Makerspace Profile: Xerocraft 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 Xerocraft based in Tucson, Arizona.

xerocraft hackerspace

How did Xerocraft start?

The original founding members started meeting officially in December 2010. Back then, they met in the back room of a place called The Dry River Radical Resource Center run by the Dry River Collective. They gave us a space in the back that was used for non-weathertight storage (the roof had some skylight openings that just had some boards laid over them). We had about ten feet of work table and some storage shelving on both sides. Overall space was about 10′ by 12′ with some spillover space that we couldn’t leave anything in. We didn’t really have electricity so we ran an extension cord from an adjacent room and strung extension cords to the lights.

In Late October 2011, one of our members, Connor, located a live-work art space that had 900 square feet in a low-rent commercial district. He was willing to move in to the upstairs room and share the kitchen and bathroom on the first floor and we would kick in what dues we collected for the rent. We moved in the first week in November and started moving in various tools, equipment and supplies that various members had sitting around in garages.

By the time I showed up in August 2012 the 900 square foot live-work space was completely filled with tools, people and donated supplies. But by the end of that year we were already talking about moving to an even larger location. Around that time, David found the Steinfeld Warehouse and started talking to the building’s owners, WAMO.

What was the initial response to Xerocraft like?

As we started out small, so did the turnout. But as we’ve grown so has our base of attendees. There’s always been an ever-changing group of interested people attracted to Xerocraft. We get people from a very wide variety of places in society and life. Creativity is a very transcending thing. As our space and tool inventory has expanded, so has our membership.

What kind of equipment and resources do you provide participants?

We try to offer every tool imaginable. We have traditional tools: table saws, lathes, mills, scroll saws, welders, drills, jigsaws and hand tools. We have cutting-edge tools: Laser cutters, 3D printers, 3D scanners, digital microscopes, high-end computers, Arduinos and Raspberry Pi’s. We have art supplies: paint, markers, brushes, paper, yarn, sewing machines, embroidery, screen printing, leather working. As for resources, we offer the combined intelligence and wisdom of our members as well as classes and workshops on our many tools and software. We have classes on the metal lathe and mill, general woodworking, welding (our most popular class), 3D printing, laser cutting, computer security and much more.

xerocraft group makerspace

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

Jeremy Briddle: I always describe a hackerspace as being like a glorified tools shop where anyone can come in and build the things they see in their minds. It’s a collaborative space where inventors, artists, engineers, tinkerers and makers can collaborate and share information. The use of the word “hack” these days tends to be misused to refer to people who maliciously break into computer systems and steal information. We use the term by its original definition: Putting objects together in creative and unique ways to build new things.

David Lyttle: As far as your question about this being a national movement, there are most definitely hackerspaces and “Maker faires” popping up all over the U.S., as well as internationally. Hackerspaces in different cities tend to help each other out as well, sharing info and resources and whatnot. We’ve had very productive and helpful interactions with a Hackerspace in Phoenix called Heatsync, for example.

Connor Barickman: There’s a stigma around the term hacker which we are doing are best to kick. We aren’t going to steal your online banking passwords! A hack is to use something in a creative way far from its original intended purpose. Although we continue to push the boundaries of design and re-purposing, here are examples of very simple hacks. Everyone has been a hacker at some point:

  • Using folded up napkins under the feet of your dinner table to keep it from wobbling
  • Using your shoe as a door stop
  • Use a clothing iron to make a grilled cheese

Josh Banno: It means a place to hack. We use the term hacking to describe any time of making, building, or creating. It’s a community resource that gives people a space, tools and skills, to make anything they can imagine with our current level of technology. It’s also about crossing the boundaries of traditional workshops. We invite, instruct and provide space for various methods of creating things. Whether is coding and programming, to actual wood and metal machining, creating a space that allows the crossover of these different environments produces amazing possibilities for innovation and creativity.

Hackerspaces are a cultural change. It’s an international, and borderless phenomenon of ordinary folks taking the reins in the production, creation, planning and design of the world around them. It’s a social change from below, and it includes not only a change in society’s producer/consumer dichotomy to a universal creator/maker/user concept, but also changes the way creation and innovation occur by including fundamental changes in organization and methodology. Xerocraft and many other hackerspaces have many unique methods of organizing our members and space, that do not generally occur in a top-down model, we run things by consensus, proving that many minds are better than one. We take a more democratic approach to the business of making things.

What projects are people working on?

One member, Peter Jansen, recently built an open source CT scanner for the purpose of getting high-end medical hardware into the hands of hospitals that can’t afford new machinery. Peter also recently won 4th for the 2014 Hackaday.com Prize with his Open Source Tricorder.

Our blog post: http://www.xerocraft.org/news.php?id=93

xerocraft hackerspace group

What are your future plans?

We want to continue to expand in every way possible. We’re setting up classes for the Pima County Library that will bring in money to our space as well as our instructors. We want to put on school presentations. We want to be a gathering place for more local clubs and after school programs who can meet, plan and build their projects all under one roof. We would like to eventually expand to a larger space that will accommodate all or our tools while leaving space for classrooms and other dedicated space. We’d like to one day be open 24-hours a day to paying members while offering more classes and open hacks.

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