Welcome to this week’s Geek of the Week, where we highlight the fun and creative people of our city. This week, we’ve interviewed podcaster/anthropologist/archaeologist Jill Weber and scientist/engineer/robotics-reseracher Evan Malone (Founder of NextFab Studio). Together, they’re also the restaurateurs behind Jet Wine Bar and REX 1516.
You two are quite an eclectic pair. Jill, how does your experience with anthropology and archaeology affect your day-to-day? How do you think it affects your everyday outlook? Evan, same question but with your areas of expertise: physics and mechanical engineering.
Jill: Archaeology absolutely rounded me out as a person and enabled me to better interact with people. I’m most comfortable with logic and predictability – neither of which describes culture or the course of human history.
Evan: I find myself studying the objects and systems around us to discern how they were produced and what the intent and constraints were. I’m frequently amazed (appalled?) by the unbelievably low cost of complicated products that require enormous resources to produce: from extracting and refining raw materials, to design and engineering hours, to shipping parts around the world to the lowest cost labor force for assembly. I’m still a little unsure of the net of the pros and cons of all of this, and of what I would do if I were sure…
Jill, I’ve heard you’re quite the world traveler. What was the keymoment in all of your travels that inspired you to get into the restaurant business?
Jill: I’m not sure there was a single moment based on travels – it was certainly an amalgam of the quirky places and situations I find myself in: a funky wine bar in Bergen, Norway, making vodka toasts in Armenia, drinking Lebanese wine while watching kids play soccer in Syria…
Evan, without a doubt we here at Geekadelphia are huge fans of NextFab Studio. The Geek Awards statuettes (or Geekies as they’re known) were/are immensely popular. How did you get into 3D printing technology and how has it helped you when it comes to say interior design for restaurants?
Evan: During a hiatus in my undergrad education, I did some consulting work for a faculty member at Drexel helping make a device to automatically handle microscope slides. There was a complicated part that I couldn’t figure out how to prototype, and I had heard about SLA. We found a company and they made the part for $800 (pretty cheap for back then). Then at Cornell during my masters I met a faculty member who wanted to send 3D printers to Mars to make mobile robots for exploration…a trifecta Ph.D. project for me. That led me to work on printing stuff like batteries, actuators, transistors, living tissues, and eventually to Fab@Home and NextFab Studio.
What else can we expect from you two and your immense capabilities in two separate areas? New restaurants? Other projects?
Jill: I have always wanted to open a hotel – but Evan thinks I’m crazy. Other than that, I’ve always wanted to be on the Supreme Court. Politics is one important area in which we both feel we could do something significant and positive.
Evan: Seconding Jill, politics definitely piss me off, so I’d like to do something there. My approach would be NextFabulous – finding ways to get more people with diverse perspectives working side by side on practical solutions to the big problems. One big problem – I think the “silent majority” of moderate sensible people are usually so busy taking care of their own responsibilities that ideologues and extremists overly influence politics – in every culture and country.