Hackspace U

No Timmy, we're not preparing you for a life of mindless drudgery! PD, via Wikimedia Commons.
No Timmy, we’re not preparing you for a life of mindless drudgery! PD, via Wikimedia Commons.

It’s funny, how obsessed we are with qualifications these days. Kids go to school and are immediately thrust into a relentless machine of tests, league tables, and exams. They are ruthlessly judged on grades, yet both the knowledge and qualifications those grades represent so often boil down to relatively useless pieces of paper. It doesn’t even end for the poor youngsters when they leave school, for we are now in an age in which when on moving on from school a greater number of them than ever before are expected to go to university. They emerge three years later carrying a student debt and a freshly-printed degree certificate, only to find that all this education hasn’t really taught them the stuff they really need to do whatever job they land.

A gold standard of education is revealed as an expensive piece of paper with a networking opportunity if you are lucky. You need it to get the job, but in most cases the job overestimates the requirement for it. When a prospective employer ignores twenty years of industry experience to ask you what class of degree you got twenty years ago you begin to see the farcical nature of the situation.

In our hackspaces, we see plenty of people engaged in this educational treadmill. From high schoolers desperately seeking to learn something other than simply how to regurgitate the textbook, through university students seeking an environment closer to an industrial lab or workshop, to perhaps most interestingly those young people who have eschewed university and gone straight from school into their own startups.

The Hackspace As A Learning Environment

This book is a lifesaver in a lecture theatre, but not so much in a hackspace.
This book is a lifesaver in a lecture theatre, but not so much in a hackspace.

All these people and many others come to our spaces to learn things. It’s not a replacement for an engineering degree, after all you won’t learn the concepts in [Stroud] alongside the 3D printer, but in a lot of cases what can be learned is equally as useful as anything you will learn in a lecture theatre. Through access to the facilities and probably more importantly the rest of the membership of a thriving hackspace, you can learn about manufacturing. Taking a hobby project, turning it into a prototype, where to go next when you want to turn it into a product, and even the mechanics of setting up your own startup.

Universities try to expose students to some of these things, but it’s sadly the case that they get lost in the noise as they also try to hammer all that maths or digital logic into their heads. Meanwhile at the hackspace these and many more useful skills are yours for the taking, and members proceed to heap their plates with this knowledge opportunity.

The trouble with picking up knowledge in a hackspace is that you don’t have anything to show for it afterwards. We’re back to the first paragraph above again: without a bit of paper accompanying it, a piece of knowledge is a devalued currency to a lot of people who unfortunately matter. It’s useful to talk about it when you get to that job interview, but your résumé won’t have it in the list of qualifications so when it has to get past the administrative staff who open the envelopes and make the first cut you’ll go straight in the round file. Put it in the work experience list and it won’t mean much to them.

Meaningful Bits Of Paper

So what’s to be done? As a hackspace director I can issue a bit of paper: “[Jane] has used our hackspace to design her electronic product, she has brought it through three rounds of prototypes making printed circuit boards and 3D printed enclosures, she waged a succesful Kickstarter campaign to launch it and built her own online shop to sell it afterwards, signed [Jenny List], Director”. But sadly my word doesn’t stand for much, and it wouldn’t be taken seriously if presented as a qualification.

If you were to ask me, I’d make a case for a centralized certification scheme for skills gained in our environment. If you can create a CAD model and 3D print it, or if you can design a PCB and reflow a batch of boards, you should be able to say so in a manner that will be recognized, or at least is verifiable. The snag is of course, how might a loosely affiliated network of independent and often cash-strapped hackspaces produce a certification scheme with the required traceability and rigor to be taken seriously as a qualification? It’s not an easy task at all, verifying a qualification in that environment.

Perhaps it might be achieved by reference to multiple sources, for example if someone learns to use a 3D printer with us then they could only apply for a certificate to say so when it is accompanied by evidence that they have demonstrated that skill to a couple of other hackspaces also participating in the scheme. Cumbersome and inconvenient in that it necessitates travel, but at least it would provide some rigor.

There are multiple functions a hackspace fulfills aside from the obvious one of being a workshop. Community, support group, knowledge base, and many more. Why shouldn’t “education hub” be added to that list? Does your space find itself in this role? How might the suggestion above about how it could be formalised be improved? Let us know in the comments.


[Jenny List] is a director of Oxford Hackspace when she is not writing for Hackaday.

58 thoughts on “Hackspace U

  1. Modern education, and by modern I mean since the development of state schools, has never been about leaning anything other than how to be a cog in the industrial economic machinery. H. L. Mencken, wrote in The American Mercury for April 1924 that “…the aim of public education is not to fill the young of the species with knowledge and awaken their intelligence. . . . Nothing could be further from the truth. The aim.. . is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States . . . and that is its aim everywhere else.”

    Schools are to designed to establish fixed habits of reaction to authority and to make children as alike as possible. People who conform are predictable, and this is of great use to those who wish to manipulate, harness and exploit a large labor force. School is meant to determine each student’s proper social role and then children are to be sorted by role and this is to be reinforced by training only so far as their selected destination in the social machine warrants – and not one step further. So much for making kids their personal best.

    Schools are meant to tag the unfit – with poor grades, remedial placements, and other stigmas – clearly enough that their peers will perceive them as inferiors and effectively bar them from breeding with superior stock. That’s what all those minor humiliations from first grade onward were intended to do: wash the dirt down the drain. But also produce an elite group of overseers. To that end a small, select fraction of the kids will quietly be taught how to manage this continuing project, how to watch over and control a population deliberately dumbed down and demotivated in order that government might proceed unchallenged and corporations might never want for obedient labor.

    If you think the above is a bit off the wall, I am quoting almost verbatim from Alexander Inglis’s (for whom a lecture in education at Harvard is named,) 1918 book, Principles of Secondary Education, which served as the ideological foundation for mandatory public education in the U.S. and much of the post war West.

    1. I don’t think that was what schools were originally for, I think they were to give people just enough knowledge that if they found something interesting they’d go and explore it on their own. However, what you state above is certainly what it has devolved into.

      1. No my friend, this is exactly what state school was designed to do right from the beginning. Not only that if you look at the historical record, those involved were quite open about what they were building and why. They were not evil men. They were faced with a large movement of people away from rural agriculture and into urban manufacturing and they were faced with a need to manage that transition in a way that did not create social unrest. Schooling prior to that was designed for the upper strata and an education in the classics was not a suitable grounding for a factory worker. It was just that simple.

        1. Quite a lot of the “modern” American education system, which began to be implemented in the post WW1 era (of course it was called The Great War until WW2 came along) was based on a German system where they had the “real school” for the children of the elite and a different school for the lower class.

          Guess which got the education to be the leaders. Compare to which schools most of the American Presidents went to, and which Donald J. Trump did *not*. He’s not an “ivy league” man.

          1. Donald Trump got his bachelor degree in economics from the Wharton school at the University of Pennsylvania. Since that school has been a member of the “Ivy League” since its inception, he is most assuredly an “Ivy League Man”

      1. Exactly, but public education hasn’t really kept up, and where it has changed, it has been more toward a custodial function: to keep young people off the streets rather than to either prepare them for life, or nurture their potential.

    2. That’s why we have home school and private schools if you actually care about your child you can assure it a quality education and if you child cares about growth and self improvement they won’t need school to teach them. Thay being said I stopped going to public school in 6th grade because all my averages were in the 2-3rd grade range. After a year of %100 self education using nothing other then the internet I rose to 8th grade writing level and my maths were all high enough to get me into high school when I took the 8th grade entrance exam for public schools. My mother choose to keep me in 8th and I had over a hundred in most classes without trying. I don’t consider myself anything special other then I was determined to learn what I cared about as a kid which was very specific.

      Modern education is horrible and my children will not be allowed in public school if I have any say. Ideally my lifes dream is to open an orphanage and private school in one give those without parents an educational orders of magnitude above most to give them the leg up later in life.

      1. Yes homeschooling and private schooling are options for those that can afford it, but it is not a solution. In fact allowing these workarounds neatly undermines the very segment of the population that can see what is wrong, and has the will and wherewithal to create change. Unfortunately, their kids will be growing up in a world filled with those that did not get trained to think critically who also vote. It is not a win.

        1. Look up what happened when Mark Zukerberg (Mr. Facebook) threw millions of dollars at Newark, NJ to fix problems with their schools. Nothing changed. There was very vocal, almost violent opposition to any reforms.

          Privately the opponents among the politicians, the unions and school administration admitted that the proposed reforms were *exactly* what was needed, but by damn they would NOT be allowing them. Why? Because *they* hadn’t proposed them. Also, because the reforms would drastically reduce their power and control.

          A big chunk of the money was spent “studying the problems”. In other words writing useless reports detailing what everyone involved already knows.

          The Newark schools are very top heavy with administration. Assistants assistants with their own assistants. Three or four levels down doing the actual work. Cut the administration, make the ones with the titles actually do their own work and use the savings to hire more teachers and rehab school buildings. With Zukerberg’s $100 million and budget reform, Newark’s schools would’ve had all the funding they needed and could’ve provided a far better environment for the students.

          But the people at the top don’t care about the students at all. They want the money and the power. The more students they have, the more government funding they get. The more employees there are in the schools, the more that gets paid in union dues. More union dues equals more donations to the politicians who will do nothing to change all that money flowing in. By artificially creating a funding shortage, they can con the public into voting more and more taxes upon themselves for school funding, which never seems to be enough.

          1. I live here.

            Very close to Newark, I know all about it.

            More money for schools can’t fix everything when money is not the problem. Before Zuckerberg donated a dime, Newark already was NJ’s largest school district and spent more of the state’s money per student than any other district.

            Corruption in NJ is… just under every leaf.

            http://www.floridabulldog.org/2016/04/banned-in-new-jersey-but-ex-superintendent-running-for-a-seat-on-the-miami-dade-school-board/

            For Newark,
            This is the crime map from the just the past 2 months:
            https://spotcrime.com/nj/newark

            Building new schools, spending $25k / student has not fixed the second link.

            I’m not sure but developments like these are positive, because they bring opportunity :
            http://www.nj.com/essex/index.ssf/2016/11/qa_with_internet_millionaire_gerard_adams_at_his_n.html

            http://www.newarkventurepartners.com/

    3. In acquisa 7/98 fand ich eine Buchbesprechung: Das Managementmodell der Jesuiten, Helmut Geiselhart, Gabler Verlag, 167 Seiten, 68,- DM.

      Darin heißt es: “Dem Jesuitenorden ist es gelungen, sich über Jahrhunderte hinweg durch kritische Selbstreflexion permanent zu erneuern. Er hat damit das institutionalisiert, was eine lernende Organisation ausmacht. Dieses Erfolgsprinzip läßt sich auf Unternehmen übertragen. … Er (Geiselhart) beschreibt Gemeinsamkeiten und Unterschiede von Orden und Unternehmen, skizziert das Leben des Ordensgründer Ignatius von Loyola und macht den Leser vertraut mit meditativen Übungen als Quelle des Erfolgs.”

      Um es gleich vorweg zu sagen, ich habe das Buch nicht gelesen. Dennoch ist es wichtig, sich damit auseinanderzusetzen, daß – und wie Kirchen und Sekten alle Register ziehen, um in die Unternehmen einzudringen – und sei es zunächst nur durch “geistige Übungen”. Leider ist dabei eine gewisse Inkonsequenz zu beobachten, denn wer vor Scientology warnt, sollte auch Ziele und Gesinnung aller anderen Sekten, einschließlich der großen Kirchen überprüfen.

      Was mit Sicherheit nicht im Buch von Helmut Geiselhart steht, Sie aber vielleicht kennen sollten, wenn Sie das Managementmodell der Jesuiten interessiert, ist

      Der Schwur der Jesuiten

      Ich …………………………………. (Name des zukünftigen Mitglieds der Jesuiten), werde jetzt, in der Gegenwart des allmächtigen Gottes, der gebenedeiten Jungfrau Maria, des gesegneten Erzengels Michael, des seligen Johannes des Täufers, der heiligen Apostel Petrus und Paulus und all der Heiligen und heiligen, himmlischen Heerscharen und zu dir, meinem geistlichen Vater, dem oberen General der Vereinigung Jesu, gegründet durch den Heiligen Ignatius von Loyola, in dem Pontifikalamt von Paul III. und fortgesetzt bis zum jetzigen, hervorgebracht durch den Leib der Jungfrau, der Gebärmutter Gottes und dem Stab Jesu Christi, erklären und schwören, daß seine Heiligkeit, der Papst, Christi stellvertretender Vize-Regent ist; und er ist das wahre und einzige Haupt der katholischen und universellen Kirche über die ganze Erde; und daß aufgrund des Schlüssels zum Binden und Lösen, der seiner Heiligkeit durch meinen Erlöser Jesus Christus, gegeben ist, er die Macht hat, ketzerische Könige, Prinzen, Staaten, Republiken und Regierungen aus dem Amt abzusetzen, die alle illegal sind ohne seine heilige Bestätigung, und daß sie mit Sicherheit vernichtet werden mögen. Weiter erkläre ich, daß ich allen oder irgendwelchen Vertretern deiner Heiligkeit an jedem Platz, wo immer ich sein werde, helfen und beistehen und sie beraten und mein äußerstes tun will, um die ketzerischen protestantischen oder freiheitlichen Lehren auf rechtmäßige Art und Weise oder auch anders auszurotten, und alle von ihnen beanspruchte Macht zu zerstören.

      Ich verspreche und erkläre auch, daß ich nichtsdestoweniger darauf verzichte, irgendeine ketzerische Religion anzunehmen, um die Interessen der Mutterkirche auszubreiten und alle Pläne ihrer Vertreter geheim und vertraulich zu halten, und wenn sie mir von Zeit zu Zeit Instruktionen geben mögen, sie nicht direkt oder indirekt bekanntzugeben durch Wort oder Schrift oder welche Umstände auch immer; sondern alles auszuführen, das du, mein geistlicher Vater, mir vorschlägst, aufträgst oder offenbarst …

      Weiter verspreche ich, daß ich keine eigene Meinung oder eigenen Willen haben will oder irgendeinen geistigen Vorbehalt, was auch immer, selbst als eine Leiche oder ein Kadaver, sondern bereitwillig jedem einzelnen Befehl gehorche, den ich von meinem Obersten in der Armee des Papstes und Jesus Christus empfangen mag. Daß ich zu jedem Teil der Erde gehen werde, wo auch immer, ohne zu murren, und in allen Dingen unterwürfig sein will, wie auch immer es mir übertragen wird … Außerdem verspreche ich, daß ich, wenn sich Gelegenheit bietet, unbarmherzig den Krieg erkläre und geheim oder offen gegen alle Ketzer, Protestanten und Liberale vorgehe, wie es mir zu tun befohlen ist, um sie mit Stumpf und Stiel auszurotten und sie von der Erdoberfläche verschwinden zu lassen; und ich will weder vor Alter, gesellschaftlicher Stellung noch irgendwelchen Umständen halt machen. Ich werde sie hängen, verbrennen, verwüsten, kochen, enthäupten, erwürgen und diese Ketzer lebendig vergraben, die Bäuche der Frauen aufschlitzen und die Köpfe ihrer Kinder gegen die Wand schlagen, nur um ihre verfluchte Brut für immer zu vernichten. Und wenn ich sie nicht öffentlich umbringen kann, so werde ich das mit einem vergifteten Kelch, dem Galgen, dem Dolch oder der bleiernen Kugel heimlich tun, ungeachtet der Ehre, des Ranges, der Würde oder der Autorität der Person bzw. Personen, die sie innehaben; egal, wie sie in der Öffentlichkeit oder im privaten Leben gestellt sein mögen. Ich werde so handeln, wie und wann immer mir von irgendeinem Agenten des Papstes oder Oberhaupt der Bruderschaft des heiligen Glaubens der Gesellschaft Jesu befohlen wird.”

      Quellen:
      1. Prof. Dr. Walter Veith, Kapstadt;
      2. Ausschnitt aus dem “Schwur der höchsten Weihe” der Jesuiten, aufgeschrieben im Verzeichnis des Kongresses der Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika (House Bill 1523, Contested election case of Eugene C. Bonniwell, against Thos. S. Butler, February 15, 1913, pp. 3215-16)

      Wie finden Sie das Managementmodell der Jesuiten?

      Der spanische Ex-Jesuit Dr. Alberto Rivera schreibt in “Die Heiligen Väter”: Nun werden Sie die “Mutter der Hurerei und aller Greuel auf Erden” (Offenbarung 17,5) in all ihrer politischen, wirtschaftlichen und militärischen Macht kennenlernen. Als ich ein vereidigter Jesuit war, wurde uns die Wahrheit über beide, die Nazi- und kommunistische Partei erzählt. Ich lernte, warum Millionen wehrloser Juden in den Tod gestürzt wurden. Drei Jahre lang wurde ich von einem brillanten deutschen Jesuiten, Augustin Cardinal Bea, unterrichtet, der uns streng geheime Informationen gab, die nie in Geschichtsbüchern erscheinen werden.

      Die meisten großen protestantischen Lehrer, wie Wyklif, Calvin, Wesley, Finney, Moody, Spurgeon, und viele andere glaubten (auch Luther), daß die römisch-katholische Institution die “Mutter der Hurerei und aller Greuel auf Erden” sei. Die Offenbarung in der Bibel beschreibt in Kapitel 17 nicht das alte Babylon, sondern den Vatikan in den heutigen Tagen!

      Kein anderes religiöses System in der Welt nennt sich selbst “Mutter”. Sogar ihre Farben sind in der Bibel beschrieben,”scharlach” und “purpur”, Symbole der Autorität. Kein anderes religiöses System hat die Kräfte: politisch und religiös. Die “Mutter der Greuel” hat viele Kinder … Sie wurden von Satan durch den Vatikan erschaffen und unterhalten, um Tod und Elend über Millionen von Menschen zu bringen. Das ist eines der am strengsten gehüteten Geheimnisse moderner Zeit.”

      “… Weil das große römische Imperium zerfiel, wechselten die Caesaren ihre Kleidung und zogen sich religiöse Kostüme an; aber ihr satanisches, religiöses System blieb. Sie gaben ihren alten Göttern neue Namen. Jupiter wurde der Apostel Petrus, Venus die Jungfrau Maria usw. Wegen der schweren Christenverfolgung funktionierte die wahre Gemeinde Christi seit dem Jahre 60 n.Chr. nur im Untergrund (Katakomben).

      “… Ignatius von Loyola (1491-1556). Er war der Erfinder der “Gesellschaft Jesu” = Societas Jesu (S.J.), des Jesuiten- Ordens. Er gründete auch die “Illuminati” (= Erleuchteten) und wurde der erste Jesuiten-General. Dank der Unterstützung der römisch-katholischen Institution wurde er 1622 zum Heiligen gemacht (Denkmal in der Kirche Del Gesu in Rom). Er war ein satanisches Genie und baute eine Armee spezieller Priester auf, die völlig der Disziplin und Ordnung untertan waren. Sie haben Kriege gestartet, Könige und Präsidenten ermorden lassen (z.B. Abraham Lincoln) und werden alles tun, um Leben oder Ruf dessen zu vernichten, der es wagt, ihnen im Wege zu stehen. Die Jesuiten waren aus fast allen Nationen hinausgeworfen worden, mit Ausnahme der USA, wo sie sehr aktiv sind in der Politik, der US-Einwanderung usw. Ihre Aufgabe ist es, jedermann so weit zu bringen, daß sie auf ihre Knie fallen, um den Papst als den Stellvertreter Jesu Christi auf Erden anzuerkennen und sich völlig seiner Macht zu unterwerfen. Der Jesuiten-General ist bekannt als der “Schwarze Papst”. er regiert in Wirklichkeit den Vatikan hinter den Szenen; und Satan leitet den schwarzen Papst.

      Die meisten Bücher über die Jesuiten sind entweder vermißt, verbrannt oder werden nicht mehr gedruckt. Nicht nur Bücher, sondern auch Ex-Jesuitenpriester sind entweder spurlos verschwunden oder tot. Waren bzw. sind die Jesuiten auch im 20. Jahrhundert tätig? … Was Sie jetzt lesen werden, wird Ihnen die Haare zu Berge stehen lassen! …

      In der spanischen Presse wurde am Todestag Hitlers eine Begräbnisrede in der Presse veröffentlicht: “Adolf Hitler, ein Sohn der katholischen Kirche starb als “Verteidiger des Christentums”. Es ist verständlich, daß keine Trauerworte über seinen Tod gefunden werden können, weil es viele gibt, die sein Leben verherrlichen. Über seinen sterblichen Überresten stand eine siegreiche moralische Figur. Mit der Palme der Märtyrer gibt Gott Hitler den Sieger-Lorbeerkranz.”

      Dies war eine Verlautbarung des Vatikan via Madrid. Hat sich die Mutter aller Greuel jemals vor der Welt oder den Juden entschuldigt? Nein, sie wird es nie tun. Der Vatikan anerkannte Isral bis heute nicht als Staat. Der Preis für eine Anerkennung wäre die Besitznahme Jerusalems durch den Vatikan. Gott helfe uns, sollten die USA ein Konkordat mit dem Vatikan unterschreiben! Verhandlungen sind im Gange. Die religiöse Maschine dieser Zeit ist sehr alt …” “Ein Bindeglied ist heute gefunden, nämlich im Obelisk, der eine viereckige Säule ist, die in die 4 Himmelsrichtungen weist. Auf der Spitze befindet sich eine Pyramide. Diese repräsentiert eine Kombination von religiöser und politisch-weltlicher Macht. Der Obelisk befindet sich in Ägypten, in den USA (Washingtonmonument) und im Vatikan. Für die Freimaurer, die Jesuiten und Illuminati steht es als geheimes Symbol für “Eine-Welt-Regierung”.

      1. That so-called “Jesuit Oath” was actually a bit of hate propaganda from a pre WW1 American election where it was attributed to the Knights of Columbus by anti-Catholic pamphleteers. It was promptly rejected by both parties for what it was – hate speech. It has no place in this discussion and should be removed.

  2. I’m in a very similar situation. I studied EE for 3 semesters before I quit. It was just nothing like the way I learned about electronics before, no proper hands on experience with actual hardware that isn’t from the 1970s. I felt like I studied applied mathematics, which is of course a big part of EE but its a really bad learning experience without having a real life context for that math that you can apply in an actual project.
    I made the experience that I get a far deeper understanding from learning by myself through personal projects and through projects at the company I work for, which luckily doesn’t care a lot about what degree I have but about what I can actually develop for them. They just looked at the things that I made and not what grades I had.
    Though I wish there were other ways for me to prove what I am capable of other than having a university degree in something that has barely anything to do with my actual skills that I have proven in many commercial and private projects.
    I’m lucky with my current company, I will likely have more trouble if I should decide to look for work elsewhere.

    I think its in the interest of the industry to construct a qualification system similar to what is done in the software industry to some degree now, where you can take micro courses to proof/learn specific skills of yours. Udacity and co. comes to mind here. There are many talented people out there who face similar issues with the education system but would be more than suited to work in this industry.
    Waiting for the public education system to catch up anytime soon seems futile.

    (This an experience from Germany but it seems its not much different elsewhere in the world.)

    1. Technical colleges (2-3 yr programs) in Ontario are different: for every 2 hours of theory, you get 2 hours of practical lab work. Universities are similar to what you described though.

      https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/College#USA.2C_Kanada

      I think it is similar to this in Germany, but I’m not sure, my German is very poor:

      https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technische_Hochschule

      In general, I (and I think most people) learn much better if theory is immediately applied in practice. If I’m just fed endless theory, I lose interest.

      1. I went to something that is regarded to be very close to practice called a University of Applied Sciences.
        It was a massive disappointment and similar schools in Germany are simply more demanding in the math and physics part, doesn’t seem like they have an different approach to teaching.
        I also don’t think I have the motivation anymore to quit my job to attend a school at god awful hours just to give it a shot.

      1. I agree:
        Any hobby related to the job is (usually always in the UK) a booster, certificates or not.

        Qualifications are also a booster in helping with job hunting.

        Sometimes there is such a thing as overqualified*, though there is a workaround for that also: Call your self a handyman (or tweak the term according to the job you want).

        *Usually you won’t want to work with these bosses anyway.

    2. The first sentence from my EE professor at University (also in Germany) was: ” If you want to learn how to repair a television you are in the wrong place.” Instead we learned the _theory_ about how a television transmission works and how to apply it to any other transmission problem real life would throw at us. An engineers first order of business is not necessarily get the hands dirty (which is much more fun, no question).

      1. Well that would have been pretty cool to learn that. What we learned wasn’t even directly related to EE but general math and physics that can be used in EE at some point and calculating random circuits without a real meaning over and over.
        I don’t need to get my hands dirty, I just want something that I can apply directly in the real world. Not some thought experiment that is somewhat related to the real thing. I want to know how different types of ADCs work, how Wifi is implemented on the hardware level (I guess the todays version of the television transmission bit). Those kind of things. I can easily learn the nitty gritty stuff around these topics while I learn them but if I first get thrown into an endless marathon of math and physics without any connection to actual circuits, I have a really hard time applying that knowledge, let alone learn it or keep it in my head for longer than the date of the exams.

  3. “If you were to ask me, I’d make a case for a centralized certification scheme for skills gained in our environment. I”

    So, an uncertified person who certifies other uncertified people?

    “If you can create a CAD model and 3D print it, or if you can design a PCB and reflow a batch of boards, you should be able to say so in a manner that will be recognized, or at least is verifiable. The snag is of course, how might a loosely affiliated network of independent and often cash-strapped hackspaces produce a certification scheme with the required traceability and rigor to be taken seriously as a qualification? It’s not an easy task at all, verifying a qualification in that environment.”

    I can create a CAD model and 3D print it. Does that mean that I am qualified for a Mechanical Engineering job? Does that mean my CAD designs are manufacturable?

    The school paper’s purpose or a resume for that matter is to tell people who may want to hire you about your qualifications, basically a license. The interview is where the actual details get hashed out and exaggerations get discovered.

    A scheme indeed. Another profit center for you.

    I think you would be successful with it though.

        1. Sure but why would the person be uncertified. She is talking about a centralized certification, so there are standards just like a Professor at a University is certified to teach by a centralized system.

    1. The first person to certify anything was uncertified. Why would you trust any certification? After all any certification you get from a university was certified by someone who was recursively certified until the first certifier that wasn’t certified.

      Even if we trust that certification even though it was originally certified by an uncertified person there is still another problem with certifications.

      A certification is like a synthetic computer benchmark. It doesn’t tell you how fast your computer is for your particular application. It tells you how fast your computer runs this particular benchmark. You can still get a completely unexpected result.
      The same applies to certifications. A certification only tells you that some person has met the conditions to obtain this certification. It doesn’t tell you anything about whether this certification actually is any good.

  4. Wait… what??!? You mean hundreds of years of training people through trades might actually be the best way to learn?
    I get apprentices who have gone through 2 years of electrical tech school that then come onto a jobsite thinking their a king pin but know absolutely nothing about how to apply the education they just spent a bunch of money on for a piece of paper that is no better than yesterday’s news. Then! to top it all off many of these kids have become so self absorbed that they can’t figure out how to show up on time, make it through 8 hours of work, and think because they have a piece of paper are above picking up a broom and cleaning up a job site. So they can’t do the job they were “educated” to do and they’re to stupid and conceited to figure out that part of their job is to clean up a job site therefore making them absolutely useless to me.
    …gah…
    To respond… at the very least a network for hackerspace skills would be nice, if for nothing else for transferability of skill sets between hackerspaces. I’ve shyed away from getting involved with them because they seem so exclusive.
    If you had a predetermined skill set required for a machine, you could claim a “badge” for that machine and have it be useful if you travel to a different community. Think cub scouts ;)
    I think it a wee bit arrogant to think that another piece of paper will help the cause of a broken society that places so much weight in paper. What needs to happen is a realization that people are made up of skill sets that do not necessarily coincide with the paper stabled to them. But much of this reliance is driven off of human resource hiring policy and the fear of being taken to court over discrimination than anything. There is a lot of racism built into the the way our “inclusive” corporate structures are set up. Look at demographics of degrees given out and you’ll see that it is a huge problem in particularly America.
    And finally- alas though we like to think we are an inclusive community, I’m sure the quest for a united level of skills acceptable across the hackerspaces even among one country let alone the world will prove insurmountable because of pride, arrogance, and the sense of technological Gnosticism.

    1. “There is a lot of racism built into the the way our “inclusive” corporate structures are set up. Look at demographics of degrees given out and you’ll see that it is a huge problem in particularly America.”

      Really? Racism is the cause? People are denied college degrees because of their race?

        1. Of course degrees are given out, but let’s not go there.
          The largest university in the state where I live was sued by a professor for being forced to participate in one of these “You’re a group member? You automatically get a degree!” give-aways. The professor won. Which resulted in a long-standing joke–

          “Things have gotten so bad at the U. of JSU that there’s a fairly strong rumour going around that all one must do in order to get a degree from that esteemed institution is to drive through town with your car windows rolled down, and someone will throw a diploma into your car. It simply ain’t so. You’ve got to stop the car.”

        1. So, again, bigots prevent people from earning, sorry, being “given” technical degrees?

          Could there be another answer as to why the demographics are the way they are?

          You and Alphiesauce are blowing my mind that there are those who think this way.

  5. I’ve heard the phrase, “homeless scholars and dropout millionaires” somewhere before.

    I’m the dropout (due to unforeseen circumstances, only during BTEC L2).

    OK, I’m far from a millionaire (extremely far for that fact, National Living Wage is where I’m at). But at least I got a roof over my head, albeit half my wage goes to that first (then taxes, blaa, blaa, blaa, etc).
    I got lucky to start working where I do as they take anyone on, including those who still can’t find the on/off button/switch(es).
    Most places seem to prefer those who have experience (with previous employer references) than those who have none whatsoever.

    As long (within the engineering/repair industry) as there is someone with relevant qualifications (qualified party), they can supervise as many instructed parties as they wish (or feel comfortable in doing so).

    This applies for the UK though AFAIK (also some of it may apply to other countries)

  6. “The trouble with picking up knowledge in a hackspace is that you don’t have anything to show for it afterwards. ”

    From my perspective, as someone that hires people for engineering positions, you belong to a hacker space?

    Put it on your resume.

    It tells me that on your own time, on your own dime, outside of work or school you are actively working on technical projects.

    How would an artist handle a situation like this? Bring a portfolio. No one cares that you went to art school. They care about your talent.

    Document your project as though it was a project for a business.

    Problem statement, block / wiring diagrams, project concept, technology evaluated, technology selected, trade offs, development, problems encountered, iterations, lessons learned, how I would do it again differently, what surprised me about the project.

    Bring that to a job interview and you won’t need someone else’s paper of certification.

    1. It’s true, things like hobbies, and even sports activities should go on one’s CV and they do make a difference. Given two candidates with similar academic qualifications, the one that spent eight years playing double letters demonstrates a work ethic and desire to succeed the other does not.

    2. So you would invite someone to a job interview if you get a resume stating that they never got a degree but worked in the field and did good projects to show off their talent?
      I always get the feeling that especially in engineering, a resume without a degree doesn’t even get a second look. It’s just a general feeling of the market though, not an actual experience yet.

      1. Yes, and we hired him.

        I interview college graduates often for paid internships. First things I ask, what got you into engineering? Have you ever made a circuit board? Can you show me a project that you did outside of school?

        I am asking questions that would differentiate that person from every other graduate, they all worked on the same prokects, took the same classes.

    1. If you can find any possible way to get the attention of the engineers, bring a thin notebook/scrapbook of your projects and have your description boiled down to 3 sentences for each project. Maybe even an example of something you made, like a 3D print you designed. If they have questions about a certain project let them ask.

      When you’re in an interview, the sharp people (the ones you actually want to work for) will ask, the ones that don’t ask, either don’t care or will view you as a threat, and those people aren’t worth the stress. (Also if they don’t ask, they may not understand, such as HR staff). But every place you interview with needs to know you can communicate your solutions quickly without confusion. Take the time to do that S.T.A.R. (Situation – Task – Action – Result) thing and keep it short. Better to have 4-6 of the S.T.A.R type examples than a single solution you had that was hard to explain.

      piotrsko’s comment is often right, though I happened to get my position by bypassing HR. This was done through a head hunter that a friend (and former co-worker) introduced me to. The head hunter is likely the best one in my metro area and he got me a lunch meet-up with the VP of engineering, who then had me brought in for an interview. That said, after starting at my current position, HR does a very good job of picking the right people for the job and not hiring “warm bodies” to fill positions, like a previous place did. They are very picky about people where I work, and I feel honored that I was the only one they called in for an interview day (5 interviews that day). This is also not a small company where everyone knows the owner’s dog name either, there are about 250 employees in two locations.

      Yes, the head of the old place actually said “we just need a warm body in this position” and proceeded to have a young lady who didn’t know the very basics of cooking to teach teens how to cook in the hope that they could eventually support themselves with the skill of cooking. This was in a third world (ok, maybe fourth world) country. Fortunately for him and the teens, he’s no longer in charge.

      I like the idea of a recognized “cub scout badge” for showing proficiency of skills from one hackerspace to another (as others on this page have mentioned), but I’m weary of yet another “certification” requiring another “certifying body” as I think it’s too easy for those to become useless – they get lost in the noise, as most HR staff won’t take the time to figure out what the Cert means unless it becomes trendy.

      The outstanding will find a way to stand out, and even if they don’t feel outstanding, those that take the time to make a notebook/scrapbook/portfolio will definitely be viewed differently than all those that sat in the same classes, and did the same required projects and don’t have anything to show for it except the same resume as everyone else.

      Hackers are here because we like to learn, find a way to show it and your desire to learn will be viewed as an asset by those who are worth working for.

    2. The HR “idiot” most likely needs to see that paper, because their superiors have told them it is requirement. Would be great that projects that demonstrates one’s ability to design prototype, and construct who be used as consideration. However in firms that have a HR staff demand that staff, to multitask to cover all employee positions in that firm. Highly unlikely that the HR could evaluate the projects. In a perfect world engineers already on staff would be asked to evaluate the project. On the part of the student, the student would have to carefully select projects that will illustrate a broad range of skill that would be beneficial in broad range of prospective employers. Goods schools can help in that process but few schools bign that sort of teaching at the start of middle school where it should begin, if not erlier.

  7. I’m a 21-year-old guy who currently kinda lives at a hackerspace (3 days there, 1 day at home, with quick trips to home to take a shower and some more food). As for this month, I’m aiming to make two of my projects take off and finish the third one. I count as a uni student but don’t actually go there this semester (not USA). Here are my thoughts:

    – High school can teach virtues of concentration, planning, dedication and hard work, which is so goddamn necessary when you don’t want to be the guy with 1000 and 1 unfinished project. I’m saying because I happen to not meet my goals every now and then, and I wish I could have learned this. On the other part, I wish 1) this was a skill taught directly, in pre-school even 2) this is not the only reason I still have unmet goals.

    – University will make sure you know about those virtues and can succeed in completing arbitrary tasks. Else, you fail. Of course, there are many other ways to fail, such as jerk/incompetent profs, health and family issues, bad luck etc, but those are rare.

    – As for me, I often experience problems with lack of the virtues mentioned. It’s not that tasks often being arbitrary helps staying motivated, then it feels like a game (and a shitty one) you have to get through to get a piece of paper. I’m aiming at the “tell about your skills, not papers” route, but I think that, in the end, I still need same skills to succeed on my own that I need in university.

    Again, this is from Europe and your experience may vary, but I’m interested to hear about it.

  8. I started with computers in 1983. I’ve learned a lot, and I’m always learning more. With the web there’s *usually* the information I need for anything I don’t already happen to know. Especially fun is when I ferret out some especially difficult to find information, or figure out how to fix a problem that many other people haven’t been able to.

    What does get irritating is when someone who hasn’t been alive as many years as I have experience tries to tell me I’m wrong about something which they have no actual experience with, but I do, firsthand, when it was the newest thing out. Ooooo, they have a bit of fancy printed paper, so they *must* be right, right?

    Ever heard the joke that MCSE meant Must Consult Someone Else? ;) A freshly minted MCSE is like a 2nd Lt. fresh out of a military academy. Head full of knowledge but little experience. I got a Netware 3.12 Certified Network Administrator certificate. Bloody useless waste of money, especially when the 4.x series was released shortly after.

    Learn how to ask questions and how to identify who to ask! Then you’ll learn things you will never learn in a class.

    Technical help forums, they are a wonderful resource and can be a source of extreme irritation and frustration. Two of the worst things about them are when you write a very detailed post telling everything you’ve tried that hasn’t worked – then someone replies telling you to do *exactly* what you just said failed. If you are trying to help on a forum Read Every Single Word of the original post. Read it more than once if you must in order to understand the problem. If you have no idea about a different possible solution, don’t bother to reply.

    The other is at the end of a thread, the OP posts “I fixed it! Thanks!” but fails to say HOW, or doesn’t reply at all to close the thread, so you have no idea if the problem was ever solved.

    Both of those problems are as old as the earliest online, multi user communication systems with persistent messages and replies.

    So if you get asked about a problem but don’t have anything to try that hasn’t been tried already, say “I don’t have anything different at the moment, but I’ll think on it and do some research. I’ll keep you informed.”. It shows you care about the problem, and your place of employment. You’re involved instead of just being another surly cubicle dweller salaryman.

  9. Experience is worth more than a degree, but it is the degree though that gets you throw the door. Its a way to prove you have the aptitude and the attitude to learning and working. It is the best filtering technique, not the ideal, but a good start.

  10. One thing that made me LOL the other day was, looking at an auction for a Wolfdale core, Core 2 Duo, and the seller says, “May not work in older C2D motherboards, consult a certified computer technician to determine if it will work in your application.”

    Yeahno, computer hardware certification don’t learn you jack shit about the intricacies of which sub generations a chipset supports, whether motherboard manufacturer supported the right voltages even if the chipset supports it, and whether they released a BIOS with right microcode support.

    Frankly the most I’d expect out of a green tech freshly certified in hardware is that they could tell the motherboard from a network card….. given 3 chances and some hints.

  11. If you limit yourself to what you can learn in a hackerspace, then you’ve done yourself a real disservice.

    The author’s comments–but especially so many of the replies–seem to reflect bitterness over a failed academic experience. This, followed by an attempt to blame their failures on a broken system that (conveniently) fails to value the skills they happen to possess, and emphasizes those they lack.

    Apprenticeships and hands-on learning certainly has it’s place, but I don’t rank that above a formal, university education. The university isn’t some fluke that popped up overnight; it reflects the refinement and evolution of ideas cumulated over hundreds, if not thousands, of years from across the world. It complements the more traditional apprenticeship approach.

    It’s enjoyable to hang out a hackerspace and create something interesting by programming an Arduino, or to 3D something you’ve designed, or to code up some Python goodies.

    But please recognize that the Atmel processor (used on those Arduino shields) was designed by people that went to college.

    And the capital intensive semiconductor processing equipment (used by Atmel to fabricate those chips) came from companies with college educated physicists, and electrical, mechanical, and chemical engineers. Often people with advanced degrees.

    And those same college educated folks developed those stepper motor driver chips on those 3D printers, and indeed the stepper motors themselves.

    Oh, and the notebook computers used for all that Python coding and internet surfing.

    1. “But please recognize that the Atmel processor (used on those Arduino shields) was designed by people that went to college.”

      Please recognize too that a large percentage of graduates can not only not design a MCU but can’t even form a sentence.
      The actual capabilities and education of those who went to college isn’t at an universal level.
      Colleges are encouraging teachers to grade high regardless of the capabilities of students. And I heard that from those teaching there and am not just giving a personal opinion.

    2. I wouldn’t call my academic experience failed and nor do I have bitterness about it. I learned a hell of a lot of useful stuff at university. Most of it in the student radio station and the Technical Committee (sound & light).

      I do however after a quarter century recognise it for Not All It’s Cracked Up To Be.

  12. As in so many subject much of it’s relative. When the current focus on test scores became prominent I saw them as to be used to hold the teachers and administrators unequally responsible. With the teachers bearing the bunt of the blame for poor tests scores, with less reward high test scores are a result. Ultimately the testing system look to be design, to reduce funding for schools so property tax levies for education can be reduced.. More about immediate profit than insure more profit in the future by creating a populace with a well rounded education. As I grew older nothing pissed me off more than the false dichotomies created to condition people to believe to be true, that is not true. The importance of the “book learning” should be diminished. While the Electricity/ Electronics course I took at a votech was design to provide training so the rural elect power and telephone CoOps had a pool of potential employees to chose from. The morning was dedicate to the lab, the afternoon to the shop. Both had their share of study with the books. As result many of use had the education to continue on to engineering if we chose to do so. One of the most important things that I learned at tech school was how much the time spent in Middle and High School in the “hard” subjects made the votech course so much easier. Was easy to tell who avoided the more difficult math and all science courses in High School. The CoOps and the TV and Radio shops don’t want “hackers”. They want persons with a good grasp of the fundamental who can use that grasp to trouble shoot and repair problems.. Design and build new systems that are safe. Yea there will be temporary hacks to to keep providing service until proper repairs can be made, but those hacks themselves have to safe to use. Book learning’ and hands on experience are complementary, and equal resources to be given to both. The problems I see are so many false dichotomies, and the reluctance to fund 1-12 education, especially here in Kansas USA. I hate to be so conspiracy theorist about it, but it’s hard to feel that there is a segment in our society that desires a segment of minimally educated worker drones, who can be placated by mind numbing entertainment. Not interested in keeping up with current legislation being debated that will affect their lives.

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