Last night, hackers from across the Lehigh Valley gathered at a facility the Allentown Economic Development Corporation is offering as a Hacker Space in partnership with The Davinci Center. It was really exciting to hear what potential exists, the resources people are trying to bring together and the diversity of skills that exist among the community.
My favorite part of the night was seeing what stuff guys brought to share. Asking "What's In the Box?" around a group of creative people like this is bound to bring out some really neat and amazing projects. I'm looking forward to a lot more of this sort of thing in the future. I even heard about a group working to put together a mini MakerFaire right here in Allentown.
Well, maybe this video is a good intro. It is about the Hacker Space in New York City called NYC Resistor. Keep reading to find out how just such a space in Allentown is forming and how you can be involved.
The greatest problems for a hacker space usually is finding an appropriate space. This problem is solved by AEDC being very interested in sponsoring the space. They are interested in developing small manufacturing businesses in Allentown and have been doing this since 1979. The building they are offering for this purpose is half-full with exactly these types of businesses now. They see a hacker space as promoting ingenuity and inventiveness in the region and are hoping that promoting this will lead to more manufacturing and related businesses in the style of Adafruit and MakerBot which also grew out of hacker spaces.
The Davinci Center has a science center here in Allentown and are looking for ways to further promote science research. Before coming into contact with AEDC on the issue, they were working on a grant that would allow them to develop a plan for a hackerspace. Once that came together they partnered with the AEDC and are well into the process of receiving a grant from the National Science Foundation to provide a significant amount of funds that would allow them to buy lots of equipment and cover a full-time staff member.
The two largest problems that came up during the meeting were no real surprise to anyone. First, liability around machinery is a big issue. AEDC has taken on the task of figuring out what that would look like. The second problem is how to organize the hackers. This seems like it'll need to be hashed out more on the mailing list.
Liability insurance doesn't keep us from using the space, just the machines. The space is available now for use and we talked about what could be done now briefly. I'm hoping to see some "Show & Tell" meetings to highlight projects that potential members are working on that would also assist in organizing the hackers. There is also potential of putting together small classes around certain subjects such as Arduino, Eagle or Roomba hacking, perhaps even a series of small subjects like intro to LEDs, XBee Radios or scavenging materials.
So let's get the ball rolling by putting together some meetings, getting organized and give these benevolent non-profits a group who can receive their gifts. Let's also be sure to organize in a manner that keeps power in the hands of the hackers to govern themselves in whatever chaotic manner most benefits the crazy things that will come from access to some great tools and creative people.
Individuals are clearly going to need to step up to fill all sorts of roles. The governance of the hackers will require some potential roles, but more immediately:
If you have something to offer, go join the conversation on the mailing list.