Makerspace Profile: KC Open Hardware

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 KC Open Hardware based in Kansas City, MO.

kc open hardware logo

How did KC Open Hardware Association start?

KCOHG began last year during a discussion between the two founders regarding the lack of an Open Hardware initiative that was “close to home”. After seeing the success and growth of events like Maker Faire, we recognize that the Maker Movement is gaining mainstream exposure. The natural momentum will increase the number of people exposed to open source hardware technology, thus the number of people seeking to learn about these technologies will grow in proportion.

What was the initial response to KC Open Hardware Association like?

The first year, the event (held at the Kauffman Foundation) was a full day summit that consisted of technical presentations (averaging 30 minutes in length varying by speaker and topics), Q&A sessions, hardware exhibits, demonstrations, and experiments by local makers from the Midwest. In an effort to further inspire our attendees, we also had two national speakers. The event was a hit, we received quite a bit of positive feedback which helped grow the event even more so this year.

Our second event grew by 15% more attendees and added many new speakers and topics we hadn’t thought of the year before. I attribute this to both our presence at Maker Faire as well as Startup and technology events through out the city.

kc open hardware project

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

I think the term hacking has got a bad rap over the last couple years, it’s more closely aligned with the “Maker Moment” meaning we focus on creating something new or improved out what is available. More often than not we shy away from the term to avoid the negative connotations around it. I believe Jeremy Blum said it best at the 2012 OSHWA summit “Hack, is defined as a non-obvious solution to an interesting problem.”

What kind of equipment and resources do you provide participants?

Simply put “people”, when we designed the foundation for the group we wanted to avoid the issues plaguing many local groups such as “where do we hold our meetings”, “how much do we charge each month”, “do we need more storage”, etc. We want to be seen as the “next step” for those who are exposed to open source hardware technologies, want to learn more, and begin to experiment themselves.

With that in mind our group focuses on laid back “meetup” type gatherings an emphasis on education along with hands-on demonstrations. To do this is not as easy as it sounds but we have some great sponsors and partners to work with that help. Kauffman Foundation has been invaluable in assisting us with conference space, sponsorship as well as Mid America Nazarene University. It is because of our partnerships we do not have a monthly membership charge and many of our events are free of charge.

Back to the original question, what does all that get our members, remember my answer … people … we put them together, we help facilitate those discussions. As a (founding member – not founder) of OSHWA I see this goal there as well. However we would not survive on just meeting and greeting alone we also have events, one of which is coming in February. These events are listed on our site (www.kcohg.org), however this one I can tell you is going to be awesome !

kc open hardware people

What projects are people working on?

Our last “meetup” was based around 3D printing and the membership that came out include folks designing and building their own 3D printers, creating and using 3D modeling for medical assistive research and much more. Quite a few of our members are educators thus looking for a way to tie Open Hardware into their lessons as well as helping explain the movement to the next set of “tinkerers”. I myself am currently working on vision based sensing and control for robotics as well as … let’s just say an “Open Source Lie Detector”.

What are your future plans?

As of 2014 KCOHG is officially a branch of OSHWA (the inaugural branch at that!!) – http://www.oshwa.org/kansas-city-mo-branch/

Going forward we plan to have more build nights (such as our one coming up in February … now you know what it is), technology specific meetup events as well as our yearly conference. This year we’re scouting a couple new locations, so hopefully you’ll come out and join us.

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