Friday, March 23, 2012

Things we've seen at the Maker Faire

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CT Hackerspace - Our 29th Hackerspace Visit

In a town where the sidewalks get rolled up at 10pm, sometimes the local hackerspace is more than just a hackerspace. It serves as a focal point for the creative community in the area. When we arrived in Watertown, Connecticut, we found the hackerspace. No one was home, so we went out in search of coffee. Later on in the day, we received a phone call from our host, and met him at the hackerspace.
They were excited for our arrival, and had left us a "Welcome" message on their chalkboard. Upon entering the large warehouse building, we saw a gallery of old photographs hanging in the lobby. 
Unable to get the elevator working, we used the stairs. The hackerspace was located on the 2nd floor, which they shared with a very large empty space.
We continued into the hackerspace. They were getting ready for their first Open House, so everything was clearly labeled and displayed. We were given a brief tour of their amenities. Their 3D printer was unique and noteworthy. They had constructed a "home brew" 3D printer, which is a pretty impressive feat.
Their snackerspace was large and well-stocked. In fact, one could survive off of their supply of stone-ground mustard for several months. They had a very well-equipped woodworking area. We usually have all of our bottlecaps pre-drilled for the workshops, but since this hackerspace had a drill press conveniently available, we had the workshop attendees drill their own caps. The workshop was well-attended by an enthusiastic group of hackers. 
One of the hackers brought in an acoustic instrument that he was building. He dried out gourds, and sliced them in half. The halves were then reinforced with wooden braces, and used as the body of a stringed instrument. Notice the hand-made fret board in the picture..
The hackers we met that night were impressively creative, and perhaps our most enthusiastic group to date. We performed a full rock set for the attendees. We were probably the loudest thing in Watertown that evening. After the gig, we were unable to find any restaurants that were open that late, so we dined on gas station fare. 
CT Hackerspace is an indispensable organization for the town of Watertown. Besides being very well equipped, their community is strong and intelligent. We hope to return to this hackerspace many times in the future, and wish them continued success.

You can find out more about CT Hackerspace here:
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Friday, March 16, 2012

Columbus Idea Foundry: Our 5th Hackerspace Visit

We were out on our first hackerspace tour, and had visited a few hackerspaces already. We taught very successful contact mic workshops at LVL1 (Louisville), Collexion (Lexington, KY), and Hive13 (Cincinnati), and were ready for our final stop on the tour. We rolled into an industrial neighborhood on the North side of Columbus. The city's skyline loomed in the distance. We turned down a street named Corrugated Way, and arrived at the hackerspace. This would be our first of many visits to the Columbus Idea Foundry.
On our first visit, CIF only occupied about 1/3 of the warehouse that it is in. However, each time we returned, they had annexed another section of the warehouse. Presently, they occupy the entire 25,000 Sq. ft. building. But back to their "humble" beginnings in this space- their second physical location- even at that point, they were very well equipped, organized, and had the most enthusiastic crowd we had seen to date.
They had a large classroom area, a room with 3D printers, an office, bathrooms and a break room. This space was formerly the office area of an electronics supply company. Through the door at the end of the hallway was a large warehouse space. Our visit happened to coincide with the day they were moving most of their equipment into the warehouse area. They later subdivided the warehouse into private office/work spaces, available for rent to the hackerspace members.
We taught our 5th Contact Mic Workshop in their classroom. After the performance, we played some live rock music to entertain the workshop attendees. Despite the cavernous reverb of the warehouse, we got our message across; ROCK.
On subsequent visits to the Idea Foundry, we were amazed at the rate of progress. They had subdivided the warehouse (as I previously mentioned) and annexed the 2nd section of the warehouse. Elaborate projects now filled the space. One of the projects on display was a phonograph style satellite radio. A Victrola style sound horn amplified small speakers inside in a fusion of technology, past and present.
Another project, the Digital Piano-mo-phone, was set up in the main room. This device consisted of a player piano, controlled by an arduino that was measuring density of people in the room via motion sensors. When people walked around the room, the arduino triggered different notes and chords on the piano.
One of the office spaces was rented by CIF member John, of Highly Liquid Midi. He had built a giant MIDI controller into the outside wall of his office. The various arcade style buttons, knobs, and even a photocell, controlled various notes on a synthesizer. The synth was hooked up to speakers on top of the wall. His project was called the Living Schematic. Schematic representations of the circuit were painted on the wall.
We got a little video on one of our phones of us playing the wall with Australian Circuit-Benders Toydeath.
On our most recent visit, CIF occupied the whole warehouse. I jokingly asked if they were going to take over the whole block. They replied that, in fact, they had been looking at an adjacent building. And still more member projects. The most notable was an electric car, prototyped in fiberglass. They built this with the intent of achieving a new record for electric car speed.
The Fuse Factory, a digital arts group, had set us up with Transit Arts, and we were teaching circuit bending to a group of primarily High School aged students. They had us in a new classroom, in the most recently acquired section of the building.
The Columbus Idea Foundry remains one of our favorite hackerspaces that we've visited. They had new
surprises for us each time we returned, and their community is friendly and enthusiastic. If you live in Columbus, don't take this amazing organization for granted- not every city has a place like this. If you don't live in Columbus, we recommend taking the trip- the Columbus Idea Foundry is an ever-changing community of some very creative and very smart hackers, definitely worth checking out.
First visit: 10/25/10