Maker Profile: Professor Nial McCabe

Professor McCabe is a personal mentor of mine, a great guy, and a really talented engineer and machinist. did an interview with him where he talks about his program, his thoughts on hobbyist machining and making, and its influence on the engineering trade. Nate writes:

Nial got into engineering because of his father, a railroad mechanic born in England. His father would bring home bits of locomotives or other parts for a fascinated Nial to explore.

“I always stood around and watched him doing stuff,” Nial said. “And he was a good sport about it, showing me and my brothers how to do it all. Then when I got to high school I decided I liked the idea of working on stuff, and from what I thought teaching looked like a good job for me.”

In the last few years he has seen a boom in popularity in the hobby, especially among men who work in professional settings. His theory is that most of these people went to college and got degrees in things like accounting or medicine, and never got to do the hands-on work that their fathers or grandfathers did. So now, with more free time and money to spare, this generation is going to Home Depot for equipment and trying on small projects.

For the moment, that means increases in sales and a suddenly wide-open market for internet companies catering to these hobbyists, Nial said. But in the long-term, it could lay the groundwork for a resurgence in engineering itself.

“A lot of hobbyists realize now that it’s fun and they can get into it, and most of the growth we’ve seen in the last 10 years has been from those hobbyists,” he said. “But now I hope there’s a second tier and as they get involved their children or nephews or nieces will be inspired to work in the field of engineering and innovation.”

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1 Comment

  1. I realize that this is a staged photo and that he is not actually operating the lathe, but…

    Given Michele Dufault’s untimely death in a lathe accident at Yale, adafruit could do new hackers and makers a valuable service by promoting safety, particularly in photographs.

    Think about it, would you encourage newbies wear a watch and a loose fitting coat while actually operating a lathe?

    Perhaps we could all honor Ms. Dufault by attempting to always think about safety when we publish, particularly photos.

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