Inspiring a hack

Attention makers and hackers! The call is open for submissions to participate in Science Hack Day and the Dublin Mini Maker Faire so I journeyed around Dublin to find out more about this new movement.

As part of my masters, I had the opportunity to meet many of the organisers behind both of these events earlier this month and make a radio package full of their wonderful work. There is a huge maker and hacker culture in Dublin and according to everyone I met, it seems to be growing.

The Dublin Mini Maker Faire and Science Hack Day took place for the first time last July as part of Dublin City of Science. They attracted a large crowd, many of which probably popped over from the hectic Euroscience Open Forum across the river.

Science Hack Day Dublin is an all-day-all-night event where scientists, engineers, programmers and designers join forces to find solutions (hacks) to scientific problems during a brief but intense period of collaboration (36 hours). Do not be afraid… these hackers are not trying to break into your personal files! Going back to its original meaning, a “hack” is a quick solution to a problem.

UCD Research Engineer Dr David McKeown is coordinating the day along with DCU PhD candidate Alan Armstrong. He explained the difference between making and hacking to ScienceCalling.com: “Hacking sounds dangerous and some people would not want to be involved in that so people would use ‘make’ instead. A lot of the time they are just the same thing.”

Science Hack Day Dublin relies on a large team of volunteers from different creative community groups (Dublin Mini Maker Faire, Dublin’s Hackerspace TOG, Redbrick).  It will take place in The Hub in Dublin City University on 02 / 03 March as part of Engineers Week 2013.

I visited one of these groups, Dublin’s Hackerspace TOG, where I was given the grand tour. When I entered Warehouse Unit C on Chancery Lane, I was greeted by a group of lock-pickers who were practicing on a box of padlocks. Is hacking beginning to sound scary again? Their teacher, Martin Mitchelle, explained “it helps people have more of an awareness towards security of locks”.

TOG’s co-founder Jeffrey Roe turned on an old arcade machine that has been given a new lease of life. It now plays an assortment of computer games due to a new computer connected to the original screen and controls. Triona O’Connell showed me the craft room where they knit with machines. That wasn’t all… the room I loved the most was the coldest. It is where the hard-core makers use circular saws and other equally dangerous equipment to design and improve.

The Dublin Mini Maker Faire is another event in the maker calendar and is also running for the second time in 2013. Ian Brunswick works in the Science Gallery and is one of the organisers of this year’s Maker Faire: “We really want to get a variety of folks involved because last year we had an incredible range of people.” Some examples of their work include hacking their Xbox Connect as well as making robot sculptures, traditional dress, remote-control submarines and new guitar pedals out of homemade materials. The Dublin Mini Maker Faire takes place in Trinity College Dublin on 27 July.

After this brief taster of the maker movement, I’m looking forward to these two events. It’s great to see a new culture of making, improving and hacking emerging!

For more information see sciencehackdaydublin.com and makerfairedublin.com.

Photo: Science Hack Day Dublin