Hack.RVA member Jerry Lyneberry works on his computer at a July meeting. Photo by Jay Paul
Buttons, wires, soldering irons and the scattered components of ongoing projects fill the tabletops in what was once the refrigeration unit for a local dairy. Now it's the home base of Richmond's very own "hackerspace," one of an international network of workshops that aim to give electronics hobbyists a place to work and learn.
Known as Hack.RVA, the group strives to create an open atmosphere in which everyone from armchair roboticists to the technologically impaired can come together to program, build, hack and create.
"There's a huge social aspect, like, ‘I don't want to do it alone in my dark basement anymore,' " says Jamie Duncan, one of the group's four partners.
Hackerspaces like Hack.RVA are democratizing do-it-yourself electronics, a hobby once available exclusively to those who could afford to build and outfit workshops of their own. The group charges members $30 per month to cover the cost of renting their space in Scott's Addition. In return, Hack.RVA provides access to the workspace and a bevy of tools, including steel lathes, soldering irons, table saws, laser cutters and just about anything else a hacker could need.
While many of the members of Hack.RVA are hardware wizards, the group also offers classes geared toward newcomers like Soldering 101 and Intro to Linux, the open-source operating system.
"My biggest reason to come was to learn with others and see what others are hacking on," says Clint Grimsley, another of the group's partners, who discovered Hack.RVA through its classes.
The projects others are hacking on are certainly worth a look. At a Thursday-night Hack.RVA meeting in late June, one man discusses plans for a bartender robot able to mix hundreds of different drinks. Another hacker tinkers with 5-foot-tall speakers that resonate sheet metal to create a chest-thumping rumble like a train passing at arm's length. The man sitting next to him builds an arcade-cabinet-style controller for his iPad. Just a typical evening for Richmond's hackerspace.
Hack.RVA has open hours available to nonmembers every Thursday evening between 7:30 and 10 p.m. For more information, visit hackrva.org .
More DIY Groups
Richmond Photography Meetup Group
Active for more than six years, the Richmond Photography Meetup Group boasts a membership of more than 700 shutterbugs.
"We have people that shoot with just a cell phone to people who have been shooting for 30 years," says Dave Parrish, who took over organizing the group in January.
It hosts general meetups and monthly photo contests, as well as classes taught by professionals. $1 per attended event. meetup.com/richmondphotography .
"I wanted to meet other people who were insanely driven to do things on their own," says Rebecca Hoffpauir, who started Henrico's DIY-Partnerships last December as a way for people to share experience and lend a hand to others working on home-improvement projects.
Members have tackled landscaping, painting, construction and interior design, and the group has plans for members to start hosting workshops. $1 per event for some events. meetup.com/DIY-partnerships .
A nonprofit working to educate Richmonders on bicycle etiquette and safety, Ride Richmond helps facilitate group rides that often draw 20 to 50 cyclists of all ages and skill levels. "We find the best way to educate is not through the classroom," says co-founder Michael Gilbert.
Ride Richmond hopes to open a workshop space within the year as a place to hold classes and teach bicycle repair and maintenance. No fee. riderichmond.net . —RM