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Geeking out: Playing with all the tech toys at the GE Garages in the Rice University pop-up stop

Geeking out: Playing with all the tech toys at the GE Garages in the Rice University pop-up stop

News_Karen_GE Garage_art car_May 2012
At the GE Garages, you get to play with the high-tech tools. Photo by Karen Labuca
News_Karen_GE Garage_art car_May 2012
Cool stuff you've never seen before? Check. Photo by Karen Labuca
News_Karen_GE Garage_art car_May 2012
Rice University unveiled its art car as well. Photo by Karen Labuca
News_Karen_GE Garage_art car_May 2012
Photo by Karen Labuca
News_Karen_GE Garage_art car_May 2012
Photo by Karen Labuca
News_Karen_GE Garage_art car_May 2012
Photo by Karen Labuca
News_Karen_GE Garage_art car_May 2012
Photo by Karen Labuca
News_Karen_GE Garage_art car_May 2012
Photo by Karen Labuca
News_Karen_GE Garage_art car_May 2012
Photo by Karen Labuca
News_Karen_GE Garage_art car_May 2012
Photo by Karen Labuca
News_Karen_GE Garage_art car_May 2012
Photo by Karen Labuca
News_Karen_GE Garage_art car_May 2012
News_Karen_GE Garage_art car_May 2012
News_Karen_GE Garage_art car_May 2012
News_Karen_GE Garage_art car_May 2012
News_Karen_GE Garage_art car_May 2012
News_Karen_GE Garage_art car_May 2012
News_Karen_GE Garage_art car_May 2012
News_Karen_GE Garage_art car_May 2012
News_Karen_GE Garage_art car_May 2012
News_Karen_GE Garage_art car_May 2012
News_Karen_GE Garage_art car_May 2012

Now here's the type of event that deserved more hype: GE Garages. Who would've thought a tech pop-up shop would be so fun?

Located right on the edge of Rice University, by the school's football stadium, GE setup shop with three main attractions. The main event? Shipping containers transformed into a manufacturing site with everything from a laser cutter to a 3D printer to a molding machine.

 Originally introduced in Austin at SXSW, these garages hit the road to educate. 

But before you could even reach the entrance, Rice had its centennial art car on display during its last stage of development in order to gear up for next Saturday's parade. The car has been welded with repurposed pans and includes a Rice owl on the front.

You could also check out a welding worskhop, enclosed for anyone who wanted to help make additional campus bike racks.

Originally introduced in Austin at SXSW, these garages hit the road to educate and have teamed up with major companies — Quirky, TechShop, Skillshare and Autodesk. The two-week pit-stop in Houston just ended. Up next: San Francisco.

GE's aim is to bring technology enthusiasts together and excite the local community to learn about the latest, cutting-edge equipment that's shaping the future of manufacturing and design. The company also wants to promote and celebrate inventors, entrepreneurs or any aspiring builder who wants to dive into innovation.

You could take a guided tour and make your way to the machines, setup all around the tent, to get to work.

Up first, The Makerbot 3D printer. Primarily used for rapid prototyping and the creation of plastic objects from CAD (computer-aided design) files.

"You just insert an SD card on the side of the printer and the downloaded file will blow up from the ground up with ABS plastic," tour guide Cassandra Castaneda told me. Just for kicks, a Pokemon Pikachu was in the process of coming to life. I frequently walked back and forth to check out the finished product.

All this tech talk may seem like a foreign language to some, but each station had an expert on-hand just in case you became overwhelmed.

Now on to the Epilog Helix 24 Laser Cutter. The device outputs files from CAD and is able to cut or engrave a wide range of materials from wood to sheet metal.

"This cutter basically focuses on the amount of light and heat to etch. It lays down dots to form the image," Conor Landenberger of TechShop demonstrated. "It's accessible because you can take any image you want and in no time your project is done. It's great for small businessmen.

"To adjust any preferences you can easily play with the power, BPI, speed and bed size."

All you need is a customized image on Adobe Illustrator and the cutter automatically links to your computer.

You could also sit in the mini-classroom just a few steps away. Each day brought a different schedule. My session consisted of a lesson and Q&A from John Barton of Autodesk. Autodesk is a software used to easily design, visualize and manipulate tangible objects or ideas waiting to come to life.

"It's a creative way for structures to have a nice finish," Barton added.

Just another day in the tech garage.

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