Maker Faire: Massimo Banzi, Arduino Co-Founder: “You don’t need anyone’s permission to make something cool” | technology

Almost all technology companies jealously guard their developments in the most secret drawers of making money through both programming and components. Italian engineer Massimo Panzi, who will turn 55 in February, wanted to change that and create technology “IKEA,” a platform that can turn anyone into an innovator because, he advocates, “you don’t need to let anyone do something great.” At the turn of the century he spent some time in the Rey Arduino pub in Ivrea, between Milan and Turin, teaching at a design center that occupied the former Olivetti research facilities. Arduino appeared in 2005 after rebelling against the technology market and from that environment in northern Italy, and is one of the largest European companies developing free-access electronic software and accessible and repeatable components for manufacturing all kinds of devices. Most educational centers use them in their classes and serve a huge community of followers to create new devices every day.

Banzi, the company’s founding partner, is also a speaker, consultant, and educator in Switzerland and Denmark. But the founding spirit remains: to allow anyone easy access to advanced technologies with simple, simple and powerful products. During the first week of October, Panzi was present at the Maker Faire in Rome, the largest European tech fair where half a thousand innovators and over 40,000 visitors meet. His presence was applauded and cheered by an army of typhous (Fans), with the same enthusiasm that La Sapienza students received on Giorgio Parisi after winning the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2021. Italy is a country that is also passionate about science and technology.

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“I have met people who have come here [a la feria romana] And he became crazy about technology. It’s great to give them the opportunity to make a prototype, to experiment. It’s my job and I love it. We have put a lot of effort over the years to produce products at low cost,” Banzi explains after the resounding reception from his followers.

He believes that the key to success, in addition to the accessibility of his products and the ease of copying and recreating them, with published instructions, is what he calls the “IKEA Effect”: “If you build an object with your own hands, you have a different relationship with. It’s not something you buy, it’s something you make and have.” A completely different relationship.”

Giuseppe Pinto has developed an audio synthesizer from Arduino’s basic kit, the Uno Kit, whose components are solderlessly assembled on a cardboard backing to reduce environmental cost. “It’s like a game,” he explains. “In addition to learning to build from scratch, it allows you to produce music. Many leave electronic devices out of fear to get started. These products provide confidence,” he adds.

Massimo Banzi and Giuseppe Pinto display the kit needed to build a musical instrument at Makers Faire in Rome.
Massimo Banzi and Giuseppe Pinto display the kit needed to build a musical instrument at Makers Faire in Rome.Augusto Casasoli / A3 / Contrast (Augusto Casasoli / A3 / Contrast)

Banzi highlights that music is one area that has driven the Arduino story to its limits: “A lot of the people who started working on this technology were musicians who were looking for different ways to express themselves.” Like all of the company’s software, it is free to access. Your community can copy, improve, adapt and share it. “Hopefully a lot of people will do fun things, post their developments online and show us what they’ve done,” he claims. The company has opened a queue for access to the synthesizer building game.

“When you use technology to create things, everything is more beautiful and more understandable. This project is also a way to start from scratch and slowly develop more complex circuits. It is our way of working,” concludes Banzi. Arduino has announced a new partnership with K-Way to develop a generation of smart clothing, using Nicla Sense, which starts with a zipper device that provides information from the environment.

Arduino technology is not for games, although it can be used for its development. Their teams and programming are on mobile devices and even on satellites. Many of these projects have grown with the developer community.

Case in point is the Arducopter, a freely built drone that started as a recreational object and was used by Matternet to transport essential items between isolated communities in Africa.

Also, based on this free technology, a developer has created a feeder with a cardboard box and an unused logging player that is able to select different pets to provide them with the exact food they need. Another invented a device that silences the television when the characters speak. He’s tired of hearing.

Sign language speaking gloves or devices to facilitate the interaction of disabled people with other devices and video game consoles, a graffiti machine, sensors to know the plant’s needs, or a kick detector for an unborn child. Some examples of the creators in the Arduino community, which has many children among its followers. “It’s really amazing to see the abilities of children when you give them the tools,” Banzi says in his lectures.

And not just the younger ones. With this technology, everything from 3D printers to radioactivity meters, DNA analyzers or water quality and environmental analyzers have been created. “If you have an idea, just do it. It is equivalent to drawing on paper but with electronics”, explains the Italian engineer. New companies have emerged with the same goal of the Arduino philosophy. Such is the case of Elio, who specializes in processors and programming for teaching technology and is also at Maker Faire in Rome.

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