Hackaday Visits NOVA Labs And Small Batch Assembly

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A few days ago Hackaday visited NOVA Labs, one of the premier hackerspaces around Washington, DC. In our video tour, co-founder [Justin Leto] shows off the space, going through all the awesome tools, workspaces, and projects his space has put together over the years.

One of the most impressive parts of NOVA Labs is the incredible amount of woodworking equipment. Everything from a Blacktoe CNC router, table and bandsaws, jointers, planers, real woodworking benches, and enough clamps to hold anything together are from a NOVA member that is co-locating his equipment for the rest of the hackerspace to share.

Apart from the woodworking tools, NOVA also has a few laser cutters and enough 3D printers for all the octopodes and Yoda heads you could ever imagine. A few of the members put together 3D build classes, and the machines being constructed are very, very cool. They’re using a Raspi with OctoPrint in their latest builds, attaching a camera to the frame and using a tablet for the interface. It’s just about the smoothest and cleanest 3D printer interface possible without using a computer.

There’s a lot of cool stuff happening at NOVA; the DC Area Drone User Group is the area’s largest group of unmanned aerial vehicles not housed in a five-sided building, and have done some aerial mapping for the metro station that will soon displace the hackerspace. NOVA also hosted a mini maker faire last weekend with over four thousand attendees. Impressive, to say the least.

Also at NOVA Labs is a small business the guys are incubating headed up by [Bob Coggeshall], also known as one of the guys who wrote sudo. It’s Small Batch Assembly, a very cool service that takes panelized PCBs and reels of components and assembles them. While we were there, [Bob] was assembling a few dozen boards stuffed with WS2812 LEDs for the R2D2 Builders Club.

[Bob] is using a very cool and very expensive Manncorp pick and place machine for placing all the components, squeegeeing the solder paste through Kapton film he laser cut on the NOVA Labs machines. It’s only a small-scale operation, but when it comes to placing thousands of SMD components for a few dozen boards, there probably isn’t a better way.

You can check out the video of NOVA, Small Batch Assembly, and a whole bunch of pics below.

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Help Save Nullspace Labs

Nullspace Labs

A few days ago, the folks at Nullspace Labs in downtown LA got a surprising memo: their building is going to be gutted in a month. With thirty days left, they need money to cover first and last months rent, and help with moving. We can imagine that moving a Hackerspace is no small feat, since they tend to accumulate tons of awesome stuff.

The Hackerspace has started a crowd funding campaign, and has posted a call for help. They are looking for money, new members, or help with moving. If you’ve never been, you can check out our tour of Nullspace Labs.

It’s tough deciding what Hackerspace news to cover. We can’t run individual features on every tip we get promoting Hackerspace events, developments, crowd funding campaigns, and calls for help. We’re featuring this one because we just visited them, they’re awesome, and they’ve also been the source for many great stories over the years, like craning in a laser cutter or developing a modular LED orb. So here’s a question for you: Should we be presenting more Hackerspace news that is perhaps only relevant at the local level? If you think we should, how would we present it? There’s the option of doing occasional links-post-like roundups. But if you have a better idea we’re all ears.

Touring Null Space Labs, Another LA Hackerspace

Null Space Labs prides itself on being the only hackerspace that’s not saving the world. Instead, they focus on more important matters such as repairing an industrial pick and place machine, hoisting laser cutters through third story windows, and generally being extremely awesome. Since some of the Hackaday crew is in LA, we decided to check in on the folks at Null Space, and they graciously granted us a tour.

It’s not an overstatement that Null Space is better stocked than any university EE lab. They have at least four million electronic components, and they honestly have no idea how many different types of components they have. As for tools, a 22 GHz spectrum analyzer and 2 GHz scope are tucked away behind a direct to garment printer. A gigantic laser printer, pro 3D printer, PCB milling and through-hole plating stations, and pick and place machine are just a few more of the fun toys available to Null Space members.

In the video below, [M] walks us through the main electronics work area, filled to the brim with tools and storage cabinets. After that, [arko] shows off the PCB mill and the back room with reels of parts strewn asunder.

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Hackaday southwest tour

Earlier this summer, I took a trip through the southeast of the country. On this trip I was able to visit several hackerspaces and meet some really great people. We started at Squidfoo in Springfield Missouri. Then Moved on to Makers Local 256 in Huntsville Alabama. After that we saw 7hills hackerspace in Rome Georgia as well as Freeside hackerspace in Atlanta Georgia. The final leg of the trip took us to Chatt*Lab in Chattanooga Tennessee and the Hacker Consortium in Nashville.

For this trip, I am taking my family to the Grand Canyon. Well, that’s the part the kids are looking forward to. I’m looking forward to more hackerspaces and fantastic people. If you’re along the route from Springfield Missouri to Flagstaff Arizona, let me know (we’ll be hitting roswell NM on the way back too). We can go a little out of our way, but not hours.  I would really love to visit some hackerspaces on this trip and do a video tour. You can comment here or hit me directly at caleb@hackaday.com.

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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.