Makerspace Profile: Cambridge Hackerspace

Each week, as we get to know our community and the broader IoT movement, we’re fortunate to connect with some remarkable individuals and organizations. In our “Makerspace Profile” series, we interview makerspace founders to learn more about the maker movement around the world.

In this profile, you’ll meet Cambridge Hackspace based in Cambridge, MA.

cambridge hackspace

How did Cambridge Hackspace start?

I moved from London (UK) to Boston in early 2013, and was instantly hit by the lack of community driven makerspace around the area, including spaces that was really accessible to the community. There were makerspaces, but they were either expensive, or part of a University, and those didn’t work for me.

Back in London I was part of the London Hackspace, a place completely run by the community, open, accessible, friendly, and with membership as ‘pay what you want’ it’s affordable to all.

I wanted to create the same ethos around a maker space, one that was focussed on the community, and so I started making plans to get people together. Our first meeting was downstairs in our office after work one night, we posted the event online, got a few beers in, and then welcomed the maker community in.

cambridge hackspace panoramic

What was the initial response to Cambridge Hackspace like?

The initial response was great, the plan was to start slowly and to get a feel for the people in the community. We held several nights, each time inviting people to come along, bring their projects, and have a place to tinker with other like minded people.

We filled our room with people every night, people spilled out into different rooms in the office, and they brought their projects with them.

There was software, electronics, woodwork, planes, robots, Arduinos, we also had people making pancakes to feed the masses.

People enjoyed coming along, having a place to tinker with things, and a community they could draw from, in skills, advice, and motivation.

What kind of equipment and resources do you provide participants?

Since the early days in the back of our office we’ve grown nicely, we now have a dedicated room in the center of Cambridge at Industry Labs, we have paying members, and we have tools.

The main focus of giving people somewhere to work still remains, and we hold a regular Tuesday night meeting to do just that. People find value in having somewhere to come and work on their projects.

To support the various interests within our community we’ve built out a fab area with tools and equipment. Our prototyping stations include a desktop 3D Printer and CNC, along with various power and hand tools for metal and wood working. We have an electronics station with soldering irons, hot air rework, and racks of electronic components. We also support craft projects, and currently have sewing and knitting machines, along with yarn and fabrics and a knife plotter.

cambridge hackspace photo

What does “hacking” mean to you and your community?

The word ‘hacking’ has often been associated with nefarious activity, like hacking into computers and stealing credit card information, this is completely the opposite of what we do. Hacking to us means making the most of what you’ve got. What can you design, build and make with the resources you have.

There are many times when buying a solution works, but is expensive and over the top, building a solution yourself can be much more rewarding, can save you money, and you get to learn a lot while you’re doing it. Yes you can buy yourself a laptop, but would it be great if you could make one yourself, using parts you already have, and a 3D printer. (ok, well maybe making your own laptop is a bit adventurous, but you get the idea)

Our community is a big part of how we work, each member contributes their own knowledge and experience, which benefits everyone, and lets us do things we wouldn’t be able to individually. Our community all like to experiment, they like to tinker, experiment and prototype, and they like to learn from their experiences. Having built something gives them something to show for their work, and is the most rewarding part of the process.

What projects are people working on?

We have a range of members with a range of backgrounds at Cambridge Hackspace, especially being in the middle of Cambridge with its companies, startups and universities.

We’ve had people write code to make music, knit scarves, build a robots, fly planes by pushing the air behind them, build bus timetable displays, 3D print jewelry, fight in robot competitions, transmit audio over laser beams, build helmet bike lights, dismantle industrial robots, knit hats, build talking doorbells… the list goes on.

We’ve been building an internal member system that uses the charlie card to register your identity, letting you register for events, and potentially unlock machinery in the future.

Various people have been working on projects collecting sensor data from around them, this can then be recorded, analysed and used to improve their standard of living, suggest better lifestyle choices, and reduce energy usage.

Every week is different, and we’re always impressed by the variety of project people bring along and the ideas they have.

What are your future plans?

We aim to continue building a makerspace that is accessible and beneficial to our community. We want to support a range of people and their projects, and continue to provide value to those people who come along to our events. We enjoy supporting the community, providing somewhere for people to come and work, and helping them connect to others to collaborate and learn.

The diversity of the community and the things they’re interested in is so varied, so there is always something interesting going on, and we want to continue to be a part of that.

Next year we’re starting a maker fund, which will help makers who need support for their projects. We hope to bring making to those who would otherwise not be able to.

As for our space, we’ve been slowly expanding since we started almost 2 years ago, and we would like to continue that growth. We have our own room, but we could do with a bit more, we’re also looking to expand our membership, tool base and our community, as the community really makes the hackspace what it is.

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