Hackerspace introduction: Makers Local 256 in Huntsville Alabama

When I announced I would be traveling through Alabama and Georgia this summer, [Tim] from Makers Local 256 emailed me pretty quickly and asked if I’d like to swing by for a visit. Since I was planning to take my kids to the space center in Huntsville anyway, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to tour another hackerspace.

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Hackerspaces and Hackaday

It should really go without saying that Hackday LOVES hackerspaces. We want to support hackerspaces to the best of our ability. There have been many ideas tossed around, like a hackerspace directory, or hackerspace calendar of events, project lists, tool exchange programs, etc. For the short term, we can’t implement either of those in a smooth enough fashion that we think it would beneficial. There are several Hackerspace directories out there, with hackerspaces.org seeming to be the most up-to-date. We even have an “events” area in our forums, though we feel there could be a much better format or delivery device than a forum for that kind of information.

So what can Hackaday do to start helping? Well, the first small step could be to share more information about hackerspaces. We would like to do video tours of your hackerspace. Unfortunately, we don’t have a budget to travel around with a film crew and visit you all. I really wish we did, since I would probably be the one doing the traveling.  So what we can offer for now is that you film a tour, showing off some cool projects going on in your hackerspace, and we’ll share the video.  Contact me directly at Caleb@hackaday.com to work out the details. Your hackerspace doesn’t have to be a huge one in a big city. We want to help everyone here. If you have a few people gathered and a couple cool projects, we don’t care if you meet in someone’s basement. We want to see what the hacker community is doing!

Toward the end of May I will be spending a few days in Huntsville Al, then a few days in Hilton Head Island SC. I’d love to visit a hackerspace or two while I’m there to do a quick video tour. Again, contact me directly if you’re in those areas.

Spend your weekend contributing to the exploration of space

Earlier today we posted a link to a tournament NASA is holding. NASA is trying to crowdsource the organization of terabytes of data collected from missions all over the solar system. A few Hackaday readers wrote in (thanks [grbgout] and all the others) to tell us there is an International Space Apps Challenge going on this weekend to crowdsourse solutions to the problems of space flight.

The challenge is the product of a partnership between NASA, the National Science Foundation, the UK  and Japanese Space Agencies and a host of other organizations like GitHub, Yahoo Developer Network, and even a few hackerspaces. The idea behind the challenge is simple: spend a weekend solving software, hardware, and science challenges to improve the state of space sciences.

There are a lot of interesting projects like programming an interface to a NASA mission simulator, figure out how to print 3D objects in space, and even develop the hardware and software for an underwater ROV.

Aside from the fancy software and hardware challenges, there are also some very interesting data visualization problems, like clearly explaining the fact that space is mostly empty. If you can figure out how to tell people they aren’t the center of the Universe, take a shot at it – there’s probably a Nobel in Literature in it for you.

Right now there are dozens of locations on all seven continents and in Low Earth Orbit (McMurdo Station in Antartica and the ISS) that will have people contributing to these projects. Of course you’re free to work out of the home and help scientists, engineers, and researchers reach to the stars.

Chinese hackerspaces, or, what happens when a government is run by engineers

Government leadership in Shanghai wants to build 100 community hackerspaces funded by the Chinese government. Each space will be at least 100 square meters, open 200 days a year, and come equipped with wood and metal lathes, saws, drills, grinders, mills, and more electronics than we can imagine.

The official government statement (translated here) says the Shanghai Science and Technology Network wants to build a few dozen ‘innovation houses,’ ostensibly to create a breeding ground for new, innovative ideas and to nurture young builders.

The first Chinese hackerspace, Xin Che Jian, opened last year and they’re doing some pretty cool stuff. A RepRap Mendel is already on the build roster (pictured above) along with a few quadrocopters and small racing robots.

As far as what this means for western countries, we’re going to editorialize a little bit and say that government-funded hackerspaces would increase innovation a little bit more than watching our representatives argue about homosexuals or taxes. Who knows, if this Chinese experiment proves successful, it may move out of Asia and onto the Americas and Europe.

via reddit

Workshop 88 hosts a near space balloon contest


Launching high-altitude balloons to take pictures of the Earth from space is great fun. Heck, even credit card commercials are now suggesting you cash in your rewards points to organize a space balloon adventure for you and your friends.

Capturing snapshots of the Earth from space is such a good time that Workshop 88, a hackerspace located in the Western suburbs of Chicago, is making a contest out of it. They recently kicked off their second annual “Hackerspaces in Space” competition, a contest to see who can build the best near space balloon for under $250. The contest pits individuals, groups, and hackerspaces against one another, assigning each team a score based on the performance of their high-flying rig.

The winner of the contest will have their design replicated by the crew at Workshop 88, who will then hand out the space balloon kits to randomly selected K-12 schools around the country.

If this sounds interesting, but a contest entry just isn’t in the cards, you can always support the kit distribution by funding their Kickstarter project here.

What would you put in a shipping container makerspace?


Imagine that you have been asked to construct a portable shipping container workshop that will be sent to the other side of the globe, where the power grid is sketchy and the resources tight. If you had $20,000 to outfit this 20’ container, what components and tools would you include?

This was the question recently posed to us by [Luke Iseman], CTO at re:char. He and his partners are in the midst of putting together a mobile makerspace that will eventually be shipped over to Western Kenya in order to help the locals fertilize their land using biochar. The primary function of this workshop will be to build biochar chambers, so plenty of durable tools and machines are a must. They already have a pretty solid list of items put together, but they wanted input the from makers and hackers out there, who may have worked under similar conditions.

Have any suggestions? Share them in the forum, we’re sure [Luke] and co. will appreciate it!


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