Madison, WI hackerspace Sector67 is in a period of transition as they move from their current rented location to a new property that will be their permanent home a half mile away. Last Wednesday (September 20, 2017) an unfortunate propane explosion in the new building led to the injury of Chris Meyer, the founder and director of the hackerspace.
The structure has been stabilized and renovation is continuing, but Chris was seriously burned and will be in the hospital for at least a month with a much longer road to complete recovery. It is fortunate that nobody else was injured.
This accident comes at a time when Sector67 essentially has two spaces to maintain; the existing space is still running, but many of the members are focused on the construction of the new space. The building needs significant work before the move can take place. Currently the roof is being raised so that the building can go from one awkward-height story to two normal stories, doubling the size. An expiring lease and imminent demolition of the current location by developers means the clock is still ticking on the move, and this explosion means Sector67 will have to work even harder, and without the presence and constant effort of the person who has been leading the project.
[Mikael Vejdemo-Johansson] is a member of the NYC Resistor hackerspace and an avid fan of a D&D themed improv theatre called The Campaign. To show his appreciation, he decided to gift them a Christmas present: a giant D20. The original plan called for integrated LEDs to burst alight on a critical hit or miss, or let out pulses if it landed on another face. Cool, right? Well, easier said than done.
[Vejdemo-Johansson] figured a circle of 4 tilt sensors mounted on the one and twenty face would be enough to detect critical rolls. If any of the switches were tilted beyond 30 degrees, the switch would close. He mounted eight ball-tilt switches and glued in the LEDs. A hackerspace friend also helped him put together an astable multivibrator to generate the pulses for non-critical rolls.
This… did not work out so well. His tilt sensor array proved to be a veritable electronic cacophony and terribly sensitive to any movement. That and some other electronic troubles forced a shelving of any light shows on a critical hit or miss. [Vejdemo-Johansson] kept the pulsing LEDs which made for a cool effect when shining through the mirrored, red acrylic panes he used for the die faces. Foam caulk backer rods protect as the die’s structure to stop it from being shattered on its first use.
Before The Campaign’s next show, [Vejdemo-Johansson] managed to stealthily swap-out of the troupe’s original die with his gift, only for it to be immediately thrown in a way that would definitely void any electronic warranty. Check out the reveal after the break (warning, some NSFW language)!
There’s something about old industrial buildings that just seems to attract hackerspaces. It could be the open floor plans typical in buildings that used to house big manufacturing operations, or it could be a desire to reinvigorate places where machines once hummed and skilled hands plied their trades. Whatever the attraction, the relationship is not without risk; old buildings with wood floors and frames can be tinderboxes, and tragedy can strike at any moment.
Such a fate befell The Foothills Community Workshop in Granite Falls, North Carolina, this past Friday. Details are still sketchy as the remnants of the 75,000-square foot former Shuford Mills textile factory are still smoldering, and the Fire Marshal’s investigation is not yet complete. Thankfully, no lives were lost, and injuries were limited to heat exhaustion of several of the firefighters from 16 counties who battled the blaze in the hot and humid North Carolina Piedmont.
Zaragoza, Spain hacklab La Remolacha (“The Beet”) sports a logo which responds to human interaction with a beet plant growing in the space. Sensors keep track of temperature as well as humidity for both air and ground, while buttons add more water, plant food, light, and music.
The shape and activity of the visualization responds to the sensors. The higher the temperature, the more folds in the shape. More distortions appear when there’s more humidity in the soil, while rotation speed increases with air humidity. Adding food increases the size of the visualization, and music triggers more vibrations.
An Arduino keeps track of the buttons and humidity sensors, while a nearby computer, connected via USB, sends the data to a node.js server. The data are displayed on the website through the torus visualization, which is done in WebGL.
The beet’s environment also signals the health of the space, because if no one is visiting, no one can feed the plant. On the other hand, could too many visitors actually kill the thing?
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 email@example.com 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.