Friday Hack Chat: Making A Makerspace

How do you make a makerspace? Over the last decade, there have been plenty of talks and tutorials handing out pointers. No day of the week will be good for a meeting, so the meetings are always on Tuesdays. The bike shed will be painted orange, no exceptions. Are you going to be a for-profit, or not-for-profit? Are we a makerspace or a hackerspace? Jerry, stop being clever. Pantone 021 U.

For this week’s Hack chat, we’re going to be talking all about making a makerspace. These are community hubs where people come together and share resources to bring their inventions to life. It’s not as simple as it may seem. You need insurance, you need a building, you need a landlord who’s cool, and there are a thousand and one things that can go wrong. Who best to steer you through the storm of opening a Hackerspace? Who can you solicit advice from?

Our guests for this week’s Hack Chat are Vaibhav Chhabra, a mech E from Boston University. He spent two years working on an eye diagnostic device, is an instructor at MIT REDX health care innovation lab, and is a founder of the incredible Makers Asylum. Eric Michaud is a Hacker, runner, and author, currently working on Rift Recon, Shellcon, and hackerspaces.org. He has written tutorials on Adafruit, and was a founding member of HacDC before he took off to Chicago and started PS:One.

Topics for this week’s Hack Chat include what it takes to open a makerspace, how you can fund it, organizational structure concerning for-profit, not-for-profit, and the thing that the members are most concerned about: what equipment is most crucial for a successful makerspace. You are, of course, encouraged to add your own questions to the Hack Chat; to do that, just leave a comment on the Hack Chat event page.

join-hack-chat

Our Hack Chats are live community events on the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This Hack Chat is going down Friday, February 16th at 09:30am Pacific time. This is different than our usual time slot. Want to know what time this is happening in your neck of the woods? Here, look at the neat time zone converter thingy

Click that speech bubble to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on Hackaday.io.

You don’t have to wait until Friday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.

S.T.E.A.M. Fabrikarium Builds Assistive Tech in Mumbai

Starting this weekend, a group of 65 invited Maker’s from various disciplines, along with 20 awesome Mentors, will gather at the Maker’s Asylum in Mumbai for the five day S.T.E.A.M. Fabrikarium program. The aim is to improve the capabilities of the differently-abled by building and expanding upon existing open source projects. At the same time, the teams will learn more about rapid prototyping techniques.

Among the participants will be at least 15 differently-abled people who will be a part of the whole process of learning as well as providing their inputs on the problems being tackled. Participants have an opportunity to understand how design thinking works and work on improving the existing designs.

Participants will team up and choose from five existing open source projects:

  • Bionico – a myoelectric prosthesis
  • Braille rap – using a 3D printer as a braille embosser.
  • e-Trotti – a low-cost, removable electrical assistance for wheelchair use, made from electric scooter parts.
  • Project Shiva – customized and beautiful upper limb prosthetics.
  • Flying Wheelchair – a wheelchair specially adapted for use while paragliding.

The Asylum’s fully-fledged workshop facilities offer a wood shop, a laser cutter, a CNC, several 3D printers, electronics tools and instruments and an infectious environment that will allow the participants to learn a lot during the five short days. While working on prototyping their projects, all teams will have constant access to a team of mentors and industry experts who will help solve their problems and give guidance when necessary.

The Maker’s Asylum includes fully-fledged workshop facilities for the build process, and the team succeeded in bringing onboard a slew of industrial partners and supporters to ensure that the program can be offered to the participants for free. That is a great way to bring makerspaces, makers, and the industry together in a symbiotic program that benefits society. The program was developed in collaboration with My Human Kit, a company from France who selected the five open-source projects mentioned above. The Fabrikarium is made possible via Bonjour-India, which fosters Indo-French partnerships and exchanges.

Hackaday is proud to be a part of this program and will be present to help document all of the awesome projects. Participants will share their progress on Hackaday.io, so watch for updates over the coming week. To get an idea of what to expect at the S.T.E.A.M. Fabrikarium 2018, check out the video from an earlier version embedded below.

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Students Hack an Unusual Violin

[Sean Riley] is a violinist who had a problem. He wanted to play one particular piece, but he couldn’t. It wasn’t that he lacked the skill — he a doctoral student at the University of Texas and has two degrees in violin performance from The Julliard School. The problem was that “The Dharma at Big Sur” by [John Adams] is made for an instrument with six strings, while most violins only have four. So he did what any of us would do. He stopped by the local hackerspace and fabricated one. You can hear (and see) [Sean] performing with the instrument in the video, below.

The University of Texas operates “The Foundry” which is a hackerspace with all the usual items: laser cutters, 3D printers, and the like. It is open to all their students and staff. [Sean] needed some help with the engineering, and was lucky to find a mechanical engineering senior, [Daniel Goodwin], working at The Foundry.

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How Hackerspaces Spend Money

Running a hackerspace is no easy task. One of the biggest issues is money — how to collect in dues and donations, managing it, and how to spend it. Everyone has different interests and would like to see the budget go to their favorite project or resource. Milwaukee Makerspace has come up with a novel way to handle this. Members pay $40 a month in dues. $35 of that goes into the general budget. The member themselves can pick where the last $5 goes.

Using the hackerspace’s software, members chose where their $5 goes each month. It can all be spent in one area or split up among different resources at the hackerspace. Members choose from many different interests like the 3D printing area, the laser lab, the forge, or specific projects like the power racing series. This results in a budget for each area which can be used for materials and parts. It also gives the hackerspace board of directors information on which resources people are interested in, and which they aren’t.

In the current budget, no one is supporting the anodizing area, but lots of people are supporting the laser lab. This is just the sort of information the board could use when planning. Perhaps they could store the anodizing tools and expand the laser lab. Click through to the link above and see how this year’s cash voting panned out.

Of course, all this only works if you have a hackerspace with plenty of active members. In Milwaukee’s case, they have about 300 members. Would this work for your hackerspace? Let us know down in the comments!

Brits: Make A Vote, Put Cash A Hackerspace’s Way

Those of you who have been involved in the running of a hackerspace or makerspace will know the never-ending struggle to maintain financial solvency, and the quest for sources of income to move your organisation forward. It’s certainly a topic upon which Hackaday’s crew have some experience, more than one of us has helped run a space.

A good avenue to explore lies with community grants: money from organisations on a philanthropic basis to invest in community organisations. These can come from charities, governmental organisations, or even from companies as part of their corporate social responsibility. It’s this last source of grant money that claims our attention today, because we are in the final days of voting for the Aviva Community Fund, in which the British financial and insurance company makes grants for worthy causes across the country. The causes compete to gain as much support as they can, and hope to thus win their prize.

Among the many worthy recipients of the cash are a selection of hackerspaces. First up are Hitchin Hackspace, whose Big Hak full-size rendition of a Milton Bradley Big Trak toy was featured in our coverage of EMF Camp 2016. They are building a new space in what we’ll call a redundant community facility because it sounds better than “Former public toilet”, and winning a grant will help them a lot in that aim.

Then we have East London Makerspace. They have secured an unused garage to turn into a makerspace, as the capital’s population of our community swells to support ever more spaces in its different suburbs. Like Hitchin, the money would go to the essential work involved in creating a functioning space where previously there was nothing.

Finally, we have the unexpected, a heating system from Milton Keynes Men In Sheds. If you know about Men In Sheds as a community organisation for older people, you’ll be wondering why this is listed here. What we haven’t told you is that MK Makerspace is a subgroup of the MK Shed that occupies the upstairs portion of their building, and what warms the Shedders also warms the hacker community of one of Britain’s new towns.

These appear to be the only hackerspaces bidding for grant money, but votes can usefully be given to other allied causes. Linlithgow Remakery and Tool Library, for instance could use a boost, as could the other Men In Sheds groups scattered across the competition.

So if you are one of Hackaday’s British readers, please take a minute to stop by the voting pages listed above, and give them a boost. You have a couple of days to get your votes in, so make them count, and make a difference!

Disclosure: [Jenny List] is a member of Milton Keynes Makerspace.

Hackerspaces are Hard: Safety

Safety is one of those topics that often elicits a less-than-serious response from some tool users. For these folks, they assume their elite skills will protect them and as long as they pay attention, they never will get hurt. This explains the prevalence of the nickname “Stubby” among this population. On the opposite end of the spectrum, safety is also one of those areas where people who don’t know a lot about tools can overreact. Imagine a whole table of kids wearing goggles as one of them gingerly melts some solder. You don’t want solder in your eye, but that’s just not going to happen under normal circumstances.

And then there are freak accidents, which are a reality. On September 20th, a leaking propane tank exploded at Sector67’s new workshop, severely injuring Chris Meyer. Far from a noob, Chris is one of the most experienced people in the shop and was a co-founder of the space. He has a long road of healing ahead of him, and as seems to be the sad necessity these days, he has a GoFundMe campaign to help both with his medical expenses and to help refurbish the workshop. The Foothills Community Workshop also burned to the ground recently, although fortunately no one was injured.

All in all, hackerspaces seem to be reasonably safe, particular considering the challenges they face — or more fairly, the risks associated with the typical hackerspace’s openness. Most hackerspaces allow anyone who pay dues to be a member. There is a wide range of backgrounds, competencies, and judgments represented with, how shall I put it, some unusual viewpoints that might hinder rule-following. And once the member has a fob or key, it’s open season on any kind of tool in the place right? Not everything can have a lock on it.

Here are a few simple rules that have emerged over the years, and may help your hackerspace navigate the twin dangers of complacency and paralyzed fear while preparing for the freak accidents that may simply come to pass.

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A 3D Printer Alone Doesn’t Make A Hackspace

There was a time when hackspaces were few and far between — legendary environments that you’d read about online, where amazing projects were made by people who had come together to form communities of creative technology enthusiasts. Of course, they were always in places far afield, California, or Germany, never in provincial England where I call home. Eventually our movement spread its tentacles into the county towns, and several years later with a stint as a hackspace director behind me I sense that it is on the cusp of escaping its underground roots. Every month seems to bring news of yet another organisation wanting to open a makerspace of their own, be they universities, co-working spaces, enterprise centres, libraries, or even banks. It’s evident that our movement has attracted an aura of edginess when it comes to getting things done, and that these entities are anxious to secure a little piece of that for themselves.

So within a few miles of most hackspaces will be several places where you can find a 3D printer, maybe a vinyl cutter, a CAD workstation, and a soldering iron. There will be a fancy hipster coffee machine and some futuristic furniture, and probably some kind of enclosed meeting pod of dubious design. All of which can no doubt be viewed through a glass wall, so that people in suits can watch all that raw #innovation sizzling away.

Viewed from within the movement, it’s easy to see all this activity on the edges of the world of making as a threat. A struggling community organisation survives on its wits alone, it doesn’t have a multi-million pound (or dollar) university or investor behind it. Its tools are hard-won and patched up, and its coffee machine is a battered electric kettle and a jar of supermarket instant coffee. When it comes to gleaming innovation spaces, a group of assorted makers simply can’t compete. Surely the arrival of these spaces will tempt members away, and the hackspace will inevitably wither, and die.

It’s worth taking a step back at this point, and considering what makes a hackspace. Specifically, what makes a good hackspace.

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