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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

We Don't Live in Monolithic Worlds: Agency, Collaboration, and Company in Fails

Once upon a time there was a woman named Red Burns.  She’s sometimes called the Godmother of Silicon Alley.  For someone so influential in the arts and tech, it’s hard to find good information about her.  She didn’t have a Twitter account.  There was no personal Facebook account.  She didn’t tend a digital space for the burping out of meaningless platitudes on start-ups or the saving graces of technology.  She didn’t write a memoir.  The most prevalent  sources of information on Red seem to be obituaries and memorials.   

How can there be so little easily attainable information on someone so influential?   

Stories of Red’s impact come from graduates of NYU’s ITP program, which Burns co-founded.  Memories of Red’s influence come from artists and technologists.  Usually there is a common thread in the stories and memories: it’s not about the technology.  Do everything for people.  

The Red Burns legend goes something like this: It’s the late 60s.  Red Burns, a filmmaker, is handed a Sony Portapak camera.  With this mobile video camera in hand, she realizes the impact the technology will have on an individual’s ability to tell stories through documentary.  In Big Bird & Beyond: The New Media and the Markle Foundation Red says, “It was one of those epiphanous moments… I said to myself, this is going to have some impact.  It was just incredible that nonprofessionals could make their own documentaries… Now, I wondered, how can they do it?”

Just a few years later, Red co-founded the Alternative Media Center at New York University.  The Alternative Media Center provided training and access to equipment.  McCandlish Phillips writes in “TV of the People Operating on Cable,” his 1971 New York Times article, the media center was “... devoted exclusively to cultivating cable television as an outlet and resource for local, nonprofessional communicators.”  In McCandish’s article Red explained that the media center did not offer college classes or accept students into a program.  Instead, the staff and faculty of the Alternative Media Center offered weekly training sessions and eventually equipment “for groups interested in ‘going on the cable.’”  The Alternative Media Center provided a space, staff, and resources to carry out Red’s vision: media created by the community.  

Communities and organizations in towns and cities like Reading, PA, Charleston, WV, Tullahoma, TN, and Cape May, NJ received training and support from the Alternative Media Center and produced documentaries on black lung and extensive on-air programming planned, produced, and filmed by senior citizens in Reading.  

The authors of Big Bird & Beyond explain that Red saw public access cable as a platform “which gave ordinary citizens the ability, for the first time, to take to the airwaves as writers, editors, producers, actors, and social and political commentators.”  

Citizens were makers of their own media.  And as you know, agency goes a long way.  

Red believed that public access cable provided “immediate and unrestricted space” for community programming and public service.  

By the end of the 70s, the Alternative Media Center morphed into NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) in the Tisch School of the Arts.  Red co-chaired the department, which accepted students with backgrounds in dance, math, non-profit work, engineering, computer science, animation, fashion, industrial design, and more.  She once said in an address to ITP students, “... we don’t live in a monolithic world.  Our signature is collaboration--not competition.  

ITP’s alums work for Google, Apple, Disney, Microsoft, and a host of start-ups.  Graduates designed exhibits for the 9/11 Memorial Museum and the metro card vending machines for the New York subway.  

Many of Red’s philosophies and practices are echoed in the maker movement and maker/hackerspaces.  Everyone is welcomed regardless of background, degrees, or training.  Tools are offered, but most importantly so is training and access to expertise or at least there’s company when fumbling through Youtube tutorials and mistakes.    

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Hacker Lights - Aerial Emanations to Confound and Perplex

by Aaron


Have you ever wanted to make complete strangers or dear friends believe the alien invasion is at hand?

Hacker Lights, by HackRVA member Andy, is a control box especially designed for freaking people out. Or, specifically, programmable/addressable LEDs for cool patterns on your UAV's. A super FEATURE is that those patterns can be designed and programmed to the control box using the online app he created on his website.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Pimp our cups

Wine & Weld is coming up, and the only things that will make the day complete are some diamond encrusted wine glasses for the pre-welding post-welding celebration. However, if you're on a budget rhinestones, stickers, gems, and paint will have to do. 


Daniel made an awesome biology project that was at least in part completed at HackRVA. Check out the featured main-page blog post for more details.

Crowd Fund Rewards Complete


Oh my gosh, this took FOREVER! ... wait, I mean, the rewards for last years crowdfunding project have been promptly completed on the standard 1 year timeline which all things crowdfunding are subject too.

If you'd like to make (CNC Route / Laser Cut / whatever) your own - also possible. Design files on HackRVA Thingiverse page here.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Things Now Attached to the Wall: Part 1 of 134

There are many new things attached to the wall, providing a stability completely unexpected from Aaron updating this blog. This ongoing series will examine many of the things stuck to the walls or close to the walls of The Space and examine their intrinsic beauty.

Exhibit one: Aaron likes to take pictures with his iPod. As other technology confuses and angers the great redheaded beast, he is allowed to grunt and scrape his paws against the screen to make the pictures happen, saving us a rage-fueled rampage where he tears off limbs in the same manner as an enraged orangutan. To that end, a simple, 3D-Printed solution with off-the-shelf hardware was developed to allow him to bang hammers against sensitive, printed boards on camera while not having to destroy (or lose once again) his iPod.


If you find his silly iPod left haphazardly in a place it doesn't belong, this is the place to put it. Also, it's a 3D range, magnetic anchored (or weight anchored if on a table) holder to direct your camera for pics or video.

The Greatest Invention

Fire, the wheel, and the Sisyphean drudge of maleficent need, as the philosopher Heidegger might label as the always-already of human is-ing, causes mankind to forge forward in the noble endeavor of creating that which fills the hole in our creative and most base (and basic) of needs. Such a man is among you in the living flesh, dropping the proverbial manna of creativity upon your brow in the manner of what may be the greatest invention of our generation, of our time: the post in a bucket.

Here, it is being used to hang wires for spray-painting metal:
Do you See?

It has been used to hold up a tarp to shield your virgin eyes from the deadly light of welding. As the tarp was up, you didn't, but do you See?

Its uses are multifaceted, its angles more intricate in the Euclidean simplicity than a careful study of the multifoliate rose.

I present to you the Post in a Bucket (tm) (patent pending).

Back Space Pedal

by Aaron
This is a gaming pedal (as in driving a car) that has been converted into a human interface device which moves cursors in reverse when stomped upon. In other words, a back space pedal.  It utilizes a salvaged PS/2 keyboard circuit for the interface.


HandShakeBot 3000

by Aaron

Cody visited for a Saturday afternoon of hacking. A few creative fitz-kits jointings and a sewing machine motor with variable-speed pedal-control, and this insistently polite "robot arm" is born. Now we need to train it to give tours of the space.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Tool Taxidermy

Not long ago, HackRVA lost a dear and trusted friend, Pinkie Taiwan. It was a trusty hot glue gun that bound together not only piece-A to piece-B--it bound together the community. Feeling jealous of the attention being paid to newer, more "sophisticated" electronic devices, Pinkie reached for the stars and surpassed expectations by managing to execute a processor-like command. Too bad it was halt and catch fire.

You will now find Pinkie's charred remains mounted on the wall as if it were the head of a majestic stag. Take a moment of silence to remember the passing of a dear friend.



Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Bet: Aaron v Nelson

The Setting: Back yard, beers, 2 AM.

The Challenge: Nelson makes a wheelchair accessible ramp lead from the main room of HackRVA to the electronics lab (a three inch rise in floor height). Aaron's rules are that it can't be a stapled-together POS (at least safe and usable if not perfect) and it has to be easily moved and stored when not in use.

The Conversation:
"I could do it in forty-five minutes."
"Bull****! You couldn't build anything in under an hour. If you can make a ramp in under an hour, I will buy you dinner."
"It's a date."

The Product:


The End-Time: 45 Minutes.

I like my porterhouse steaks blue-rare, Aaron.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Arduino, Freeduino, What Do We Know?

Sorry you missed it, but some insane fun went on in the AM at HRVA. Someone had the bright idea to take a bunch of people who couldn't solder their way out of a paper bag and teach them how to do it by having a class in the Capital Wasteland that not only gave you an important hacking skill, but it gives you a little programmable computer that you can go insane with to do amazing projects. Imagine, if you will, a fantastic little piece of silicone and metal that will obey your every command and make things move.

Robots, I'm talking about. Yes, robots.

Here's an example of one project put together successfully if poorly soldered:


It worked, which is a testament to the patience of the teachers. If you run across the young man that made this, don't feed him. He keeps showing up and no one knows where he came from. He just grunts and grumbles when we hit him out the door with the broom.

If that moron can make a mini-computer, you can do better, so come on in to HackRVA and say hello and join up to make awesome things yourself.

Seriously don't feed that guy though. Why is he here?

Boxes and Nothing More

Let's take a look at what's happening at HackRVA. We know where the action is at, and it can be only at one place.

The word is BOXES.

Six sides makes the magic. If you're not making boxes--what are you doing with your life? It's become an obsession with us. Michael made a pretty one with red velvet lining in a carefully laid out plan. Dustin made a sweet little laptop box with a Raspberry Pi, screen and keyboard and all. Both were awesome.




And then there's this thing Aaron made... 


It's his tri-copter house. Hey, tri-copters have it rough sometimes, so they sometimes can't afford the nicest accomodations, but at least it has a luxurious black pleather interior with well-meaning pop-rivet joinings. For a first attempt, I think it's a resounding success! 

Think you can do better? Let's get hacking and see what kind of awesome-sauce box you can make.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Building of the New World Conference

Sidney has co-sponsered the "Build the New World" conference through HackRVA. He will be attending the conference in the Science & Technology Sector. Details below:

Specifically, BTNW will focus on the “Wheel of Co-Creation” originally designed by Barbara Marx Hubbard, who will be opening the conference. The Wheel identifies eleven “sectors” of a full-spectrum society:
a
            Full-Spectrum Community Sectors:
           1.    Learning & Education
           2.    Communications & Media
           3.    Art & Culture
           4.    Economics & Business
           5.    Peacekeeping & Relations
           6.    Justice & Governance
           7.    Health & Wellness
           8.    Food, Water & Environment
           9.    Infrastructure & Resources
           10.   Science & Technology
           11.   Spirituality & Religion

Thought-leaders in each of these sectors will speak at the conference. 

Dates:             May 28 – May 31, 2015
Location:        Radford University in Radford, Virginia
Website:         www.BTNW.org

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

USB Hardware Repair Saves the Day

By Aaron
Stephen got a call from a friend from across the world about a broken USB drive. From China to be exact, and the friend's daughter is a student in Charlotte, NC with a USB full of important school work files that couldn't be accessed. They actually cordinated a meetup through the hacker network to have it fixed at the Charlotte space, but ultimately decided to have it mailed to Steven. Sure enough, he fixed it. Disaster averted thanks to friendly hackers.

Stephen sez:
I was able to repair the usb drive and get Natalie's files. The solder pads had ripped off but I used a razor to remove the solder mask on different parts of the boards to access the circuit points. I cut apart a USB cable and solder the wires to the circuit board.


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Quad Alphanumeric Office Hours

by Aaron

Need to talk? Check the lights!

Here's a great blog post by Daniel on how he built it at HackRVA.

Gears of "Almost" Finger Crushing

by Aaron
 
Michael cut these fabulous gears on the CNC in the name of learning more about mechanical systems and to make a neat demonstration. He happened to have a spare microwave turntable motor (we've kinda fallen in love with these things) so when you stick a finger in the works, it just sighs and spins the other way. You can see it hanging at the space in all its glory. 

Andrew Solderhands

by Aaron
We've done helmets, shoes, skirts, headbands, t-shirts.... and now... THE SOLDER GLOVE.

Impractical, maybe. Fun, definitely. Play is at the heart of creativity and we know how to have a good time. Just don't try any fist-bumps.

Embracing Failure

by Aaron sir-fails-a-lot
At a recent HackRVA book club meeting the idea of a "fail club" was brought up. We were all encouraged to find something we wanted to try but were afraid to fail at or thought we would fail at. For me it was chiseling stone. I learned a lot trying this. Thanks HackRVA book club!

Tracking the Stars

by Aaron
Andy knocks out another sweet project. He's really on a roll. This one tracks the night sky. He used a range of maker tools and parts to do it; CNC Router for plates, 3D printer for brackets and bearing blocks, stepper motor for movement, arduino for control, and custom circuits to connect it all. Nice Job!!

More build pics here.