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Video Tour Houston's Texas-Sized Hackerspace (Video 2 of 2) 45

A few weeks ago, on his way to LinuxCon, Timothy stopped by the biggest hackerspace he'd ever seen. Houston's TX/RX Labs is not just big — it's busy, and booked. Unlike some spaces we've highlighted here before (like Seattle's Metrix:CreateSpace and Brooklyn's GenSpace, TX/RX Labs has room and year-round sunshine enough to contemplate putting a multi-kilowatt solar array in the backyard. Besides an array of CNC machines, 3-D printers, and wood- and metal-working equipment, TX/RX has workbenches available for members to rent. (These are serious workspaces, made in-house of poured concrete and welded steel tubing.) There's also a classroom full of donated workstations, lounge space, a small collection of old (but working) military trucks, and a kitchen big enough for their Pancake Science Sunday breakfasts. Labs member Steve Cameron showed me around. You saw Part One of his tour last week. Today's video is Part Two.

Steve Cameron: This is kind of cool. It’s 3D-printed differential. Let’s see, what can I say about any of these things. This is a computer-generated castle model. So I wrote a computer program which generates the model and then 3D printed it. So, that’s kind of neat and it’s randomized. So, every time it comes out a different castle.

Yes, it’s the Utah teapot, famous, showing up in computer graphics all the time. This is kind of neat. This is a Sarrus linkage. So, one of our members, Frank Davies, he was working on trying to make some kind of – so one of the ideas behind the Mendel project is to make a 3D printer that can print itself, but obviously in its current form, hardly anything is 3D-printed. This is trying to make a rigid access out of that’s all 3D printed. So, this is actually kind of cool.

Timothy Lord: That’s his own design?

Steve Cameron: That is his own design, yes. Keep my hand here, the E-stop button. This part is going to be produced in two different programs; the first one is going to drill this 24 bolt hole ____1:53 for some rare earth magnets. This is part of the plot. It’s not using gear contact. It’s been using magnetic coupling between magnets on the respective wheels. End program.

Timothy Lord: So ____2:36 up on the shavings.

Steve Cameron: You can’t. It’s aluminum.

Timothy Lord: On this part outside it, what’s the design?

Steve Cameron: What’s the design? Well, I very loosely modeled it after an old Delage racecar that has an airplane engine in it. So, the back is – I was originally going for kind of a conical shape, but that turned out to be too difficult. So, I just kind of made this boat tail, which is, some pieces of plywood that are kind of bent and then this piece which is made of fiberglass and foam. The rails are steel, standard Go-Kart stuff. The steering wheel is cut on a CNC Plasma Cutter out here at the TX/RX Labs. Let’s see

Timothy Lord: Is that aluminum?

Steve Cameron: Yes, it’s aluminum. Eventually I’m going to try to put some wood to make it like a sports car steering wheel, but I just haven’t got to that part.

Timothy Lord: Isthat made from melted down cans?

Steve Cameron: No, it’s just piece of sheet metal or not – yeah I guess sheet metal that Bill Swann got for me. He found it somewhere in some metal yard. These pipes are just cosmetic. I think a V12 would rip the tires of this thing, obviously.

Timothy Lord: How aboutthe seat, is that foam backed underlay?

Steve Cameron: Yeah. Let’s see, it’s kind of hard to take apart. Yeah, it’s just vinyl stuff I got at a fabric shop, over some foam and some plywood parts, it comes out although it’s not super easy to get it out. And then, up here, we have where I keep my wine. ____4:28 but it is a Versace wine stopper.

Timothy Lord: Perfect end to a car.

Steve Cameron: Thanks. So, this is where we keep our Hackerspace army trucks.

Timothy Lord: Every Hackerspace needs some army trucks?

Steve Cameron: Of course. These actually belong to a couple of our members and we use them when we have to haul big heavy stuff around. When we move from our smaller space, that truck right there was the main bearer of the burdens.

Timothy Lord: Now ____4:58 desert patrol of some kind?

Steve Cameron: I believe that is Unimog. Oddly enough, this is not the only Unimog that members of the Hackerspace own. There was one previously, although this looks like a slightly different model than the other one. This one looks actually in better condition. So, I believe this is a Swiss army truck.

In here, we have more electronics stuff. These space are mostly rented out to members of the Hackerspace. We had sort of unexpected demand for renting out table spots and so most of our actual public space for people that aren’t renting is kind of gone. We’re working on fixing that. That’s what all this sort of construction is about. I don’t know what to say about all that stuff in there. We can’t see it, so.

Timothy Lord: Yeah, I understand that these counters here, you’re making counters that are going to be just like the

Steve Cameron: Just like these counters right here. So, basic, concrete

Timothy Lord: These must weigh a ton.

Steve Cameron: They do weight a ton. They’re not walking off by themselves anywhere. And then you can see the base is square steel tubing that’s welded together.

Timothy Lord: Also, not walking off.

Steve Cameron: Also, not walking off.

Timothy Lord: You got a library over here.

Steve Cameron: Little bit. Few books, few old-fashioned books.

Timothy Lord: Now, at 14,000 feet approximately, just the end of the space, I understand that you are looking for more space as well.

Steve Cameron: Yeah, I don’t know a whole lot about what’s going on there, but I think we had so much demand for space here that we’re probably going to rent out. We’re talking about renting out. I heard talking about; I don’t know what’s going to happen with this. There is a warehouse next door that we may or may not be interested in.

One of the things we like to do is, is out in the shop area we have the metal working staff and we have the wood working staff and it’s nice to keep those apart from each other because the metal working guys don’t like saw dust in their machines.

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Tour Houston's Texas-Sized Hackerspace (Video 2 of 2)

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  • They keep trying to force nerds to be social and make them feel coddled and cool. I would be willing to bet money that any code or other intellectual property that is produced in "hacker spaces" and such is owned by the people who built the space, not the coders. Read the fine print -- you may be getting conned.
    • Not all geeks and tinkers are anti-social.
      • More to the point, some geeks and tinkers can overcome personal tendencies towards toe-gazing and mumbling in order to get access to tools and hardware far beyond their own ability to purchase, install, or maintain.

        Trust me. I could become the friendliest damn geek in South Texas if it got me routine access to welding booths, a full power wood shop, plasma cutters, and CNC gear.

        But of course, I'm not in South Texas, so this is unhelpful to me.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Then you would loose that money pretty quickly. As a member of Tx/rx I can assure you that the lab owns exactly 0% of things done in it. The exception is things that are contracted out (which the developer is paid for, and thus far hasn't happened). We've made all sorts of exciting things there and we can do whatever we want with them. Not everything's about money you know...

    • by Davorak ( 3389597 ) on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @04:26PM (#45074815)
      I am will to put $1,000 to your $10 that Tx/Rx does not take owner ship of intellectual property produced in its facilities or in its operations by default. Fair warning, I am the current President of Tx/Rx and helped come up with our policies on intellectual property.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      TX/RX member here. (I'm the guy in the guy in the brown shirt, working with the concrete.)

      I'm about as introverted as they come. I don't like large groups of people, especially if they are non-technical people. At the Labs, we really only have crowds during the "open houses" (like the one when timothy came through). The rest of the time, particularly during the week, it's usually just a small number people that I can have meaningful, interesting, and technical conversations with, or work on neat projects wi

  • Repeat Content (Score:4, Informative)

    by heezer7 ( 708308 ) on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @03:35PM (#45074115)
    Uhhh, the end was all repeated from the first video...
  • by Princeofcups ( 150855 ) <> on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @04:26PM (#45074813) Homepage

    It's a workshop. We don't have to keep inventing new words when there are perfectly good ones available.

    • Re:Hackerspace? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Davorak ( 3389597 ) on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @04:51PM (#45075107)
      We choose to use it for several reasons some of which are:
      * The term seemed to growing in usage and how it was being used described a reasonable chunk of what we were trying to do. I dislike new terms for the sake of new terms, though I am not 100% sure that is the case here, and it would have been going against how the terminology seemed to be evolving.
      * Workshop and similar words invoked images of a for profit business(Tx/Rx is a non-profit).
      * Workshop correctly invoked thoughts of metal working, wood working, CNCs, but did not invoke thoughts of programming, soldering, circuit design, or a tight knit community. At least to the small number of people I asked when we were trying to decide what we would call ourselves.
      • I agree that there's enough novelty that "workshop" isn't a strong enough word. And I agree that any word beginning with "work" isn't really very appealing. But for a lot of people, the social angle is somewhere between "irrelevant" and "frightening". Let's face it. A lot of hackers treat social interaction as just another tool, and the kinds of social interaction you're talking about in the hackerspace social concept doesn't solve any problems they have right now. Or, maybe more fairly, any problems they r

  • by FlynnMP3 ( 33498 ) on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @07:04PM (#45076353)

    I simply don't understand where the hate is coming from. Here is a space where a group of like minded people can get together and share creative ideas and/or create their own stuff without having to own expensive equipment. Is it the old adage that people fear what they don't understand? Good on this place for doing the Sunday breakfast thing. A good non-threatening way to introduce the community to what you are all about.

God helps them that themselves. -- Benjamin Franklin, "Poor Richard's Almanac"