Meet the Maker: Bill Ball of Stetson’s Innovation House

Stetson Innovation HouseStetson University’s Innovation House is a makerspace at the Deland based university that provides “contemporary tools of rapid prototyping to develop and make tangible objects. It also provides a community of makers for its members to tap into. Innovation House is open to Stetson students, faculty, staff, alumni and invited guests. It is currently hosted by the Stetson Hacker Space student organization and was provided start up support from the Prince Entrepreneurship program.”

Dr. William (Bill) Ball is a Professor of Political Science at the University, but more to our purposes here, he’s the impetus behind Innovation House. We asked him to tell us more about himself and the creative space at the school.

GCMC: Tell us a little about yourself.

BB: I am a life-long maker (or “noodler” as my wife calls it 🙂 who has moved from woodwork to old cars to robotics and 3D printing. I do it because I am compelled to. My father and grandfather were carpenters so I grew up around tools, which most people of my generation have not. Yet today we are surrounded by the new digital tools of personal fabrication and it is the golden age of making, so we need to get out there and do it. Not to continue to learn through life is to die. There is no excuse for not trying to build that thing you always wanted to at any age.

GCMC: Tell us about Innovation House.

BB: I created Innovation House at Stetson to spark something in college students who have big dreams and ideas but have never held a soldering iron and were not allowed to touch the drill press in middle school “tech” class. You can learn more about the Innovation House maker space at http://www2.stetson.edu/innovation/.

GCMC: What are you bringing to Gulf Coast Maker Con?

BB: I will be bringing a number of Arduino-powered gadgets to MakerCon that people can play with, but they had better ask me how they work and how they can build something similar!

The featured item I will be bringing is the Bootstrap robot from the robot50 project that IStetson University am starting up (www.robot50.org). Bootstrap is a small autonomous robot that can be built for around $50. It is intended to develop skills in electronics (including soldering), fabrication, and programming in the builder. The complete list of materials, design files, and assembly instructions for Bootstrap are online at robot50.org.

This is a new project and the Bootstrap bots I will bring are functional but still in development. I am looking for collaborators on the project who would like to build and mod their own Bootstrap and also more experienced (than me!) roboticists who would like to help out in advancing the project by developing software, adding new hardware, or getting the word out.

GCMC: Why do you think an event like Gulf Coast MakerCon is important?

BB: Events like MakerCon provide a unique opportunity to bring novices and experienced people together around common interests in a way that no online community can. If you want make something physically real then you need to be in a physical place with the real stuff, and talk to the people that work with it.

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Come see Bill and all his great Arduino projects from Stetson’s Innovation House at Gulf Coast MakerCon on April 18th – and you better ask him how they work and how you can make your own! Just sayin’…

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