Noteworthy Engineering-Related Kickstarter Campaigns

Engineers always seem to have an idea for a project or two (or 10) rolling around in their heads, and a young platform is providing them with a chance to bring these ideas to life.  Kickstarter.com is a crowdfunding site where users can donate to aspiring startups.  Donors only pay if the project reaches a set financial goal, and campaigns offer incentives to boost donations.  From equipment that turns street scaffolding into furniture to toys that inspire girls to pursue engineering, innovative projects are gaining support from a pool of interested donors, and civil and technical engineers are flocking to this popular platform.

Softwalks

New York is a mecca for civil engineering. Construction and renovation are frequent, so city residents are used to scaffolding. Softwalks, a project that began at Parsons the New School for Design, aims to transform these unsightly frames into community relaxation spots.  The idea is to add seating, plant holders and counters to these structures.  Pedestrians can use these sidewalk shelters to take a phone call, read the paper or drink coffee. Softwalks raised more than $13,000 on Kickstarter, and it expects to begin renovating sidewalks in the near future.  If residents enjoy this beautification project, it could lead to increased interest in sidewalk scaffolding.

GoldieBlox

Engineering student Debbie Sterling loved what she studied, but she noticed her field was dominated by men.  In an effort to get little girls interested in Engineering, Sterling developed GoldieBlox, a series of books and construction toys geared toward girls.  It’s an answer to Legos, Kinex and Lincoln Logs, toys that build spacial skills but are generally geared toward boys.

Sterling’s idea took off.  She hoped to raise $150,000 on Kickstarter but ended up raising more than $280,000.  Today, GoldieBlox and the Spinning Machine are available at Toys R Us, and another design is on the way.  A new generation of female engineers will unwrap this unprecedented toy for Christmas.

Formlabs 3-D Printer

Few technologies incite excitement about the future of technology more than 3-D printing.  Kickstarter is a breeding ground for this technology, and Formlabs developed one of the first consumer-focused 3-D printers.  The Form 1 3-D printer is one of the greatest success stories in Kickstarter history. Formlabs hoped to raise $100,000 during its 30-day campaign.  When the last day was up, it had raised just short of $3 million to develop this innovative device.  The Form 1 is available for pre-order and will ship in February 2014.

Melon

Who couldn’t use a little more focus?  Melon is a Kickstarter-funded EEG device that measures brain activity.  This headband connects to an app to deliver real-time measurements of your focus.  Melon also blew its Kickstarter goal out of the water, raising nearly $300,000.  There’s no word yet on when Melon will hit the market, but this jewel of technical engineering will change the way we stay focused.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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