are like, Well, I'm here, I want to make this work, right. And they're, they're trying to try to figure it out. So
they're paying a lot for every hour that they're on that
coffee. Sure. I don't know that a lot of them realize that. They either externalize it because they're like, student loans don't exist, they're the worst. They'll never pay for them.
Now that there's going to elect someone that will get rid of them,
I mean, that, you know, we can we can hope that that there, we could literally, through governance, make public education, like higher education more affordable. I'd be all all about that at the same time. Right now, in the actual existing president. It's like, yeah, I don't really know what the solution is. I think that a lot of students don't even think about it that much, though. Because once again, because college is expensive. You're already selecting a particular group of the populace who is used to like having access to the nice stuff, even if they don't necessarily think of themselves as rich, they might still be like, Wow, yeah, I've never had a real problem, like, going to school or, you know, getting a ride somewhere and figuring out how to, like, get money. And I don't think that, that mindset changes when they go to college. And, you know, they're just like, Yeah, I don't know, I just come to class, right? So many students, except for ones who have left home work for a little bit and then come to school. I don't think the calculus of like, how money is being exchanged, their education really sinks in until a couple years later, where they go like, Oh, wow, I'm taking on a big debt burden, to just kind of mess around. That's intimidating, and I don't know what's gonna happen. And then they all freak out. And that's, it's, that's a whole nother challenge. But yeah, I, I hope that they realize that, right, and I'm trying to make it worth it for them. You know, there's definitely a vibe that you know, when you're taking classes remotely, and we try and use this word remote, as opposed to just saying online, because remote means synchronous, but via the web, so you're like, live with a instructor, you live with your peers. It's not just like watching a video and clicking it online quiz or whatever. But yeah, there's, there's definitely this perception of value around like, well, if I'm there in person, it's worth more than it is if I'm just doing it through my computer, because I'm at home. And I can say that, it's hard for me to fight the those feelings, because there's definitely part of me, it's like, yeah, obviously, it's better. When we're in person. There's no question to me there. But I still think it can be valuable. And I still think people can get like, a quality educational experience out of it. Even if it's happening through a webcam for a semester or two. I, there's obviously huge benefits to being able to work in person, but you know, we're going to do our best.
I can't even imagine what it would what it's like for those who, you know, they were slated, or still are slated to graduate right now, graduate high school, or college or whatever, you know, if you just spent the last, you know, 12 years of your life getting a PhD, and this is your time to walk and get your PhD like, sorry, you know, like, that's
the time you get to walk into a zoom ball or Zorg crawl across the stage. Yeah, they just throw bacon across the stage.
We would like to stay on fire because it's all in the computer. Yeah, no, I mean, we did that we did a, you know, a digital thing. And it was fun. But they did a survey of the students who are graduating in our program. And it was like, How many of you would be interested in participating in a virtual graduation ceremony? Or how many of you would rather you know just wait and have Oh, holy shit. Oh, my God, hold on a second. Hold on just a second.
So that was the macro fab engineering podcast. We were your host, Stephen Craig
and Parker Dolman. Let everyone take it easy
I'm alive. Everything's good. Yeah, so my table saw is
outside in the driveway and I heard it turned on and then I heard my baby scream. Oh, wow. I was like okay, no, my this is my two year old and he turned on a table saw outside that I had left up plugged in. So that was good. So I was like, oh shit.
Funny enough, a good buddy of Parker and eyes. He he was cutting something too small on a chop saw the other day and the chop saw one against his own. No equally well. So the A went across this part of his hand and the tendons up here that control his pointer finger, it took one of them out. And then the other one was mostly done, like just chop through. But I was I was telling Parker, so he went and got surgery on it just the other day. And the thing that's crazy about it is like it took 10 minutes, they basically re glued the tendons together. And the thing that's so nuts about it, like with that kind of surgery, they just do it on a table, right? Like they just numb your hand up and do it. Yeah. And then what the best part about it is they're like, well, we can just check to see if it's working. And they're like, move your fingers. And they like they have his hand wide open and he's just like, and they're like yeah, you're seen and I was when you see the bionic hand thing. Immediately I sent him that gift. Or Terminator you know when he takes Yeah, it's like oh, that's so crazy. Yeah, just to be like oh my hands open let's just make sure everything's good before I saw you up I don't want to come back you know dude,
I mean I we have just like bad histories of kids with I mean, I think I don't know if I've told you all the story about my son getting his finger bit off my rabbit when he was in my older son who's now seven.
Like when you say off do you mean off so like
the end of the first digit of his his left middle finger. Completely not off like it was hanging on by like a piece of skin but like, look like somebody was like tipping their top hat off to you like blood shooting. And at the end of it. This is all good podcast content, by the way.
Oh, yeah. Lauren, Lauren was talking to me a few months ago, she was like, hey, what do you think about getting a rabbit as a pet? And I was like, Have you ever been bit by a rabbit? Like, no?
No, man. Yeah, it was like a big buck rabbit. So we had it in it. So as when I lived on the farm, and we were breeding rabbits and all the other female, those were in their enclosure. And then the budget kind of hung out in his thing by himself. And my son just walked out and stuck his hand in the cage and his little baby finger just must have looked like a carrot or something like that. Right? Because he basically, I hear him just sort of squawk and I look over and the rabbits just like, like chewing through it. And I take his hand out of the cage and his little fingertips falls off. Yeah, so yeah, but they reattach the tendon. They did surgery on it, and they stitched it up and put it in a cast for a couple months. And then when he came out, he was left handed instead of right handed. dyslexic and he's afraid of rabbits, but now
he's not. Kindergarten is going to be awful.
Dude, he came, he came back from the hospital with the cast on when it happened and just like went out to the rabbit cage and just started like banging on the rabbit cage with this cast on. It was like literally nothing had nothing had changed. So yeah.
Crazy. Well, I'm glad everything's alright. Yeah, that must have been scary.
Yeah, no, everything's fine. He just, he just got spooked by the sound of the sock getting turned on. Like, you know, I don't really think he could have done any damage the blade was down. But you know, when you hear that sound, you're like, oh, boy, this is gonna be a bad day. So yeah, and you know, it's funny. pivot back to our conversation, that idea of, you know, hearing a table saw that's being operated somewhere remotely, and you're just sort of like, responsible for what happens, but you're not necessarily there. That doesn't, that that's my number one fear. For teaching this fall. It's literally just like, what does it happen? You know, if something goes wrong, or let's say a student, you know, there's a lot of students that I think for whatever health concerns or whatever, are going to elect to be remote in the fall just because you know, they're maybe immunocompromised or that they have other reasons, but, and we want to accommodate that. But at the same time, I'm like, Well, I'm just going to hope that you have access to some tools, you're probably going to learn like I learned, which is like, with an exacto knife and a hammer, and you're going to try and like, do some of the work until you can afford to buy the tools which isn't necessarily bad, but it also it definitely I don't know. Yeah, I'm still my head's still spinning around that I kind of wish I was teaching all just like web design classes or something in the fall. So I could do like mobile computers, boot up your computers, fellow computer, something theoretical, yeah, something where it's all happening digitally and the processors the same because that's, I really do think that kind of education can happen from anywhere to anywhere, right? It's like as long as you have a machine that you can run code on you can you can get the work done. But yeah, when you get into physical stuff, it's It's anybody's guess.
That's actually one thing I haven't thought of, is how our maker spaces and places like that handling COVID Oh, they just completely I'm gonna guess they're completely shut down.
I mean, yeah, I think ours is pretty I mean, the the BT lab at the University is effectively shut down. It's been a fun actively shut down since the university suspended research activities. But I think that I've seen some that are doing kind of like resist reservation, like small numbers of people kind of can get in sort of the same way that like, you know, some restaurants are doing or whatever, where it's like we're only gonna take this many people and I think some, some hackerspaces are doing that, but I don't actually know. I know that. Yeah, the VTA is closed, I'm pretty sure. The Boulder public libraries, which is the big one in Boulder building 61 Just gonna actually look it up, because I'm curious right now.
I wonder if it would be worth Yeah, they're closed. If it will be worth going with a certain like a powered air purifier, respirator system? Because then you could if everyone was just wearing nose, and you could technically just have everyone in person? Yeah, no, I mean, you could never take it off.
There's ways you can get home. But I mean, they literally did like some workshops at the beginning that were like making masks and face mask workshops in the in the spaces. And I mean, there's lots of people that were kind of on that, that track at the beginning, when it was like, Oh, what are we gonna do? How do we be useful? And people like, I don't know, I can make face shields or whatever. But yeah, as far as, as getting the spaces back operational, it's really tricky. I mean, everybody's trying to figure out some way they can do something. I have a hold on. Can you hold on just a second? I'm just gonna take this baby out of my garage.
Yeah. I think I am going to leave in the the tablesaw stories and stuff.
Yeah, do it.
No one just hears screaming in the background instead. Yeah, but
no, no, why I was talking about is because I actually went to TX RX, which is the Houston makerspaces. And they have a like, these are the PPE stuff that we're building here and stuff. But it's something I completely forgot about, which is a powered air purifying respirator, which is basically a full face thing that clamps onto your face. And then there's a hose that goes to like a belt thing that's got positive air pressure filter. So technically, if you wore that you you wouldn't get COVID So if everyone was wearing those, ya know,
I mean, you could basically put everybody into these like interesting sort of hazmat nuclear survival scenario type situations where like everyone's in like, a full Tyvek you know, cover all and like they've they've all got Yeah, powered air removal respirators, and they're all like, sitting in there and just being like, so today, we're gonna, we're gonna take apart these old iPhones, I don't know. Or something even more mundane, like, we're welcome to our net bombing workshop. I hope everybody has their respirator turnout, right? You're just like, everybody I the absurdity of that situation, but also how fun that would be to just do some funny like, laser cut tree ornaments. thing in a makerspace while still also having everybody just in Sorbs
Yeah. I can imagine how noisy like those suits are. Because I know Tyvek suits are really noisy when you move around. But think about like an entire auditorium of like 60 students just all shuffling around in their seats. Well, especially you
were saying if they're on like a positive atmosphere like they all have fans blowing air there's weird hum
from the floor. You can go for the cheap route and noodles, inflatable costumes are on the input of that one. And so everyone's just giant T rex is walking around
giant inflatable T rex is hanging out. I'm I'm for that. I don't know if you've ever seen that video of like 50 people all racing on a horse track. All wearing giant inflatable T Rex costumes, but I mean, it's pretty much the best.
I mean, Danny, it sounds like we've solved all the issues for the for the university. I mean, not trying to take too much credit here.
No, I mean, it's it's it's what's happening. I just I just shared that link with you guys, for your general benefit. But yeah. Yeah, well, I don't know what the I don't know what the future holds with this. I think that some of these creative solutions are really good. And then there's also this question in my mind that's like, how much of this really is necessary? Like, obviously, people have to make money and people have to like generate, you know, revenue to survive and live and pay rent, but like, how much can we for a sustained period, just pump the brakes on things and just see what's the most essential parts of education and teaching and what actually really matters? And if I'm like, Yeah, I could just teach digital classes this semester, and everybody can just save the fun stuff for later. You know, whatever it could be. did well, thanks. Watch that video. The person I
don't know, the question here is, would you, you know, if your option was, you know, this semester, you can do 80% of your classes digitally. Would you do that?
You know, I think yeah, I would I there's a part of me that would almost rather just throw myself fully remote right now, rather than have to figure out the hybrid thing, because as it is, they're like, talking about doing in person for a while. And then when Thanksgiving break comes around, everybody goes home and you finish remote over the break, which makes sense, you know, transmission route wise, but just having to be like, alright, well, part of your school is this party school is that I think students thrive better educationally, when they just know what their expectations are. And they can engage with it. I think uncertainty is probably the, the worst thing we can do for students. So as soon as we get it figured out, I think we're gonna, we're gonna go with that plan. And I trust my leadership, not just because they may listen to this podcast at some point. Who knows? But really, I do think that they're really trying to figure out what's working out. And what's best, especially the people in my program are really like, how do we be creative? How do we make classes work and the schedules all over the place, and the rooms are all over the place, but the people that are teaching the classes, they care a lot, and you know it, it'll be a bummer of a semester, in hindsight, we'll all look back and be like, that was weird and dumb. And I hope that we don't ever have to do that again. And if anything, that's good out of all of this, maybe it'll teach us how to be a little more resilient around the sort of scenario. So we can still do good education without totally melting down for two semesters or whatever.
Oh, for sure. I think I think we're gonna take a lot of this as like, data points, let's just put it that way as to how to act the next time something crazy happens.
Yeah. And I mean, once again, this, I mean, 2020 is like kind of a dumpster fire every year for a lot of things. But, you know, you want to try and remain hopeful that instead of just saying like, well, just as good and worse and worse is that maybe like, it's bad enough in lots of ways that, you know, positive changes actually do happen. So that's what I'm, that's what I'm holding out for, at least, you know, when my mood is good.
I am kind of curious, you know, I'm sure this was true of you to Parker, but in my schooling, pretty much every semester no matter what I had 123 labs. And those labs were all, you know, three hour long, once or twice a week kind of thing. And they were very much meant to supplement all the, I guess you could say like the heavy academia side of things they were they like, hey, get your fingers dirty, and actually try to figure things out. And so the, you know, so much of what I was taught in electrical engineering, I'm realizing like, I could do it the exact way we're doing it right now, where, you know, I can see a virtual Blackboard and we can learn it, but the lab part, just, that's so difficult now,
it is and you could do
the lab part. If you have the equipment, like what Danny was saying, if you had the same equipment that your lab had access to, you could do that.
Right. But did you well, okay, I shouldn't ask that you had that equipment when you were in college? I did not.
No, no, I didn't have that equipment either. But I'm saying, Yeah, you did, didn't you? I didn't have a scope or anything. I had a multimeter. Really?
I thought I thought you were dead. No, no. Okay. Oh, no. Sorry. judging you.
Yeah, man. Yeah,
you know what I've been through. I had a skill I made, I made my first oscilloscope out of a piece of tinfoil and pair of pliers and an old light bulb, anyway. Yeah, I
do think yeah, you could, if you front loaded it for students, and you were like, Hey, you're gonna need this equipment. And it's worth it to buy it and your student fees aren't going to, you know, you can use the money for from student fees for this instead of paying student fees to buy some like actual gear and tools. It's tough in a multidisciplinary program like ours to do that, though, especially right, if it was like a strict straight electrical engineering program, there's a certain set of tools that you can be expected to use in your last couple of years. Right? That that you're like, I am glad I have these. And when I go and become an electrical engineer, I will still hopefully be glad I have these. It's not true for everybody. But I think in our program, because our students literally leave to go do anything from user experience design to physical computing to game design to you know, web front and back end stuff like full stack it's, it's really hard to get not just the tools in hand. Yeah, we're just like, yeah, you need everything, basically. Which is that's the tough thing about our programs. We're very much this sort of like everything, kind of buffet and The nice thing about having facilities is, you know, then people can test it out. And they can decide, like, Oh, I do actually want to buy some of this gear, right? I'd hate to have a whole bunch of students take our introduction to physical computing, all get soldering irons, and multimeters, and all of these kits and everything, do the exercises, and then literally never touch that stuff again, I would hope that they would catch the bug. And they'd be like, Oh, I'm so glad I have this, right. It's not like a soldering iron is a tremendously expensive investment or anything. But I do think, you know, sometimes the having it at school teaches you whether or not you even like doing this stuff, right? And the assignments you get with the class, they're not always even the things that make you fall in love with doing that stuff, right? I mean, I think we talked about that, when, when I was on before that, like, you know, things you learned in school, you're like, kind of Alright, I guess I didn't do that much. And then he left like Steven was like, yeah, and then I'm like, building guitar amps and stuff. Right? And that you like fall in love with it through, like, the projects that you get to do in your free time, which we love in our program, like our, our MakerSpace is all about being open all hours for students to just make whatever they want. And I'm hoping that we can at least make it available even if it's limited in terms of its capacity, that students can still get in there and do stuff. Because I really think that you got to have some of that, to get people like enthusiastic about making
certainly so much of the sandbox in the head you can play around in you know,
yeah, it's true. It's I think people can tolerate it for a semester or two. But it'd be better if we could at least give them something that they can when they come back to school, they can build on that. And that's maybe the other way to think about it is like alright, well, maybe they can't get the best experience right now. But can we at least get them halfway to where when they come back? They're ready to really like, you know, crush it in the labs ready to hit the ground. Again, right? You can get some of the the busy work and routine stuff out of the way just practice at home with certain things, right? So almost like a wax on wax off kind of paint the fence, Mr. Miyagi kind of thing where you're like, Why do I have to paint this fence, Mr. Miyagi? And then you come into the lab, and you're like, show me paint the fence? And they're like, I'm so good at soldering? Yeah, I
don't know. Okay, so when do you expect or when do you think it will go back to and this is really heavy quotes here normal?
Oh, gosh, I don't know. I think that I'm hoping by this time next year, I'll be planning for a normal fall semester, right? I think that fall is going to be messy. I think spring is going to be kind of an adjustment, depending on what happens with cases and everything. But I think hopefully, that like my fall of 2021 will mostly be although I'm sure there will probably still be precautions. And I don't know that schools will ever go back to not offering certain remote options, right, at least our program, I think our plan is to effectively make some version of remote access continuously available for students, just because it helps with accessibility concerns for students that, you know, can't come into a class all the time. And there's almost no drawbacks to it, in my mind, aside from maybe for the students, for the instructor is not a whole lot more work and it does make your class available. So I think they'll be things that change that we don't ever go back to certain models of what we've been doing. And that's not necessarily bad. I think that widening access to education and hopefully making more of it online and just available to people to consume without having to pay tuition dollars. Like I'm a big fan of that sort of like open education model. And hopefully, you know, the new normal involves some of that, but at the same time Yeah, I want to be back in a space with students and I want to be like, you know, wandering around in the shop and, you know, doing workshops together in building managed drones. Yeah, I want to build manage drones in close proximity to other people. I don't want to have to, I don't want to have to use the Manage drone. I want to want to use the Manage route
for so sorry. For some reason. I'm just thinking of the scene from Ghost where they're doing the clay pots, but it's a man
he's it. Yeah, it's just Patrick Swayze is just like, you know, ghost is, is helping someone solder like connection points on a LiPo battery or something.
Steven, that might be the stupidest thing I've ever imagined. Right like
I'm here to serve.
Yeah, no, that's definitely up there.
Oh, man. Well, fantastic. Cool.
Um, we have anything else to discuss. I think we're,
I think I think we're good. We're good. We did it. Yeah. We solved all the world's problems,
solved education and COVID-19 all
on once. In 145 minute podcast. We
did it. This is what podcasts are all about. Cheers.
Thank you, Danny for coming on our podcast. Yeah, you know, it's always fun to have you on
was happy to be here. It was it was really good to chat with you all.
Yeah, I mean, that was the backer fab engineering podcast. I was your guest, Danny Rankin,
and we're your host, Parker Dolman and Steven Gregg. Later everyone does. Take it easy.
Danny Rankin of University of Colorado Boulder joins the podcast to discuss the Atlas Institute.