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.
[Strages] contacted us via IRC on the #Hackerspaces channel to let us know that Makers Local 256, his hackerspace in Huntsville Alabama, is having their annual Retro Gaming and Computing Night this week: November 12th from 4pm to 11pm.
Nothing makes us feel old like seeing Starcraft tossed in with the "retro" games category, but if they set up a LAN for three-way Zerg-Terran-Protoss action, we’ll abide. If you’re anywhere near Huntsville, you should head on down and show off your hard-earned skills.
"Hackenings" is our weekly roundup of what’s going on in hackerspaces around the world. If you’ve got an event that you’d like to see on these pages, write to firstname.lastname@example.org with [Hackenings] in the subject line, and awesome images or graphics if you’ve got ’em. And tune in again next Saturday to see what’s going on in (y)our world.
When you need a DOOMcano, there’s no real substitute. And they’re not just selling these things on the street-corner. Nope, friend, you’ve got to get the hackerspace together and build your own.
For a fundraiser, and we suspect for the fun of it, the folks at LVL1 in Louisville, KY built a metal case with four (4!) flame-thrower jets. The idea is that you donate, and they’ll burn stuff for you.
Or you could build your own, following their detailed build log. LVL1 earns clever points for the use of 3D printer nozzles as gas jets, and for the laser-cut boxes that hold spray-cans of combustible fluid with servos to depress the buttons. It’s Rube-Goldbergy, but it works. Battery-powered grill igniters provide the spark, and an Arduino provides the control.
The Hack42 Hackerspace in Arnhem, Netherlands is one of the best hackerspaces we’ve ever seen. After taking over a decommissioned military base, the Hack42 crew has filled a compound rimmed with razor wire with eclectic gizmos, tools, and a community that keeps growing the space. At this year’s EMF camp, Hack42 member [jos] laid out his plan to found the ultimate Hackerspace. He’s going to put a hackerspace in prison to create the ultimate hacker village, a monument to technomancy, and an anti-panopticon panopticon.
[jos] recently noticed a very large, very old prison — currently used to house refugees — went up for sale. This prison, located in downtown Arnhem, Netherlands is a panopticon, a concept for prisons popularized in the 1800s, with most designs based on a circular structure with prison cells along the diameter around the circumference and a guard house in the center. This gigantic building is 55 meters (180 feet) in diameter, and 46 meters (150 feet) tall at its highest point. This gigantic prison dome could contain the White House inside its walls, a few blue whales, and could almost fit a space shuttle stack under the dome (the orbiter itself would fit just fine if there were a door).
The ambitious vision for this prison-come-hackerspace is a permanent venue not unlike other hackercamps where hackers can stay for weeks or months to build a project, a venue for like-minded people to meet up, and a place for students to do graduation projects under the wings of academic leadership. A community is one thing, but this former prison would also be the largest hackerspace by enclosed volume, opening it up to some very cool, very large builds. Inter-office quadcopter mail was mentioned in the talk.
[jos] is looking for comments, ideas, and remarks via this Google form to, “convince the money-people to fork over the funds.” If you’ve ever wanted to contribute to something big, this is your chance.
Do you dream of opening a hackerspace, makerspace, or co-working space? Maybe it’s in the works and you’re already scoping out locations, intoxicated by visions of all the projects that will emerge from it. Here’s a sobering thought: makerspaces are a great big pile of risk. If the doors of your ‘space are already open, perhaps you’ve come to realize that the initial insurance policy you signed doesn’t really fit the needs of your particular creative paradise. Even if it does, the protection you need will change as you acquire new toys.
So why should you even get insurance? For one thing, your landlord will probably require it. If you own the building, you should insure it to protect yourself and anyone who uses the space. Do it for the same reason you’d insure a car, your house, or your collection of vintage pinball machines: to mitigate risk. It takes a lot of hard work to open a makerspace, perform the day-to-day operations, and keep it growing and getting better. Whenever the unthinkable happens, insurance will protect your investment as well as the people who make it a great place to be.
In researching this article, I contacted several well-established makerspaces in the United States as well as most of the major insurance providers to get both sides of the story. My intent was not to make a how-to guide, but to simply explore the topic and provide a view of the process and the struggle.
In order to resolve the problem of congestion at the entrance to their hackerspace, the minds at i3Detroit installed a motion-activated mechanical iris in their door’s porthole.
Grabbing the design online (which they are now hosting on their site here), the parts were laser cut out of wood, gold leaf was added for effect, and it was relatively easy to assemble. PIR sensors detect movement on both sides of the door and an FET resistor connected to an orange LED add some old-school science fiction flair. The iris is actuated by a 12V car window motor — which works just fine on the 5V power that it’s supplied with — and an Arduino filling in as a controller. Start and stop positioning required some limit switches that seem to do the trick.
Makerspace North is unique out of the 5 makerspaces in the Ottawa, Canada area in that it started life as an empty 10,000 square foot warehouse with adjoining office spaces and large open rooms, and has let the community fill it, resulting in it having become a major hub for makers to mix in all sorts of ways, some unexpected.
Many makerspaces are run by an organization that provides tools that groups or individuals use, along with qualification courses for select tools. Makerspace North, on the other hand, provides the space and lets the community provide the maker component. The result is a variety of large scale events from indoor drone flying and various types of maker faire style days, to craft shows, garage sales, and even concerts. Smaller meet-ups, most often open to anyone, are held by such groups as the Ottawa Robotics Club and the Ottawa Electronics Club as well as some more general ones. Courses offered by the community are also as varied.
This also means that the owners of Makerspace North don’t provide tools for people to use, but instead provide dedicated rental space. That doesn’t mean there aren’t tools — it means that Makerspace North encompasses a microcosm of various renters who fill out the task of things like tool rental. This is just one example of how the community has embraced the unique approach. Let’s take a closer look at that and a few other novelties of this system.