Blog: Nick Britsky

There is a method behind the madness associated with creations like a Red Green Robot or a Cupcake Electric Vehicle, we promise. Their inventor, i3 Detroit hackerspace co-founder Nick Britsky, is here to talk this week about his community toolbox, the Maker Movement, and the state of DIY.

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.