Blog: Nick Britsky




Nick Britsky is a founding member and officer of i3 Detroit, Metro Detroit's first Hackerspace. He has been tinkering since his youth, often dissasembling his parents' electronics much to their dismay. While he still finds time for his epic Lego collection, Nick has moved on to bigger and better projects such as award-winning Twinkie Cars, Cupcake Electric Vehicles, and Fire Breathing Duct Tape Statues. His full time gig is as an account executive at Scripps Networks.  

Over the course of a few years, Nick has been featured in a number of Detroit publications, including TIME Detroit. He is thrilled to be guest blogging at Metromode and looks forward to discussing community spaces in Metro Detroit, the Maker Movement, and the state of DIY.

Nick Britsky - Most Recent Posts:

Post 3: The DIY Toolbox

Last post I discussed the Maker Movement. This movement is affecting a small but growing set of individuals across the globe. The force really driving this on a macro scale is a resurgence in a Do-It-Yourself attitude. Nothing pleases me more than to see people going back to the workbench to build and repair their possessions. I think there are a number of things that have led to this: the economic downturn, a lost feeling of ownership, and exploring ways to be greener. While this trend is growing much like the Maker Movement, it could be bigger and embraced by more people.
If you're interested in embracing your inner Bob Vila, there are things that you can do to enhance your D.I.Y. skills.  
Online Resources
Back in the day, the humble repair manual used to be a wealth of information. You could find out how to order replacement parts, see an exploded diagram of how your item was put together, and see a list of the suggested maintenance schedule times. These days, you're lucky if you get instructions on how to assemble the item without any words. Instead, you get cute little pictures of "Mr. Wrench" tightening bolt A to panel C. However, this is not the case for everything you buy and some manufacturers are still producing quality manuals.
A lot of this content has gone online – always check the manufacturer's web site to see if resources are available to you. The more you can read about your products the better. Often repairs can be far cheaper than replacement and are easy to do. Sometimes a bit of hacking is involved in these repairs and a quick search online could lead you to a number of people with the same problem. If you're without any information, turn to one of the many grassroots communities such as Fixya offers manuals and community support to help get the job done.
Similar to Fixya, is a community where members post projects with step-by-step instructions, including photos all along the way. From crafts to electronics, you'll find a variety of ideas and techniques there.
So, you've decided to create a toolbox. Now, as full disclosure, I have a bit of a tool problem and it's often been suggested that a visit to Tool Anonymous is in order. Repairs and projects can run the gamut of tools, but some of the basics will get you far and are inexpensive to purchase:
•         set of screwdrivers
•         set of sockets
•         Allen wrenches
•         pliers
•         a hammer
You get the idea.
So what happens when you're working on a project and you don't have the right tools? Or you're not ready to buy your own? Or you don't have a place to store them? Obviously, the right tools are critical to get the job done. This is where hackerspaces can help out. Often resembling a small hardware store, hackerspaces purchase and provide tools on loan inside their spaces for situations just like this. Stop by i3 Detroit sometime to see our selection for members to use.
Whether it's a simple repair or a new hobby, embracing the D.I.Y. mindset can not only save you money, it can spur all kinds of new ideas and passions. 
Thanks so much to Metromode for the guest blogging opportunity.  If you like these posts, I encourage you to follow me on Twitter (@nbritsky) and check-out i3 Detroit for yourselves. 


Post 2: The Maker Movement

In my last post I talked about the growth of hackerspaces in Detroit. This expansion is mirrored in the world with more than 400 registered locations on A number of causes have been attributed back to the increase ranging from the next evolution of open source production, resurgence in the D.I.Y. mindset and recycling as well as something called the Maker Movement.

Started by Mr. Jalopy of the Hoopty Rides blog, the Maker Movement is the infusion of creativity and ingenuity in manufacturing at a grassroots level. Imagine your neighbor next door building a giant 7-foot foam Twinkie with gas engine locomotion and a pneumatic Twinkie launcher built in it. The market for this is probably pretty slim at best. It is also very unlikely that the Detroit Institute of Arts will be taking it either. The only reason he would build such a thing is because he wanted to.  The journey of building the car is the most interesting part of the process. Learning how to plumb pneumatic parts, keep a small engine running and select the material that best resembles a sponge cake are all examples of the constant learning that people are embarking on for the Maker Movement. These people are known as Makers and they are continuing the tradition of manufacturing knowledge & skills that grew from Detroit.

Hundreds of web sites and blogs are fueling this movement and adding projects and skills to the public realm. Make and Craft magazines are the biggest sites drawing upon the Internet sphere for some of the best Maker writers.

However, this quest for whimsical design and re-imagining everyday objects is leading to some great businesses, too. Makers are discovering that with recent technological advancements, the web and personal computers, they can build tools and equipment that were financially restrictive only 10 years ago. MakerBot Industries, as an example, continues to improve the concept of desktop rapid prototyping with their CupCake CNC. A used industrial rapid prototype can be much more than $10,000 and is utilized to print 3D plastic parts for use in prototype builds. With this desktop version at around $1,000, you can build printer parts for your own projects at a fraction of the cost. Makers are using this to print gears and brackets right on their desktops. The founder of MakerBot, Bre Pettis, is of course a Maker himself and started all of this out of his shop. Maintaining the Maker spirit, all of his designs are available if you want to venture out and build it yourself.

Detroit is already starting to see the benefits of this movement, but it could be more. People are now, more than ever, empowered to use their creativity to make things at home. The resources and information on the web can turn anyone in to an apprentice crafter, machinist or welder. (Though nothing beats hands-on training.) As we continue to discover and explore this trend, people will want to learn more. Seek out those resources at community colleges, community centers and hackerspaces to perfect your Maker skills – maybe one day you can turn it into a small business of your own. 

Post 1 - The birth of hackerspaces: Community works

Co-working and community spaces are not a new concept (remember taking swimming lessons at the community center?), but there is a recent spate of interest in the idea around the Detroit area. There are a couple of different versions based on the idea that humans, being social creatures, like to talk. The web has been great for this and has expanded our horizons to threads and conversations that take a multi-cultural and global twist in seconds. However, people are losing personal face time (iPhone 4 doesn't count). With networking becoming more important than ever, in-person social interaction is key to relationships and business building. This will be a trend that will only continue to grow as people become more and more attached to their digital avatar. The great thing about community spaces is they allow people to gather, work together and collaborate on projects, or just be in a fun and exciting environment with like-minded individuals.

As the rebirth of Detroit continues, there are a number of both community-focused and business-focused spaces out there, with more on the horizon. These fall into a few categories, but the one that excites me the most is the hackerspace category. In just over a year, two have popped up in the metro Detroit area: i3 Detroit and Omnicorp Detroit. If you're not familiar with a hackerspace, it's basically a community of individuals that like to learn about technology and art. Don't be afraid of the word "hacker" – the mass media has demonized it to mean malicious software crackers and coders. These individuals are not welcome in hackerspaces. The traditional definition of a hacker is from the '50s and really referred to anyone fixing, disassembling, or improving a piece of hardware or software. Hackerspaces happen to be my passion; I've visited a number of them around the country.

i3 Detroit, started in Royal Oak, was the first hackerspace in metro Detroit. (I'm a founding board member.) The group has since out-grown that location and moved into an 8,000-square-foot facility in Ferndale. i3 Detroit offers equipment and space for any number of do-it-yourself and creative projects, such as welding, machining, electronics, chemistry, computers, crafting, and more. i3 grows by the day and has over 50 active memberships. Guests are always welcome, too.

Omnicorp Detroit is the newest hackerspace and is gaining momentum with its Eastern Market location in downtown Detroit and gathering of local entrepreneurs. The 7,000-square-foot facility is a work in progress and, as with i3 Detroit, offers classes open to the public on a host of different topics.

Outside of Detroit, Maker Works is set to open its 10,000-square-foot space in Ann Arbor next year, and the Michigan hackerspace roster is growing. Beyond community-based spaces, there are also more professional organizations such as TechShop, which announced it would be coming to Detroit at Maker Faire this summer.

Outside of hackerspaces, co-working spaces in Ann Arbor, such as Tech Brewery and Workantile Exchange (which focus on collaborative office environments), beat any cube I've ever worked in. Starting last year, Urbane Space in Birmingham, Mich. has been the Twitter darling of the local social media crowd.  Its open layout and meeting rooms are a great example of a co-working space done well. In addition to Urbane Space, Cowork Detroit  looks like it's ramping up, too.

That's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to community working spaces in our area. To save you from an epically long post, feel free to e-mail me with any questions you might have or learn more about getting involved.  And be sure to check back this week for my posts on the Maker Movement and the State of DIY.