Inspiring Makers — Ladyada Takes One Giant Step for Womankind


 

Limor Fried, or Ladyada as she’s better known in geekspeak, is a prolific maker, engineer, kit maker, entrepreneur, MAKE advisory board member and open source hardware pioneer.

 

In an exciting blessing for makers and female engineers, Fried graced the April cover of WIRED magazine: a publication that’s been around for 18 years. This is the first time a female engineer has ever been featured on the cover.

 

MAKE Magazine called it a milestone for makers, for women, for engineers, and anyone who makes things for a living.

 

Fried was also interviewed this year on CBC’s Spark by host Nora Young. She defines what a Maker is, and touches on some amazing projects she’s got her eye on for the future.

 

“A maker is the new hobbiest. It’s someone who likes to build stuff with their hands and with tools,” Fried says. “I work a lot with electronics makers, people who really like to build electronics, both from scratch, and to take stuff off the shelf and modify and manipulate it to make it do cool and awesome stuff.”

 

Cool and awesome indeed. Though she’s one of the most talented, hard-working and intelligent voices in the maker community, one of the best things about Ladyada is that she’s female, and she embraces it.

 

 

As she explains to CBC:

 

“I just love glam. I wanna go out there and be crazy and blinky and awesome and have a good time.”

 

Yes!

 

After first talking about the importance of open source software and hardware (that’s how she learned her stuff), Fried talks about her own clothing line using wearable computing. This is clothing with embedded coloured lights that allows the wearer to feature a movie, favourite team colours, or other more elegant displays using layers of softly lighted fabric to create a stunning visual display.

 

And what if she gets lost?

 

Fried also has an idea for a handbag that would harness GPS powers to tell the wearer which direction to walk in.

 

Want.

 

If you’re still not convinced that Ladyada is awesome, take a gander at her website Ladyada.net. The site receives about 3000 unique visitors each day, and logs an average of 20G of traffic per day. After taking a peek around her site, it’s easy to see why.

 

There’s a veritable feast of information on how to make/deconstruct/hack/recreate different electronic items, all with her trademark upbeat, step-by-step instructions.

 

Two of my favourite projects are the Minty Boost: a portable USB charger, and the x0xb0x: a digital synthesizer.

 

The Minty Boost is a small-yet-powerful USB charger for your mp3 player, camera, cell phone, and pretty much any other gadget that plugs into a USB port to charge. And it all fits neatly into an Altoids tin.

 

 

You can order the kit from Adafruit Industries, Fried’s webshop. With a few basic souldering skills and your own discarded tin, you can make your very own Minty Boost for about 20 bucks.

 

And once you’re done, just sit back, relax, and watch your electronics come to life!

 

The x0xb0x is substantially more complicated.

 

x0xb0x (pronounced “zocks box”) is a full reproduction of the original Roland synthesizer with a fully functional sequencer. The sequencer can be programmed just like the original, and can be used to control other synthesizers using one of its various output formats.

 

 

The x0xb0x boasts 128 banks of track memory and 64 banks of pattern memory, which are stored in onboard EEPROM.

 

And, of course, it’s got no less than 40 LEDs.

 

“Crazy and blinky and awesome!”

 

In Fried’s words:

 

“Electronics is now the new palatte. It’s the new way for us to modify, hack, explore… It’s great for everyone to know how to fix the things around them, or upgrade the things around them… [because] everything that you fix is another thing that isn’t being thrown away.”

 

Amen sister. Now how do I join your official fan club?

 

Photo credits:

Wired Cover — Courtesy of blog.makezine.com

Fried with x0xb0x — Courtesy of wired.com

Minty Boost and x0xb0x — Courtesy of ladyada.net