After contacting a YouTube artist who goes by the moniker of MakerJ101, I toured HackPittsburgh yesterday afternoon. Man, what a treat. I admit, I am jealous.
This is going to be a REALLY long post. I want to provide this info for consideration at Wednesday’s meeting, and I doubt the railroad will be allowing me to attend this week.
First off, security. They have a two level system, RFID AND a physical key. This seams to be a twofold reason. Obviously, the second door provides additional security to the space itself, but they also use it to provide a probationary period to new members. When you join, you get your RFID key/card/tag, but that only opens the inner door. The outer steel door is protected by a physical lock, and the key to that is only available to full members. After 30days, the membership votes to approve new members full membership. Joe said that part of that is getting to know at least three other members well enough to have them sponsor the new member’s application. This provides the security of getting to know new members while helping ensure someone doesn’t join for nefarious purposes, something we have discussed ad nauseam during our meetings regarding governance.
This tactic probably would have been repulsive to me initially, had it not been for an event that occured last Wednesday night. John Stitzinger can attest to that event and explain it better than I can here. Suffice to say, it opened my eyes and allowed me to see H.Pitt’s system in a different light. I’m not going to argue for or against it here, but I strongly urge those who are paying attention to the governance committee’s work to think about it and discuss it. It’s got value.
One thing that they spell out specifically is something we take for granted, our sense of community/belonging. Our group has that special comradery by chance and we try to nurture it as best we can, but they actually make it part of their membership application. Part of the probationary period is to ensure that new members are going to fit into their community style. It was cool to see them take that seriously enough to consider it worth defending if you will.
To finish, they have a sensor on the door that is hooked to… I believe Joe said arduino, that then updates the groups website that the door is open. This allows probationary members to know when someone is there and they can come down. This is comparable to just checking our drop cams.
Where we occupy a former commercial/office space, they occupy an old garage, but don’t let that fool you into thinking’s it’s a low quality setup. For one thing, it gives the much more floor space as well as volume since it’s got almost twice as much vertical clearance as well. Their laser cutter’s cut area is bigger than our machine. They have tables in their classroom area that would occupy 90% of the floor space in our lounge. They have a lathe, mill, couple welding systems, very well thought out tool wall arrangement, a shelving system that’s twice as high as outs and runs almost the entire length of our “war room”.
Basically, on the physical front, they are everything we wish we were. Not that that makes us inferior, just goes to show use our goals aren’t out of reach if we dedicate ourselves to it.
While I was there, I had expected to get to talk with a bunch of members, but only two others showed up before I left. One guy was from Rochester, ironic since that’s only a couple hours from my hometown out by Buffalo. But we had a really nice discussion about community and how it benefits a space like theirs, like ours. My only complaint was I didn’t think to record it.
I found myself realizing that despite our 140mile distance to each other, our groups are very much similar in culture and goals. I felt right at home. After the tour of their space, Joe and I discussed our mutual interest in metal melting work, and he even cut open a couple of my aluminum loaves I’ve made, and discussed some things I’ve been doing wrong, some things that my problems reinforced ideas he has had and wants to implement for his own work. Not to mention ideas to make my work better and more reliable.
In conclusion, we have a lot we can benefit from talking with them as far as setting up our official organizational structure, but at the same time, I think we already operate on the same wavelength as far as community.
I’d like to extend my sincerest thanks to MakerJ101 for entertaining my request to tour their facility, as well as Hack Pittsburgh as a group for having that culture and community that allowed me to feel so at home there.
Next time I come in to MS.io, I’ll bring the pictures I took of their space. I wish I’d thought to do a video tour.
Let me know if you have any questions.