Last spring the Memorial Union at the University of Maine welcomed a new facility to its first floor. While walking around campus, you may have noticed many signs announcing a new opportunity and wondered: What is Hackerspace?
Dedicated to giving the campus a space to explore the latest technology, Hackerspace allows student and faculty to work with on projects individually or in groups with tools they may not have had access to before.
When you walk into room 144 of the Memorial Union, the rows of tables and stools seem to invite you to immediately get to work. The facility has a plethora of equipment including a 3D printer, soldering equipment, robotics and electronics kits, audiovisual (A/V) equipment and much more. All of Hackerspace’s equipment can be used for little to no cost, and is available for anyone to use. While they offer inexpensive prototyping resources, their focus is on, what they call, the “internet of things” which is the platform on which smart devices, such as Raspberry Pi, Arduino and Amazon Echo, work.
“The Hackerspace opens up more opportunities for students to experiment with technology. It is open to everyone, even if technology isn’t necessarily part of your major,” Bree Blair who works at Hackerspace, said. She is a third-year psychology and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies student.
Prior to Hackerspace, Belair worked in the technology department of her high school and later as a technology associate at Staples. Even though her studies don’t require a strong background in technology, she still thinks it’s an important element of education.
“Tech is growing exponentially, growing as the realm of tech grows will allow us to take advantage of its many uses,” Belair said. “You can integrate it into almost anything.”
Paige Bourassa, a New Media student, also expressed her thoughts on the value of Hackerspace.
“I personally have only ever used the hackerspace once. I think it’s important to have a space like the hackerspace because not only does it allow students who already have a passion in 3D printing technology to be able to use the machines, but it also allows people who have an interest in the technology who wouldn’t otherwise get to try something new,” Bourassa said. “The hackerspace now allows people to connect within the 3D printing or programming community and gives them a place to feel comfortable practicing something they love to do.”
The space and equipment can be reserved for after-hours events, such as hackathons or even group projects. The Hackerspace team hopes to help and encourage people to educate themselves in new technologies. They plan to do this by hosting workshops and other informative events.
“We plan on having workshops which will introduce the technology we have to offer. We are currently putting together a workshop about Raspberry Pis and Arduinos. We want to help people get informed about technology,” Bourassa said.
Future workshops are open to the campus community and will be announced on their Facebook page at facebook.com/um.hackerspace.