Email reply to Lehigh University
We are interns at the Pennsylvania School for Global Entrepreneurship working with the Allentown Economic Development Corporation. Currently we are helping them develop a hackerspace to meet the needs of the residents of the Lehigh Valley.
- Great! We are of the opinion that the world needs more hackerspaces.
We have assembled a list of questions about your hackerspace and we would be grateful if you would be able to provide us with some guidance for this venture.
- We will certainly do our best.
· What factors lead to the development of your particular hackerspace?
- We first started as a group of friends wanting to innovate new ideas. Our biggest problem was that we did not have the tools, knowledge, or space to do so on our own. We had a wide range of skill sets and many of our ideas overlapped. So, operating on the concept that a cooperative atmosphere would foster further ideas, we began meeting once a week in a volunteer's apartment. It soon became obvious that we needed more room for people, tools, and supplies so we rented our first shop. The basic philosophy is "Everyone is an expert on something but not everything. Each member assists where they can covering any knowledge gaps a project may have.
· What do you charge your customers; do you charge a monthly fee or rental by square foot?
- We have a completely donation-based system with occasional fundraisers. Our area has many bright people who may not be able to afford to pay a a set fee. We did not want to exclude these people and what they might offer simply because they cannot pay as much as other people.
· Do you provide the equipment for your clients or do they use their own?
- Both. Most equipment is owned or donated by members. Anything the shop has members are free to use, and many of the personal tools are shared with those who need them. The tool usage is mostly self-policed. A member doesn't use a tool unless they know how to properly use it. Usually that member can find someone who does know how and learn from them.
· If you do provide it, what is the staple equipment that you recommend any successful hackerspace acquire?
- There is no perfect answer to this. There are hackerspaces with CNC mills, metal lathes, 3D-printers, and laser cutters, then there are hackerspaces with pencils, paper, and a soldering iron or two. It really depends on what your focus is going to be. As a general rule, basic woodworking equipment such as saws, hammers, drills, etc, are important as they allow you to build the hackerspace's infrastructure. Despite your particular focus, you will still need workbenches, shelves, and so on.
· What is the typical age group to which you cater?
- We have a wide range of members. We try not to cater to a specific age group. The only exception is underage people as there are liability and parental consent issues. Even so, we have people bring their children with them often.
· What types of projects do your clients generally work on? More specifically, do you have general distribution among clients who work primarily with computer software versus those whose work focuses on manufacturing or the arts?
- Our projects are as varied as the members themselves. We see many hardware and software projects mostly because programmers and electrical engineers make up a significant part of our membership but many take this as an opportunity to expand into other fields they have wanted to try. Our projects range from gardening to vacuum molding to wood block carving to surface mount ovens and RC lawnmowers to taking photos from outer space. Give or take smelting aluminum and building our own photobooths
Best Practices & Marketing
· What would recommend as best practices for a developing hackerspace?
- Debate still rages over what is the best way to do this. http://hackerspaces.org/wiki/Design_Patterns This link showcases the most common design patterns that have been used. It really comes down to what would be best for the group of people you have. We followed the German Pattern without realizing it.
· What marketing methods have you found to be most successful?
- We have used showcasing projects on Youtube, advertising events on the radio and with flyers, and plain old word of mouth.
· Do you have partnerships with local colleges, vocational schools, or businesses?
- We don't but we are looking into such things. Being a 501c3 charity helps out in these situations.
If there is any additional information you can provide which we may have overlooked or that would be beneficial to our venture, we would be extremely grateful for all of your help.
- We would be happy to help you if we can. Let us know if you have any questions.