Hackerspace Focus: Connected Community Hackerspace

With just a day to go before the glorious festival of creativity that is the Melbourne Mini Maker Faire, we conclude this series of posts on Australia’s hackerspaces with the faire organisers … the Melbourne Connected Community HackerSpace.  The CCHS started in early 2009, in a garage like so many other hackerspaces and successful technology ventures.  This year, a new space has been acquired, which will provide more room and better access throughout the week.  Close proximity to Swinburne University, public transport and numerous cafes make it an ideal location.

Members work on a variety of group and individual projects, ranging from custom designed electronics (often based on the Arduino), 3D printers, rocket telemetry, a laser cutter, even machines that clone DNA.  The group often present at local conferences, including running the popular Arduino mini-conference in conjunction with Freetronics.  This year, the intention is to start running technical workshops in areas such as electronics and 3D printing.

The CCHS aims to provide a workplace for anyone to get their hobby or technology idea completed.  Sometimes this occurs by building the tools, such as a computer controlled mill, that can be used to undertake complex projects.  The goal is to share skills and enthusiasm through collaboration and creating a supportive and creative environment, no matter what your level of experience.

Current president, Andy Gelme notes that the CCHS attracts a wide range of people from electronics enthusiasts to performance artists and students. He’s particularly enthusiastic about describing the positive benefits of looping back some of the existing skills in the community to the younger generation.

“We do have a lot of ‘grey beards’, people who are retired or have been in the industry for decades and they’re often keen to pass their experience on. It’s like closing the loop, people that love electronics and have been hacking all their life and passing it on to the next generation.”

Organizing the MakerFaire has been a significant event for our group and we hope that everyone who attends or exhibits has a wonderful day and considers staying in touch with our hackerspace in the future.  Details of our up-coming meetings and events are on the web-site calendar and we stay in-touch via our email list.  Up until now, the CCHS has focused on software, electronics and mecha-tronics, but the goal is to encourage a broad range of makers and crafts.

Click after the break for a video interview between EEVblog’s David Jones and CCHS benevolent leader Andy Gelme during a weekly hack session. Andy discusses CCHS and some of the issues getting a hackerspace up and running.

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Hackerspace focus: Make, Hack, Void

Continuing our focus on Australia’s vibrant hackerspace scene, this time it’s the turn of Canberra-based Make, Hack, Void or MHV for short. Starting out as a geek community in 2009, in a familiar tale of hackerspace growing pains, MHV outgrew Alastair D’Silva’s purpose-built three car garage/hackerspace. In an inspiring tale for other would-be hackerspaces, MHV turned to the local government for help and secured a large disused workshop near the centre for town at a knock-down rate. What a result!

“Our original demographic was very heavy with software and electronic engineers,” Alastair told us, adding that MHV is adding new faces with additional skill sets. Even now there’s a wide variety of projects under way at MHV thanks to members interested in projects from fibreglass moulds to FPGA electronics, Arduinos to DIY pizza ovens.

“I find hackerspaces are a great motivator to actually completing projects, as I tend to leave things in a “good enough” state (or worse) without driving force of having to present it to others,” Alastair reckons, adding that he enjoys the community of like-minded members. “They are a great resource for assistance, and also as sounding board to bounce ideas off,” he said.

We’re delighted to welcome another fabulous Australian hackerspace to the Faire. Make, Hack, Void will be showing off the MHVBoard, their own Arduino clone and presenting details of the MHV AVR runtime library. Alastair will also be presenting a walk-through of implementing simple projects using MHV’s home grown hardware and software tools. Geeks miss out at your peril!

Hackerspace focus: Robots and Dinosaurs

In this series of posts we’ll be featuring the Australian hackerspaces that will be exhibiting at the Faire. Hackerspaces, for the uninitiated, are communal working areas for like-minded enthusiasts to gather and work on group projects or use facilities and equipment made available to members (Wikipedia). Hackerspaces can be found in many cities around the world and Australia is no exception. Each hackerspace is unique and serves as an essential grounding point for the local maker community. This first post will focus on Sydney-based Robots and Dinosaurs.

What deceptively appears as a regular house in South Sydney’s Rockdale is in fact a place “where geeks and artists brainstorm ideas, play games, work on collaborative projects, and share the cost of some great tools.” Themed rooms cater for different needs of the Robots and Dinosaur members including Miriam’s Room with a collection fabrics and patterns, the Laser Room with CNC machines and lathes, Main Room with soldering irons, projectors and computers and even a shed with drill presses, saws, hammers, electric kiln and even a gas furnace. Robodino has all the tools for creative magic to occur.

So what sort of people are the members of the Robots and Dinosaurs hackerspace? “We’ve got people interested in all sorts of projects from pretty much every field. Just last week we had people working on lasercut RC cars, making engraved Japanese ‘go’ boards, building 3D printers, crocheting things, making their own flying quadcopters and more,” said Robodino chief Gavin Smith. One of Gavin’s own projects is the LightScythe, a device which writes glowing text in mid-air, while another Robodino project is iZac the Android bartender. Make mine a double iZac!

“Rarely when you’re working on something do you get it exactly right the first time. Being in an environment where you can bounce ideas off each other and get inspiration and advice from others people is invaluable,” Gavin said.

Robots and Dinosaurs is  a vibrant part of the Australia maker scene and one of several of hackerspaces that will be taking part in the Faire. Be sure to stop by their stand and see what other amazing stuff goes on at Sydney’s buzzing hackerspace.