This articles presents an idea for an encyclopedia of systems that would enable people of all skill levels to create projects by understanding and putting together different mechanical and electrical components.
The purpose of the OLPC project is "to provide children around the world with new opportunities to explore, experiment, and express themselves." This is primarily executed through the production of inexpensive laptops designed for children in third-world countries, and secondarily through the content suite provided with those laptops. While a great deal of development has been done to provide content to educate, there is still a need for tools that turn users into participants and encourage contribution.
A formal engineering education is expensive, and beyond the reach of most of the target users for the XO. However, there is a wealth of informal knowledge that can empower people to improve their lives. This project seeks to share that knowledge in a standard and easily understandable format to enable use by people of all skill levels. Called "Makeopedia," it would be designed as a "cookbook" of sorts, with basic concepts and parts serving as "ingredients," subsystems and functions serving as "sauces" or other generally useful combinations of the ingredients, and full projects serving as the "recipes."
The two considered scenarios are learning-based and project-based.
Students wanting to learn some basic principles of engineering could browse through the "ingredients" lists and examples to understand how different subsystems work together. Some small tutorials would be incorporated, potentially including some simple simulations.
Some easy and highly useful projects, with a focus on sustainable design, would be included with the Makeopedia. They would be described consistent with the modular design of the project as a whole. There would also be a corresponding online community that allowed people to share their projects in a similar format, and entries to this online community could be downloaded to the local software for offline reference.