The BOM : Episode 10: MakerBay Founder & Educator Cesar Jung-Harada

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Continuing our series on Education in Design and Tech, today we are joined by the prolific inventor, conservationist, student, and educator Cesar Jung-Harada. Cesar is the Founder and Director of “MakerBay”, a Hong Kong network of innovation centers and the Founder and CEO of the ocean robotic startup “Scoutbots” developing ocean sensors and transportation technology to explore and protect the oceans. Cesar is also a TED Senior Fellow and his most popular talk has about 2 million views, and has been translated into more than thirty languages. He was the opening speaker of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference about ocean innovation. Cesar's current research includes Impact Invention, Social Innovation, Critical and Speculative Design, ocean exploration and conservation technologies, and creative community building. Cesar is a Senior Lecturer for the Design+ Bachelor of Arts and Sciences Programme. He teaches both technical and theoretical aspects of design with an emphasis on inventions with social and environmental impact. He was trained in Design Thinking by George Kembel (co-founder of Stanford d-School) and in Rapid Prototyping by Tom Chi (co-founder of Google X). He is also a dear friend to the Supplyframe DesignLab community, and was a 2020 Hackaday Prize Judge. Today we discuss what inspired Cesar to pursue a life in design, conservation, and education, his brilliant teaching work with folks of all ages, and the tangible impact he is having on our oceans through innovative design.

You can follow @Supplyframe and @Hackaday on Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Twitter, and @SupplyframeDesignLab on Instagram and Twitter.

The BOM is a Supplyframe podcast hosted by Majenta Strongheart, written, produced, and edited by Frank Driscoll and co-edited by Daniel Ferera. Executive producers are Ryan Tillotson and Tyler Nielsen. Theme music is by Ana Hogben, with show art by Thomas Schneider. Special thanks to Giovanni Salinas, Bruce Dominguez, Thomas Woodward, Jin Kumar, Jordon Clark, Matt Gunn, the entire Supplyframe Team, and you, our wonderful listeners.

The BOM (or “bill of materials”) is a weekly Supplyframe DesignLab Podcast hosted by Head of Design & Partnerships Majenta Strongheart. Each week, through digestible conversations with the world’s leading innovators, hackers, and entrepreneurs, Majenta and her guests explore the future of how hardware projects are built and brought to market, investigate technological solutions to the world's toughest challenges, help bridge the gap between makers, startups, and investors, and celebrate the transformational power of design. Presented by Supplyframe DesignLab

Episode transcripts

So, in the nutshell, whatwe need to do is use technology in
the way that unites US politically,that enriches us. So open source,
so that it's not only a fewpeople that benefit the Developmentis technology and also
heals nature, so not to exploitnature, you know, Um, but
actually reverse all the negative things thatwe have been doing for all these past
years, and so I would arguethat the next industrial revolution is about that.
Welcome back to the bomb continue ourseries on education and design and tech.
Today we're joined by the prolific inventor, conservationist, student and Educator,
Caesar Jung Harada. It is possibleand desirable to dealop technology that are helping
to heal the environment and that gobeyond this logical sanction political division that is
trying to be used on us,and that's the technology being open source.
They can be used for everybody,and this is why I'm so glad that
Hackaday is promoting them open hardware sothat we are, you know, being
more responsible and how we work together, how we collaborate and developed technologies for
the environment. So I believe thatthe next industrial revolution that we need is
one that is going to be killingthe environment and I'm doing Um Um.
Excited to see all of your ideas. Thanks very much. Caesar is the
founder and director of maker Bay,a Hong Kong Network of innovation centers,
and the founder and CEO of theocean robotics startups, scout bots, developing
ocean sensors and transportation technology to exploreand protect the oceans. Caesar is also
a Ted senior fellow and his mostpopular talk has about two million views and
has been translated into more than thirtylanguages. He was the opening speaker of
the United Nations Climate Change Conference aboutocean innovation. Caesar's current research includes impact
invention, social innovation, critical andspeculative design, ocean exploration and conservation technologies
and creative community building. Caesar isa senior lecturer for the design plus Bachelor
of Arts and Sciences Program he teachesboth technical and theoretical aspects of design,
with an emphasis on inventions with socialand environmental impact. He was trained in
design thinking by George Kempbell, Cofounder of Stanford d school, and in
rapid prototyping by Tom she co founderof Google X. He's also a dear
friend to the supply frame design labcommunity and was a Hackaday prize judge.
Today we discussed what inspired Caesar topursue a life in design, conservation and
education, his brilliant teaching work withfolks of all ages and the tangible impact
he's having on our oceans through innovativedesign. Let's dive in. Well,
thank you so much for joining ustoday, Caesar. I'm really excited to
catch up. The last time wespoke in person was on the roof of
maker Bay in Hong Kong. Andwhen was that? Twenty eighteen or twenty
nineteen? I think? Yes,I think we just had twenty ye I
think we had just recently moved toUh to make a bey in tune on.
Yeah, I want to rewind alittle bit to how you got to
where you are today. You havetwo master's degrees, you've founded a maker
space, you've been a ted speakerand fellow, you've worked at M I
T um at University of Hong Kong. Can you tell us a little bit
about kind of how you got Umto where you are today? Um,
you know and what you're passionate aboutand how you know what types of education
you were receiving throughout to get youthere. I think would be interesting to
hear. So, technically I'm stilla student as well because I'm doing a
PhD remotely in the Engineering School atthe Lam. It's like the one of
the it's not the oldest engineering schoolin France, on the Pierre Levy professor
pre Levy. So I'm still studentmyself. But yeah, so to make
it really short, Um, somy father is Japanese immigrants who. So,
I know I don't look Japanese,but I have Japanese. So my
father's is Japanese, my mom isFrench and my father studied sculpture h and
he's a practitioning monumental stone sculptor.He works was granite. And so my
whole life I sort of grew upin a in a workshop, in a
in an artist studio and when hecame to France, as most immigrants,
he had to do whatever, youknow, job, especially as an artists
us like a garbage man and,you know, uh, for for some
time, even though he is comingfrom the best art university in Japan.
And eventually he became a university professor, Um, teaching in French and he's
French. Um. And so sinceI was a kid I could see that
he's really sharing his message. He'skind of an art whose artist, who
he's activist artist, and and soI've seen in him share his message of
peace and sort of political message throughhis art but also through teaching. Not
that he's doing like political stuff inschool, not not so directly, because
at school you have to be sortof neutral, but I was quite influenced
by by his practice. My momworks in I t. She was working
for digital that was acquired by Packardlike years ago. So I was influenced
by them. But long story,I was always between art and tech because
of this. In front of myparents, I studied the animation show and
I really enjoyed the technicality of likerunning, like stop motion and editing,
uh, since my first degree isreally an art degree, like fin art
degree. But then I wanted toaffect more social environmental change and I wanted
to do something more practical and Iwent to study interactive design, but technically
it's called design interaction Adual College ofart in the UK. And after that
I wanted to do something really,really practical, not only tell stories but
like do something tangible to affect people'slife, and I worked in renewable energy.
That was my first job in inthe UK in Web Energy, transformed
the energy of waves. Then endedup working in the might t to like
develop technologies to clean up the BPold spiel because there was an ongoing enviroment
catastrophe, and after that I startedmy own robotics company to develop like something
that that I would similar to whatI would do in terms of application in
MT, but with open source andworking in like between a nonprofit sector,
trying to accelerate how I would developtechnology to protect the environment. And that
what that is what brought me toHong Kong because of the supply chain,
because all the electronics, basically,I mean not all, but like a
big part of electronics manufacturing is happeningright here in the great obey, where
I've been for the last eight years. After setiling around the world. After
setiling around the world, I've foundraving Shan Jin and and found that,
yeah, Shan Jan and the greatobey is basically the world epicenter for like
manufacturing, robotics and precision mechanics.So that's why I decided to be here.
What was the sort of pivotal momentwhere you said there was a moment
where you realized you really wanted tobe, you know, turn your attention
more to the environmental impact kind ofwork and not just be able to tell
these stories but be able to kindof influence change in these areas. And
what was there a specific event ora moment that caused that, that kind
of change in direction? I wasvery, very influences with by my older
brother. So I have a brotherWHO's five years older than me and when
I was, I think, sixteen, Seventeen, he was the head of
the like the Young People Green Partyin Paris Um and because he was a
lawyer, a studying lawyer, hewas not able to be Um doing any
crime because when you are and so, but he was a politician and he
needed to organize all these Um Greenactivist activities, but he couldn't take the
risk to be caught. So Iwas sort of these right hand man and
be doing the stuff that he wasnot supposed to do. So that was
I was involving the activism, originallyas a as as not as a child,
as a teenager, doing activist stuff, but I was no sister to
help my brother. Of course Iwas interested in this stuff, but I
was doing activism on behalf of mybrother originally, but then, Um,
I because I was embedded in thatenvironmentalist m activist community, I became very
sensitive to all these these topics andUm, so I don't remember if you
there was not like a turning point, but I was just exposed to a
lot of environmental catastrophe through this work. And the turning point, though,
for me was when I was workingthe BP oil Spiel, when I went,
when he became like a life's mission, Um, and uh, I
was that a mighty at the time. Um, and we were applying for
a really loud grunt multimillion dollar grantsfor an emergency technology and we went on
the I went independently, so notfunded by the lab, to the Gulf
of Mexico and to to see theVP old spill on site myself and the
Guy who took us on the onthe BP O, Speer. He was
a captain and he was missing twolegs, and so I was really wondering
what happened and he explained to usthat he lost his first leg in Katrina
because he was a shrimp working ashrimping boat and of course the typhoon was
really bad and he lost his secondleg working the nightshift, trying to recoup
the money that he's lost and tryingto support the families of friends that he's
lost in Katrina. Uh, andthat now, with the VP old spill,
the basically not allowed to fish anymorebecause they cannot sell the catch.
And UH. And then he toldme that the only thing that he can
do now is to basically working toclean up. And he had just the
day before his best friends suicide becausehis friend got intoxicated by by the by
the oil, and and he lost, uh, how do you say?
He lost the his his best friendwho shot himself the day before, lost
his virility, I don't know it'sthe right word in English. And his
wife just just left him with thekids. So what I realized is that
this environmental catastrophe are not only vromentalcatastrophe and they kill fish or something like
this, but they really destroyed thelivelihood of people and they destroyed people's life
like forever. And so back thenI realized that, okay, well,
this invamented technology that they we liveloved like. They have like a such
deep impact in a place like Louisianaas well. The people who are the
most affected that the people who areon the on the front line. Um,
they you know, they been poorfor for a very long time,
and the people were working the cleanup first one, but dominantly, like
African American, and they are thedescendants of slaves. And so, uh,
this environmental catastrophe actually continue to amplifysocial injustice and racial inequality. Uh,
and that's just not acceptable. Sothis is when I realized, like
wow, like this guy who is, you know, no legs, still
working, his best friend shot himself, and then all these like black,
black African American, you know,working the asses off on stuff that that
shouldn't be there. And that wasthe point of no return. And I
have, I have a lot ofinformation about it. I can do stuff
about it. I must do somethingabout it, basically. And and since
then I've seen other places like that, like I work in Fukushimaria, for
example, next to nuclear power plants, and this is also also why I
teach. So I've been, I'vebeen teaching since to southern and uh so,
the day I graduated, I couldfeel in that bones that I was
going to leave France at some pointforever, because I felt like it was
not, even though it's beautiful thatI felt there was no future for me.
I mean there's so many things youcan do. Of course it's like
a wonderful country, but I feltI was going to leave, I was
going to be an immigrant, likelike, like my my parents, H
and I. and I realized thatI I wanted to to to write a
book about my father. And Iwrote a book about my father and I
presented it the day after I graduated. And the day after I graduated I
presented the book at the University wheremy father was teaching and they proposed me
a job right away because there wasa bunch of people who were going to
retire and they saw my presentation andI presented graphic design work and the second
you please teach graphic design in thearchitectural school. So the day after I
graduated I got offer a job toteach. So I've been teaching literally,
uh like since that. They aregraduated. So I've been teaching since to
seven and six. You know,I guess I don't want to. I
don't want it to be. Ithink that you are always very optimistic in
these you know, in our conversationsat least, and in the work you're
doing, like you said you yousaw these things happening. You're considering,
you know, what you bring tothe table and kind of how you can
contribute and said, you know,I need to do something about this.
How do you continue kind of thatoptimism? You know, the New York
Times just did the story around climatedespair and dumerism and, Um, you
know some of the things that havebeen happening with climate activists recently and you
know, especially with working with kids. One of your presentations was also around
you know, you can't Um,be dishonest right about these things. They're
very real, they have very realeffects. So how do you kind of
balance the intensity of the challenges andremain, you know, kind of optimistic
productive around this and push for changein these areas? I mean, the
the work is never is never done, like there's always there's always more to
do. Like, for example,a reality, something very practical. Let's
say a lot of people work onplastic clean up. You know, they
go to the beach and a lotof people are getting involved with that and
that's that's fantastic. But oftentimes people, a lot of people who participate,
the only participleate once or twice because, like you say, like they go
to the beach, they clean itup and they know that you know the
next day it's going to be thesame, like the Audi Ocean is going
to keep carrying all these trash thatwe just throwing it because we treat the
ocean like like a garbage dumph,and so so. So the way I
think about it is more like relationship, like the relationship you have with nature,
like relationship with the member of yourfamily. Um, that's really the
way I think about it. It'slike the person, or the ocean in
my case, is basically it's alwaysgoing to be here and there's always gonna
be problems. You know, it'slike you're, you're, you're, you're
like your weird uncle, you're weirdAuntie, like there's there's always gonna be
something, something weird about it,and but there as a part of your
family. So no matter how fuckedup you know they are, they're always
part of your family. So youhave to just to deal with it.
And so, Um, you canbe like a cold and you know,
like what are you saying, andyou know being upset about it or like
given giving up on them, butat the end of the day, you
don't really choose. There's a lotof stuff that you don't you don't you
don't choose who is in your family, and so then you you just have
to deal with it. And sothe way you have to deal with it
is then you can decide, likeam I going to be upset all the
time, or am I going tobe happy and and live a happy life
and and trying to do my bestabout what it's given to me? And
so that's how I feel, basicallyabout like the the ocean and environment and
dealing with you agreed, and Um, how we how we treats each other
and the environment. So that's that'swhy I think about it. I it's
because of my, I guess,my father's tradition that Shinto so it's a
sector of Buddhism, which is alsolike, Bas about acceptance and celebration of
life. And that's that's just howwe're supposed to to run our days.
You know, it's just a lifeis suffering and and life is hard and
and we in this together and we'regoing to die and that that's that's okay.
So, like as we are life, we make the most of every
day. And Yeah, it doesn'tmatter if you reach a poor you're still
a member of the community and andyou you contribute to do your best every
day. I feel like you're verystrategic in how you work actually with educational
institutions, and I would love tohear kind of your, you know,
your pro tips with this, becauseI think that like are able to accomplish
so much during, you know,while you're still a student, and I
think you're actually utilizing the, youknow, the programs that you're in as
a student to also fuel right partof the cycle of what you're teaching and
also the projects you're working on atmaker Bay or at some of these in
some of these partnerships. Um,I'm trying to figure out like the right
way to ask this question, buthow can I guess? How can what
are some of the ways that individualscan use, you know, educational institutions
to support innovative projects and partnerships orthe ways that you've found success in these,
you know, in getting support foryour projects? So I think it's
it's mostly about, Um, obtaininga buy in. So it's like how
do you get people to to tojoin forces and also, norly, feel
that it is the approach really likeauthentically making it their project, giving them
credits and empower empowering the people thatyou're working with to to uh, to
own the change that that you aretrying to do collectively. Um, I'll
give you an examples of for example, like about curiosity, mentioning so so.
Um, there's also like real concernand also working stuff that is happening.
If it's an evamentor crisis, it'stimely, and so if they are
working on this, it means thatthey're working on something real. And so,
for example, like when the Kushimaaccident happened, so there was a
big earthquake that triggered the tsunami thatkilled fourteen thousand Japanese people, like almost
like extant instantaneously and Um, andthen the nuclear power plant was damaged,
and so there was a global emergency, like we don't know what's going on
with the radio activity. And soI half half of my family in Japan,
and so for me, I hadthe director. I was lucky,
I was. I had a directconnection to Japan, and so I had
like a very strong motivation to understandlike what was going on. But then
I I was in based in HongKong. So how do I involve,
for example, people in Hong Kongto to work on on radio activity in
another country. So I was concernedwith this and I was just just openheartedly
sharing my concern with my students.I was not like keeping work and passion
and my concern isolated and I didn'thave a solution. And so the way
I approached it is that I Italked to my administrator about it and I
said, this is happening in Japanand my family is, you know,
affected and I don't know what we'regonna do about it. I generally didn't
know what we're going to do aboutit, but I wanted to talk about
it with the students. So Isort of like take a step away maybe
from the normal curriculum in school.I was teaching in like secondary school,
Primary Secondary School back then, andI said, I don't know what we're
gonna do, but do you mindif we, if if you talk about
it? And I said Yeah,sure, you know, you can talk
about it. But then of coursewe did. We talked about it and
then it started to sort of likeput your your fingers and again you get
pulled in and uh, and soyou know, we just like just to
have a have a class about environmentor radio activity and how you know the
sun is radioactive and or like notlike not sending reactive but they're sending US
wave and and how all the xrays and stuff works and how do they
respond to materials and how do theyaffect the biology? And then we talked
about, like what's happening in FKushima and is there radio activity in Hong
Kong? It turns out at HongKong, which is a very granite space
and has a lot of concrete,is actually more radio active, for examples,
in said Tokyo, which is still, you know, uh, just
because of the geology. And they'relike wow. And then we started to
build our own Gaga counter in theclassroom and so that the students are like,
we're starting to measure the activity inour own environment, working with the
nonprofits from Japan that is also measurere activity in Japan. And then we're
like, okay, well, Caesar, during the next holiday I'm actually gonna
go to Japan. So what about? I'm going to be your robot and
you stay in Hong Kong, butyou you basically tell me where should go.
So I sent you the data.Every day, you plot them on
the map. So you like mymy assistant on the land, if you
will, and then we're collaborating.And then I'll go in and I try
to meet out the kids your ageand ask them, you know, how
they feel about radio activiting the environment, and then you're gonna have discussion with
them and a new plus them aregoing to direct me around in the local
community and trying to understand like howradio activity affects them. And then we
continue to have this question like okay, well, how does Radio Activity Affect
Fish? Okay, then we dothe students. We're gonna think, like
how can we measure radio activity atthe bottom of the ocean? So it's
all the curiosity based and like theseare the things that affect people, that
the things that we're curious about,and then we're just trying to solve these
issues basically. And we ended upworking with the local fishermen in Japan developing
a novel way to like capture oceansediments very, very cheaply, and we
ended up working with the like spaceengineering departments into Hook University to clean up
these samples and ended up working withthe geology research in France, who analyze
the radio activity level in each ofthose samples, and so all that stuff
was done with the students, incollaboration with the top universities and the local
community and so so basically it's likethat. Like you, you you ask
for permission maybe to to do alittle bit and as you discover stuff,
you let curiosity and a sense ofpurpose drive drive you and about it.
You're trying. You're trying to dointeresting ship and basically you do it absolutely
and I think it's so awesome toshow students, especially young students, you
know kind of what's possible when youneed to bring in special list for this
one thing, that, like you, don't necessarily have to know everything to
dream big and be able to accomplishsomething right. Do you feel like you've
seen a shift Um in the notonly the the interest, but the actual
support of hands on education around uh, you know, fabrication, prototyping,
design thinking. Have you seen ashift in the broader appreciation for these things
and the necessity for these I wouldsay that it's super different in different geographies.
So I think in America right nowthere's a growing understanding that America has
been exporting a lot of its sortof skilled labor and really increasing in automation.
Like everybody know in America that youknow, the productivity is, you
know, going through through the roof, like it's super, super super productive,
both in terms of agriculture, becauseof mostly use of chemicals, and
and manufacturing automation. But now there'sa tendency to realize like, Oh wow,
like if you have a trade wardsChina, our lives are going to
be really, really greatly affected.So there's a there's an emphasis on the
shoring. I think that's that's happeningnow. Um, before I think it
wasn't. It was it was morefocused on innovation. So like how do
you how do you work with innovation? But I think now even a manufacturing
job and those are becoming more andmore valued because there's a because we're entering
face of the globalization unfortunate images,which is super, Super Sad, but
on the other hand me means that, Um, local economies have got to
be more robust. So I think, like what I'm saying is that the
present in Hong Kong, in thelast twenty years they have removed actually all
technical job and all the students werepushed not to engage with stemp uh in
in the last twenty years they weresaying, like go to do like insurance
or financial sector, because that's wherethe money is, because that's what this
particular place was really focused on.They were moving away from manufacturing, uh,
and now they're realizing more and more, uh, that if you want
to be innovative, Um, theywell, this this this part in Hong
Kong is still missing it. Theyyou're asking all the students to be super
innovative, but they are refusing tolet them do the basic technical training.
They're like, you have to buildlike amazing robots and you have to to
quote that pattern and stuff, butthey don't allow them to to learn the
basics of what making robot is,which is like cutting a piece of metal
and like welding and and machining,and if you don't do those things then
you're only going to assemble legos,basically. So I think, uh,
it goes through phases when politicians andthe local economy requires that shift, whether
you're in an emerging country as wellthat needs to industrialize, or whether you're
in the community that needs to developlike skills, to to use resources more
like soundly, to develop without thistraining environment like in a lot of different
configuration. Uh, you have youhave different incentives and and there's still a
lot of places where they are theindustrializing and the Skilling people in terms of
like hardware. So it really dependson where you are in America, for
or Um. You know, whenwe say makers, I think we typically
refers from like the eighties, kindof like a hobbyist esthetic of like using
Adrena and stuff like that. ButI think the reality of it is,
you know, makers have always beenthere. Is just like what you say.
It is like repackaging, but it'ssuper different in different places. But
from America's perspective, yeah, it'smore and more accepted and there's more and
more support and I think the figureof the inventor, which I'm often associated
with, thankful I'm lucky like inin I feel like it's a it's a
good moment in history in America,especially to be an inventor. You were
actually trained in design thinking by GeorgeCampbell, Co founder of Stanford Day School,
and in rapid prototyping by Tom sheco founder of Google X Um.
Both, you know, incredible kindof beacon institutions in what we're speaking about.
What you know? What was itlike? Learning under them and how
do you feel like they've shaped kindof your perspective when it comes to innovation
and also to teaching? I mean, the way I felt working with them
is that when you get really,really close to them, you know,
they write these really good books aboutthen thinking and like all the steps and
like the technicalities, but when youwork with them, uh, they don't
care about the steps. They arelike completely like free flowing, and when
way they work, it's not it'snot like do do what I say and
do what I do. It's morelike music or martial arts, you know,
like you need to sort of masterthe the basics, and what's your
master the basics then you can sortof be super creative with your technique.
You learn the rules to break therules exactly. So so they themselves don't
respect the methodology the way the adverthas it. They you know, when
when you read their books or whenyou maybe go to one of the workshops,
you're on the steps, which isgreat, but it's basically practicing your
skilled or like martial arts, thatyou're learning technique and you're repeating. You're
just like Ah, I started toget it, and then once it's becoming
supernatural. It's becoming second nature then. Uh. And so that's that's uh,
that's what I hope with with mystudents, to sort of give them
a really strong fundamentals uh, andthen to set them free so that they
can they can be creative and thendo the stuff that they want to do
adficiently as possible. And Uh,I feel like they can throw away the
technique and focus on properson and doingstuff, you know, fast and and
and well, Um, you weresuper generous to share some of your amazing
documentation of some of your robotics projects, your coral reef mapping but that you
and some others were working on duringyour Hacky Day two launch summit talk that
you gave, which was awesome,about kind of the power, you know,
open source, Um, in theseconcerts Asian projects. Maybe you can
tell us a little bit about someof the robots that you've built, and
I'd love to just do a littlebit more of a technical dive some of
the technology of used, the hardwareand and I know that somewhere using,
you know, Ai and some ofthese more innovative, you know, Um
techniques. So, MHM, therobots you mentioned. That is called Coral
bots. Here's a clip from Caesar'srecent talk at the Hackaday Prize launch summit,
where he shared his story of inventingcoral bots with his students. It's
projected by twenty fifty we will havelost approximately of core reef if you continue
business as usual, and more andworst we expect by the end of the
century, and this will be dramaticbecause billions of people depend on the coastal
fisheries, which are highly dependent oncore reef in a lot of places,
especially in tropics. The way thatwe study core reff today we use two
main instruments. One is a Quadrat, which was what you sees basically square
and then you swim down and youput on the ocean floor, you swim
back up, you take a pictureand then you swim down again and then
you move it. So it's extremelyslow. It's costly because you need to
have like a diving boat and multipledivers at the time and get the equipment,
the insurance, support vessel, etCETERA. Um, it's also quad
risky, you know, going backup and down like this one, this
ocean current maybe both passing by.We can maybe stay an hour underwater with
two people. It's not scalable.And so with my students who look at
this and other electronssect, which islike using a rope which has marks every
fifty centimeters, we realized that itwas not the speed at which we map
core reef. Basically we won't evenhave the time to map all of them.
They will be already dead. Sothis technology is not scalable, not
appropriate. And so I work withvery young people and we try to first
study the state of the arts andthen, of course, it goes snarkal
because you might as well, butalso to develop the empathy. So we
didn't thinking act really to initially developsome ideas and under student make lots of
sketch and in one of those brainstormone of students came up with this idea
of replacing the mechanical device, sothe Plastics Square, with an optical device
projecting a laser, and I thoughtthat was a great idea. So we
immediately went to buy a construction laser. This is what they used to actually
make sure that the line is horizontalor another line is vertical, and that
helps us to make our houses thatdon't collapse. UH, the student had
no experience whatsoever in electronics, butthey learned to take apart electronics on their
job. They didn't know anything aboutoptics. Remember that these are literally like
middle school students. They learn aboutoptics on the job. They didn't know
how to use the machine, butdoing the project they learned how to use
the machines and in about a week, students with zero background in either biology
or optics and mechanics electronics, theybuild this first version of the laser quadrat
Um, and so that worked.So immediately were thinking like okay, if
this is working, we need totest it and by specialists to validate whether
this is a useful idea or not. So we brought it to the sware
Institute of Marine Science. This is, uh, the Best Marine Lab in
Hong Kong, and we had mystudents, middle school kids, you see,
like the youngest one maybe like likeeleven years old, present to PhD
and professor the ideas and the professorsand the PhDs were shocked that this technology
was made by those kids and theyimmediately tested them in their corald tanks and
it really worked and they realized immediatelythat they could speed up the way that
they monitored the core reef in thelab, but they really invited us go
and test it. They said likego and test it in in the field.
So we got a special permission togo on a married protected area and
the few days later we took aschool bus. I want to stress as
well that three of my students,middle school students, were special needs kids.
Uh, they have a D HD or other types of you know,
um like learning disability. But we'vealways find something that everybody can contribute
and so we tested this technology andit worked. So again we try under
the water and it worked. Thestudents spend a lot of time documenting it,
teaching pictures together and posting it veryimportant, sharing it on the website
like instructible where everybody could see howthey did it. A few months later,
some students in master's level. Soall the students saw disinvention and they
were captivated by it and they didn'thave an idea of what they could do
for the master's degree thesis, andso they approached me and together we wrote
a grant at the Honco University inUm and that was to support taking twenty
students, uh not twelve, twelvestudents, sorry, to the island of
Mindoro in the Philippines, and sothese are the students on the beach.
We brought most of the electronics onthe island because it doesn't have, you
know, like this kind of likeadvanced electronics supply. But then, because
we couldn't find a general construction supply, we actually built with what we could
find in the island. So thestructure of the boat is made from bamboo
that we called from the forest andthe trash that we found on the beach,
the plastic bottles and basic tires thatwe cut to make ties to attach
those bottles. What we do thismachine is that we have on camera that
takes hundreds of pictures and then westeach those using photograph try and then we
can make also three d models andwe also use open CV, so computer
vision, to actually measure the sizeof the square that we project on the
sea floor, to measure the depthsof the water. So like this we
can normally the size of the coral, but we can also stitch in a
more effective way. Recently, ourlatest sense is that humans performing about accuracy
in recognition, and I can recognizeso in the early stage, already doing
much better than humans and most excitingly, one of the students actually forked the
technology that we developed in the Philippineand then turn this into a business.
So this is called clear but insteadof identifying corals, he's actually trying to
identify trash, and so I continueto help my students after he's graduated,
and now he's turned this into areal business and recently they've got some investment
from the I t company, Razer, and so now they are, you
know, actively looking to manufacture thoseplastic cleaning robots to use in the ocean.
We have a couple of questions,so we ask all of our guests,
so sort of speed round at theend here. So what is sparking
your creativity? I feel like youalready answered this in a couple of ways,
but I'll be curious to hear howyou summarize it. What sparking your
creativity? Uh, these days,outside of technology, mostly trying to understand
like how tech can be part ofpeople's life. So it's mostly like learning
about culture actually. So now Ifeel like I I still have a ton
to learn about tech, like I'mstill feel super behind about tech, but
I feel like unless you know thecultural context, then then your tech is
not going to be living very long, and so that's why almost most interested
to learn. How how do youwork with people, cultures and traditions?
Very cool almost. Would you saythat's more from uh, like an anthropological
kind of standpoint, or psychological orall of the above? All of the
because, yeah, because like youcan't really separate those things. Like people
may want their anthropological like their traditionsmaybe, or the aesthetics or the local
material whatever. They that they wantto be respected, but at the same
time they have their own personal Baasthat they also want to be like modern
people. They also want to havelike a cool new tech, like they
don't want to be like relegated tolike, Oh, you're doing like,
uh, developing country kind of technology, like super cheap, and you know,
yeah, why that? We wantto have cool shiny stuff too.
So you have to sort of balance, UM, yeah, so, yeah,
it's not. It's not so onesided like it's it's always messy and
you have to understand the people's desireand it can't be done, I would
say, very like you can't justwant to be in and out and have
it done in one, you know, twenty minute interview or something. Right.
You're talking about the kind of likedeep study and understanding of what's really
going to be valuable or useful andhow it's going to be. What's going
to be the most effective way fora solution to be implemented, right,
depending on each culture and experiences exactly. But that's what it's hard because,
at the same time you want tohave like a change at scale, but
you can't be spending, you know, like a month in every coastal community,
uh, to to implement technology.So this is where it's becoming like
tricky. is like, okay,since are you doing this school? Like
it's very romantic technology, like niceand the culture integrated, but but you
don't have scale. So, andit's true. So that's what I'm trying
to find out. Like is thereis it possible to development methodology, to
develop technology, to have like standardand that reliable and scalable, but at
the same time being like very respectfuland understanding how you great with those like
environments and cultures, and I thinkthat's the key. Um, you know,
I feel like yeah, there wasthis guy, I think he was
from a like really rural area andhe was he was telling you, like
iphone is amazing because it's such alike cold technology, but at the end
of the day, I can choosemy image, background, I can choose
like my and I was just likewow, that's the level of customization that
that you want, and I wasjust like yeah, like it's like a
technology. Everybody makes their own andI was just like wow, that's really
cool inside, like yeah, justthe ability to change the background is basically
what what they want. They caninstall the apps that they want and then
they can change the background, theimage, and then they really feel like
it's yeah, it's a very standard, very cold, minimalistic device, but
yeah, people can customize that andthat's good enough for them and they're super
excited about it cool. So I'mnot saying that I want to be apple,
but what I'm saying is that.But what I'm saying is that they
there's a litle of customization that's required, but sometimes it's not such a big
strap in terms of technology and it'sit can be like all of the people
who working technology underestimate often times thatthat they can give away a little bit
of that of their territory, butit goes a really long way to being
accepted on a broader scale. Insummary, Caesar wants to be Apple.
That's the takeaway. Thank you.No, no, of course. Um.
Okay. And then our other questionthat we're asking everyone. Um,
well, just to to sact,to respond to that a little bit thought.
No, I think it is interestingto see what you know sometimes how
simple it can be too for peopleto feel ownership of something. Right,
or feels that you know, thatit's personalized, that they have they got
to make a decision around it andthat that, Um is, like you
said, enough to get some buyin around something. Right. Um.
So, last but not least,what is your personal bill of materials?
You can interpret this however you like. Well, I am packing right now,
so I have a very big packingless. I have a big deal
of materials. Now it looks likea forty foot container like full of tools.
UH So. But but I wasthinking about it today because I have
to I'm moving the whole workshop likeacross the ocean right now. So I
have a very, very big packinglist. But I have to look for
like an insurance and I was thinkinglike, Huh, what if my container
was lost to tea and I lostlike all my tools and all my notebooks
forever, like, how would Ifeel? And Uh, I was thinking
about the terms where I had nothingand I still managed to sort of rebuild
and I was just thinking, oh, that would really suck, but at
the same time I'd be like Idon't think I would cry. I think
like con time ago I would havecried because I'd be like Oh my ship,
like Oh my note booking, mytools and and some of the stuff
come from my grandfather. I knowit's it's it's gonna be emotional, but
now I'm just thinking, like ifI lose everything, it sucks, but
I'm just gonna be like, aslong as I can find like a local
hardware store and I have a bitof money, I feel like I can
sort of figure it out. Sosurprisingly, yes, I do need more
and more and more stuff, buton the other hand, I also feel
more and more free of that stuff, you know, in a weird way
I'm just like yeah, like,I will just just figure it out.
Yeah, I feel more and morelike Um, that's also part of what
I have to teach. It's like, you know, it doesn't matter how
cool, especially university, because ofthe university. Yeah, they're really administrators
and students are really excited to havelike the most expensive machine possible, like
I want to see and see,I want to robotic. I'm just like,
you know, calm down, likedo you know how to use a
hammer? Do you know how tolike people don't know how to use a
freaking screwed right. So I'm justlike, you know, like, uh,
you don't need to have super expensivestuff to do really cool stuff,
and it's all like, it's allthere. It's like your capacity to to
use materials. And I think aboutlike, I don't know, Indian craftsmen
doing like golden jewelry and like they'redoing amazing precise stuff and they they've been
doing for centuries and their tools aresuper simple. Uh. And I think
about like TCMC like doing like no, no, Nano scale. They have
to invent their own tools. Likewhen you do like super crazy amazing stuff,
you know there's also limits. Soit's not about like the tools that
you have that limits you. It'sall your imagination that that that limits you
and what you want to do.Like, for our listeners, Caesar was
pointing in his head when he saidit's all up up here. It's all
in there. No, yes,I think that's such an awesome place to
arrive. At I'm jealous. Iwant to be at that place where I'm
like, you know, I wouldbe okay if all of my stuff was
lost at see Um. You know, I think it's it really comes down
to, like you said, theexperiences you've built up, Um, the
recipe for successes all in your mindand your imagination. And I would add
to that that the people can bepretty important to you. Don't want to
lose them at sea. But yeah, but yes, hopefully. Yeah,
you've been. You've been super generousto give me a platform to show about
my work, and I'm very gratefulfor that. No, of course.
I think you're literally one of themost interesting people I've ever met, Caesar,
and it's always a pleasure to talkto you. So I learned so
much every time. Thank you somuch for taking the time. Well,
thank you for for being a bigsupport. I mean, you guys also
do a lot for the communities.I really, really appreciate you guys aren't
left going above and beyond, likeyou're not doing the Baminim I'm like you're
doing not only doing your job,like we can really say that you put
your your heart in your work aswell, and and you guys are super
supportive of the of the community aswell, organizing these prizes and finding sponsors,
working us off too to support macaslike us. So thanks, love
for you to work with you too. Thank you. I appreciate that.
We're back with another design lab debrief. Hey, Magenda, how are you
a long time yeah, well,I missed the podcast last week. So,
yeah, you're back. Geo.How is Baby Luca? Luca is
very healthy, so is his momand yes, I always say Luca is
a baby that sleeps all day andparties all night, unfortunately for the parents.
Right. Oh well, I'm gladthe news. Member of the design
lab team is is doing well andI can't wait to meet him. Um.
So, yeah, last week wewere discussing Emily Pilton's work in education
for design and engineering and fabrication foryoung girls and gender ends of youth in
the bay area, and now thisweek we're back talking to Caesar who,
Um, we've both had the pleasureof kind of working with for the last
few years here and there on differentprojects. He was also a hackaday prize
judge in the past and has justalways stayed super active in the community.
Is Um, you know, hasopen source really at the root of all
the work he does and is definitelyinspiring to me as far as a how
much he manages just to be doingall the time. I don't even know
how and be how he uses kindof academic institutions and grants and private Um,
privately funded kind of work in projectsand public sector work to kind of
make this magical stew of impact inall the work that he does is amazing
and I would recommend everyone to checkhis his work, his Um social media.
Yeah, and yes, what yousaid is true. I'm I'm I'm
very interested every time I see hiswork. How he when he develops something,
it's not just the fact that itis great for humanity, but it's
also that it is open source.And then, to make it even better,
he brings his students to work onit. And they're young students,
they're not we're not talking about PHDSEare high school students who are learning how
to make a difference for the world. So it's yeah, CS is amazing,
absolutely and I love how he waseven expanding on he brings it to
the students and then they put itback out there, which is this,
you know, the sweet loop ofinformation, of giving and taking the open
source just is by nature right andhe's another one of those people that make
sure that from even whatever they're takingkind of from the community or from open
source work that other people have done. He's super I mean sing a documentation
and making sure to put it backout there and making sure his students understand
that and kind of the power ofthat. You know he's talking about.
Then he gets to see later allthese other students and people around the world
creating similar projects, related projects,offshoots of the work he's developed, whether
it's the coral reef mapping robot orother projects, his ocean cleaning boat,
plastic pickup boat, and just tosee what everyone else kind of does and
creates from there and runs with and, you know, I hope for the
future of design disciplines, work frompeople like like sea sir, like his
students, the hack of the communityhelp us redefine what design means. I
studied industrial design and there are afew things that have changed from the moment
I had graduated until now. Forstarters, industrial feels a little old,
or if I shouldn't say I shouldn'tsay all, probably outdated. Now we
have additive manufacturing and other things thatdid not necessarily imply you have to be
in in, you know, anindustrial environment. And the other thing is
open source. Designers were used to, and I think we've discussed this in
previous podcasts, we were used tohiding our work and not showing it until
the opening day, you know.And and how did you manage to do
this? Oh, it's a secret. Well, it's the secret sauce,
right. But now it's the opposite, and this way you get a lot
of collaboration, you get a lotof feedback and people can be using your
your product or your solution in otherlatitudes, which is amazing. And,
as one of our past guests,Jason, was saying, it's literally you're
making an impact at sort of anexponential rate. You know, just so
much faster and have way broader everreached than you could have ever imagined if
you kind of kept it all lockedup until the release date and then you
don't even really know, you knowhow many people are going to see it
until much later. Right. Sotell us, Um audience, what do
you think? Should design have adifferent name now? Yeah, put it
out there. People need to vote. Should it? Should we? I
mean I think it is a revolutionthat's happening. As far as the open
source, you know, push maybeit will be called something different in the
future. What do you have ideasin mind when you said that? Well,
put you on the spot. Yeah, let's abandoned the word industrial.
But then unrelated, Um, andprobably trying to get away from that difficult
question of what is the next regionof design? Yes, one of the
discussions I I don't love to see, but I just see from the distance
on twitter is engineering. Who whogets to be called an engineer and who
doesn't get to be called an engineer? That are a lot of very passionate
people around that topic. And youknow how nice twitter is, so such
a friendly non judgment took place.It's a fantastic friendly space. So yes,
whenever you you find something for thereto who gets to be colden engineer
on twitter, Um, put ona Hazmat suits. Absolutely, yeah,
and I mean we brought that upbefore, even on the bomb about in
some ways there's so many there's somuch crossover and similarities in these different disciplines
that we don't like the barriers thatpeople put up by trying to differentiate.
But also, even emily, youknow, is talking about. It is
important to understand or respect expertise,though, at the same time and know
that you know, a certain amountof education or accreditation or something went into
someone understanding, especially when it comesto some engineering that's going to affect the
safety of something in you know,in biomedical or in Civil Engineering, that
you do want to trust the expertsand you know you do need to acknowledge
sort of their level versus a morenovice level, but that it's not so
important in some spaces. It's somepeople would like to think to differentiate between
a designer and artist and engineer,etcetera, which I think goes back to
kind of what you were saying aboutCaesar's strategy when it comes to his students
and, as he kind of emphasized, it's not about a lot of times
in this space people get excited aroundthe big this goes back to industrial like
tools, having access to C andC S, two injectional machines, to
you know, the top kind oflevel equipment. Um, what else?
I'm like throwing stuff out there,three D printers, laser cutters, these
shiny things, but at the endof the day it's about problem solving and
that's what we need more and moreyoung minds too, realize they can do
like that. They're doing even sometimesunaware, you know, intuitively their problem
solving Um just as they're learning howthe world works, and we need their
kind of unlimited mindset in that spaceto tackle all of these challenges that we're
facing when it comes to the environmentand sustainable solutions. One of the things
that this community has taught me ishow amazing it can be, it can
be when people from different disciplines tacklea certain goal, because sometimes when you
when you say again, a designstudent or a design professional, then you
you have a fixed team and you'reprobably working with design and marketing, you
know, and design engineering or marketing. But here you have environmentalists or people
who work who are specialists with certainkind of disabilities or, you know your
name, with any other kind ofdiscipline, and then you bring the electronics,
you bring the mechanical design, andthat's when you get really, really
awesome results, right, some ofthe most original things that you're not blocked
by that discipline or what that practiceusually, you know, the process that
usually go through. A great examplewould be well see, sir, of
course, Shah, with his backgroundand all his team, you know,
shadow Jacob. Yes, absolutely bringthat interdisciplinary perspective which is one of the
things we love about the Hackaday community, and I'm excited to see, on
that note, what people are submittingcurrently to the challenge number for climate resilient
communities challenge. This is our lastone before the wild card where people can
sort of anything goes. So reallyexcited to see what comes out of that.
And we're actually gearing up for SuperCon where the Grand Prize winners will
be announced and we'll be celebrating allthis awesomeness in November. We just announced
the call for proposals. So ifanyone out there has an epic project they're
working on or is doing interesting researchin electronics and engineering in, uh,
circuit sculpture. What else? We'vehad some awesome talks wearables. A lot
of our past podcast guests on thebomb have been previous super cons speakers,
and so if you want to applyand you have an idea, check out
our call for proposals. Were alsoaccepting workshop ideas on Hackaday DOT COM.
You can see an article all aboutit and we're about to release the tickets.
Maybe they'll be live actually by thetime this episode comes out. So
I also keep an eye out forthat because they'll be a limited early bird
option that's extra discounted, and thenour G A and then will also be
volunteer opportunities. So we hope tosee you all there super soon. It
feels like it's coming up any daynow just because the preparation is so crazy.
But it's November. We have time. Well, it's November, but
it's the first day of November.Yes, so sometimes, yeah, well,
anytime I think about November early it'sOctober thanksgiving, and Thanksgiving us way,
you know, late. But no, this is just the first days.
So yeah, I'm really excited tohave that energy back in this space
at design lab and taking over Pasadena. So we hope to see there and
you for everyone out there. Youstill have time to work on your s
A. Oh, yes, you'renot going to flip it, but if
you know, you know. Thanksfor another design lab debrief, Geo.
I'm excited we'll have bruce back andthe whole team reunited for our next episode.
Next week. We speak with MarcoTarabini, a mechanical systems engineer,
professor of mechanical and thermal measurement atPolytechnical Dimlana, author of more than one
hundred scientific publications and coordinator of twojoint research centers. I hope you'll join
us, Chib. If you likethe bomb, don't forget to subscribe,
rate and share the show. Whereveryou get your podcasts, you can follow
supply frame and Hack Day on Instagram, twitter, linkedin and Youtube, and
design lab at supply frame design labon Instagram and twitter. The bomb is
a supply frame podcast, written,produced and edited by Frank Driscoll and Co
edited by Daniel Ferrara. Executive ProducersAre Ryan Tillotson and Tyler Nielsen. Theme
Music is by Anna Hoggman, withshow art by Thomas Schneider. Special thanks
to Giovanni Selina's Bruce Deming is ThomasWoodward, Jin Kumar, Jordan Clark,
Matt Gunn, the entire supply groomteam, and you are wonderful listeners.
I'm your host, Magenta, strongheart.