Tinkerers gather at White House for Maker Faire

Bioengineer Manu Prakash recently visited the White House to demonstrate some of his latest creations.

From left, Jane Chen, David Lang and Manu Prakash attended the Maker Faire at the White House on June 18.

Courtesy of Manu Prakash

Recently Manu Prakash, PhD, assistant professor of bioengineering, received a call he couldn’t refuse: an invitation to attend the first-ever White House Maker Faire to show attendees how to build a 50-cent microscope out of laser-cut paper, plastic tape and a tiny glass bead.

At the June 18 event, Prakash also demonstrated how he turned a toy music box into a $5 programmable microfluidic chemistry set that can be used for applications as diverse as testing water quality and science fair projects.

Maker Faires, started by Make magazine in 2006, are gatherings where do-it-yourself enthusiasts show off their homemade projects and teach others how to make things using new technologies, such as 3-D printers, laser cutters and desktop machine tools.

President Barack Obama hosted the first-ever White House Maker Faire to celebrate our “Nation of Makers” and to help empower America’s students and entrepreneurs to invent the future.

Prakash, who grew up in the mega-cities of India without a refrigerator, is a leader in the frugal-maker movement. At Stanford, he works with students from bioengineering, medicine and Bio-X to re-engineer expensive, complex, health-related devices to make them better, faster and cheaper.

His team also focuses on developing affordable science tools to inspire global innovation.

“I’m so happy that the White House is looking at ways to celebrate scientific curiosity and invention,” Prakash said. “Many children around the world have never used a microscope, even in developed countries like the United States. A universal program providing a microscope for every child could foster deep interest in science at an early age.”


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