Makerspace Profile: Hatch

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 Hatch based in Bucharest, Romania.

hatch makerspace bucharest romania

How did Hatch start?

Hatch theoretically started in May 2013, in a small basement room in a restoration squat project (that in itself is an interesting story, but for a different time).

At that point it wasn’t called Hatch, and it had the grand total of two members, me and my semi-reluctant brother. So not much of a start, but in the following months, James, Dan, Cosmin, Alex and a few others heard about it and wanted to pitch in, we decided the basic idea going forward and came up with the name (thank you James). Shortly thereafter (around November 2013), we were offered a small space in the basement of Universitatea Alternativa, because they believed in the potential of the idea. Thank you guys, couldn’t have happened without you!

And we’ve been there ever since, but as all things (good and bad) have an end, so does this and we are currently looking for a larger space. That was the alpha and now we are going into the beta phase. Towards that I would say “We have not yet begun to hack!” (hopefully not our famous last words).

Our idea is to form a community that promote the free collaboration between individuals in technological, social and artistic projects and provide access to the equipment and knowledge necessary for these collaborations.

What was the initial response to Hatch like?

The general response if we are referring to the public at large is of “What’s that? And what does it have to do with hackers?” because the terms are not at all familiar to people in Romania. But after explaining the concept of a hackerspace and the origins of the word “hacker” the reaction turns more towards “That sounds interesting/cool.”

The first response if we are referring to more technical/craft oriented individuals was interest combined with a fair dose of skepticism, but as more people became interested and started meeting each other the “I don’t know if it will work” turned into a “We will figure it out/ find a way.” My personal opinion is that both the initial skepticism and renewed interest stems from the particular flavor of hackerspace we are going for: a community based flat-governance “be excellent to each other” collaborate ad-hoc hackerspace.

In a broader sense there is growing interest in the idea of hackerspaces and makerspaces in Romania, but it’s still in early adopter stage. During the last year in which we’ve been trying to get of the ground so were a few other space across the country: Plan0 in Timisoara, Laborazon in Brasov, “Hackerspace Iasi” in Iasi, the latter I think the name is TBD.

Before that there were only two, both in Bucharest: Modulab and Inventeaza.

What kind of equipment and resources do you provide participants?

Right now we have the following equipment, “technology and stuff”: 5 soldering stations, a hot air rework station, a large assortment of hand tools for voiding warranties and going medieval on hardware, multimeters, a dozen or so microcontrollers and assorted shields and debuggers, a MOSS kit (modular robotics), two drill presses, a workbench grinder, a few hanheld grinders and circular saws, a full cubic meter’s worth of cables and connectors (not kidding) of almost every kind, about two dozen switches and routers, a lot of defunct printers and monitors and microwaves, a few PCs and servers and a massive treasure trove (a nice way of saying “junk pile”) filled with various hardware, bits and pieces.

Other than the access to the equipment and materials, we are aiming to provide members their own shelf/locker, access to a kitchen, a bike rack, a hangout area, a steady stream of courses, meetups, parties (LAN and Crypto rather than DNB or Disco, but beer and ClubMate should be included, after all there is no beer code without beer) and hackathons.

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

We subscribe to the early (and in our opinion, correct) sense of the term hacking.
Hacking would be “an intellectual, curiosity driven and exploratory approach to learning and working with the end result being benign and of value to the initiator (not necessarily monetary value)”.

So by extension a hacker would be “a person who delights in having intimate understanding of systems as opposed to the bare minimum required to use them and which applies an intellectual curiosity based exploration approach to learning and working in general.”
The people involved in authorized or unauthorized circumvention of security systems (specifically computer systems) are in our opinion crackers. That being said, the concepts are not mutually exclusive (as in a cracker could also be a hacker, depending on his/her approach to learning and working).

What projects are people working on?

Individual member projects have been all over the place: small microcontroller-based robotics and applications, fixing various hardware, bicycle repair, modding and customization, woodworking (furniture mostly), hacking together a cyclone airfilter, participating in various hackathons, hacking a set of mountain survival knives out of a industrial metal saw blade (and they are probably better than Bear Grylls’ 🙂 ) and so on.

We’ve only had one larger external project so far, a Rube Goldberg contraption we’ve built for an event, here’s a video of it in action:

What are your future plans?

In broad stokes: Get our non-profit status (in the works), find and set up a new space (also in the works), expand our course list and make them recurring, tell more people about the space, get more and better equipment, rinse, repeat and let members be awesome.

More specifically, in the next six months we want to get a 3d printer, a CNC, a welder and an oscilloscope, find some multiple micro-sponsorship options (“Thou shalt not create a single point of failure”), setup a dozen or so new courses and expand the current ones (a few about personal computer security and common methods of attack, a broad explanation of information technology going through all layers, and some microcontroller ones), set up a better communication system (mailing lists are not even close to optimal), redo the website, have an actual campaign to spread the word about the space (so far it’s only been “Tell a friend” and our Meetup account) and most importantly finding a stable supply of ClubMate.

In the long run we definitely want to have a laser cutter/engraver (the 150MW kind that you could mount on sharks), a small industrial filament extruder, multiple CNCs and 3D Printers, a TIG welder and well just about anything else the members decide is nice to have.

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