Monday, April 20, 2015

Crossing Boundaries – Finding New Spaces

Caroline from Gold Coast Techspace sent me an email couple of weeks ago. She had two messages there. One was bad and the other was good. The bad news was that Gold Coast Techspace (GCTechspace) is closing down temporarily. But let’s hope for the best. I really hope that they can find a new place soon. It is an active design space filled with friendly people who are experts in many things. The good news is that Caroline is going to Sri Lanka. So I gave her some tips about traveling in my home country.

In the same email Caroline told me that she is attending this other hackerspace in Tweed Heads called OneSpace (, just beyond Queensland border in New South Wales State. She was kind enough to give me a lift from Nerang on last Thursday. I came to Nerang around 5.00 pm. We reached there around 6.00 pm. They have a group meeting every other Thursday starting at 6.00 and runs till around 9.30 pm. The coordinator of the space - Elisa gave a tour of the space for me and another new attendee. It was a fairly bigger space than GCTechspace. It had two floors with few spacious rooms. There were couple of working benches and storage racks in the main area which was in fact the entrance area. Two desks were located in an open area near the kitchen area as a co-design space. Elisa specifically stated that it is designed in a way that allows people to talk to each other while they design. Elisa described this entire workspace as a “co-working space” rather than a “hackerspace”. I have to talk bit more with the members to understand what the difference is. Elisa said that she is planning to rent out the space for developers and companies so they can do their design work and pay by day/month.

Seven other people flocked in to the workspace by 7’O clock. There were few things going on. John has brought in a Raspberry Pi and he was excited about installing an Operating System (OS) on it. It was like a mini tutorial. He (and others in fact) introduced the Pi to the others. Raspberry Pi is virtually a mini computer. It has a processer, memory, audio/video ports, USB ports – every basic component that constitutes a computer. John explained every step while he was installing. David (from GCTechspace) was filling gaps in the knowledge as he is an expert in the area. Everyone was involved in the discussion. I gained some basic knowledge about the Raspberry Pi (that I really should have known after working closely with makerspaces for a long time). And bingo! It was up and running.

A Raspberry Pi

Meanwhile, Caroline and Jim (also from GTechspace) were working on a stepper motor simulator. Stepper motors are used in a vast number of machines to rotate certain things in desired angles. These are common in laser printers and 3D printers. This project was an attempt to design a model so that people will understand what is going on. I thought this is a great idea. It shows the passion of makers to share knowledge with others. Jim owns a laser cutting company. So he managed to cut the plastic pieces that act as rotors in the model. He even moulded a ‘jig’ to ease the process of winding coils around iron cores. Well frankly I did not get the mechanics behind it – but next time I am sure I can comprehend!

Busy with the stepper motor!

An expert discussion!

While all these things happening Jim suddenly thought of showcasing his improved Quadcopter to us. He has improved the signal detection strength using some sensors and an Arduino board. He used a special remote controller to control it. And it was flying all around the vehicle park. Jim managed to make these improvements without disturbing the original operation of the quadcopter, i.e. if he removed Arduino board it would have worked the way it was supposed to.

Time went by through these exciting gadget operations and interesting chit chats. It gave me a different feeling to GCTechspace. I am yet to find what the difference though! The last train was at 10.19. Caroline told me we should leave with time to spare to catch the earlier train. But, I insisted on staying longer. Caroline was immersed in the stepper motor project also and I did not want to disturb her. We left around 9.15. Jim still wanted to finish the project. But I assumed there was not enough time. So, maybe next time I attend there I will be able see the finished stepper motor simulator and learn more about it!

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