Rep. Bill Foster’s office is bright blue, almost electric, almost blinding. “When you visit an office like this, you feel like you’ve been somewhere,” Foster says, and he’s right.
Foster is the congressman representing Illinois’s 11th District, a narrow band covering a northern part of the state, where Chicago suburbs start to bleed into flat prairieland. He is a PhD physicist who worked on particle accelerators at Fermilab, and his first congressional campaign was endorsed by 31 Nobel Prize winners. “Then it went to 32 after Barack Obama won his prize,” he says. “But that’s a peace prize, so it’s not the same.”
He is also the congressman who, in March, introduced H.R. 1289 — the National Fab Lab Network Act.
“Something that’s missing with kids these days — and now I sound old,” he laughs. “But when I was a kid, you’d take apart lawn mowers, or rebuild hot rods, or take apart old radio and television sets and reconfigure the circuits to build wonderful, dangerous things.” That’s what he and his brother did, starting a theater lighting company in their parents’ basement when they were 19 and 17, respectively. Electronic Theatre Controls now makes more than half of the theater lights in the country.
“But that’s not available to kids today,” he says. “You can’t really take apart an iPhone and reconfigure the parts to do something wonderful. The most you can do is reprogram it with new apps. But it’s not the same as holding something you’ve designed.”
If passed, the National Fab Lab Network Act would treat fab labs like Little League or the Veterans of Foreign Wars — facilitating their creation, vetting prospective founders, matching donors with projects.”
- Monica Hesse for the Washington Post (via carbonfilament)
ETC is cool? I had no idea.