Punk engineering for a better world

The rise of punk rock in the 1970s and 1980s was driven by the idea that great musicianship need not be an iron-clad prerequisite to making meaningful music. If you only knew three chords but you had something to say, the advent of cheap equipment to record your music and ubiquitous photocopiers to promote it meant that the traditional gatekeepers could no longer stand between you and an audience. No matter how you feel about punk music, there can be no question that it impacted the culture in ways we still feel today. Punk changed the world.

Right now something similar is happening in the design and fabrication of electronics. More accessible tools and wider access to knowledge are enabling people without formal credentials to make sophisticated devices that are light years away from your father's homemade transistor radio. This is happening as part of a wider maker movement, but we can think of it as punk engineering.

This is not just about 3D printed Yoda heads and Rubik's Cube-solving robots. The traditional model of technology development has never served developing countries well. What are the implications for those countries if major capital investments and a deep pool of engineering talent are no longer necessary to apply novel hardware to local problems? Equipped with inexpensive tools and and the electrical engineering equivalent of three chords, maybe punk engineers in developing countries can change the world.

There is one way to find out.


Have Soldering iron, will travel


At the DAI Maker Lab, Rob Ryan-Silva builds devices and capacity in support of international development projects around the world, empowering people in developing countries to apply custom hardware to hyperlocal problems. 

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