The BioTech Makerspace: BioHacking

We’ve said all along we have to reflect the needs and interests of the community.  One thread that keeps coming up is BioTech, and, to be honest, it’s a field we don’t know a whole lot about.  Almost every meeting and event we have at some points rolls around to the question, “Are you considering BioTech?”  So we’re trying to get a little smarter on the subject.

There are two groups in the Boston area that we’ve reached out to – one is based out of MIT and appears to be a student-run club, called MIT DIYbio.  Learn more about them here.  Another group in Boston seems to be a little more on the typical makerspace model, called BosLab.  See more about that here.  These two come from a list on Makezine: Find a Biohacking Makerspace Near You , which is a great resource for anyone anywhere trying to find one of these things in their neighborhood.

One of the first BioTech hackspaces was Genspace in Brooklyn, NY, and they have a great video that really gets to the heart of what they’re actually doing and how it works.  Here’s that:

There are several articles online, but probably the most useful story we’ve found is on The Economist: Biohackers of the World, Unite.  Watch the video, then read that story…  you’ll get a good taste of what it’s all about, in general, but also in specific detail.  For example:

“Our goal is not only to advance biology, but democratise it,” explains Ellen Jorgensen, president of Genspace. Founded in 2010, the community laboratory in Brooklyn is the model for the two dozen others that have since opened around the world. Genspace hosts all sorts of events, including “biohacker boot camps”, as well as projects such as “barcoding” in Alaska, an attempt to catalogue plants.

More about the tooling…

If 3D printers are the tool of choice for makers, PCR machines are de rigueur in amateur labs. Using a biochemical technology called polymerase chain reaction (hence PCR), the machines are used to identify a specific segment of DNA and make multiple copies of it. “You can now build these in a garage,” says Josh Perfetto, who is one of the founders of OpenPCR, a group which has developed a simple PCR machine that costs only $600.

DIYbio also benefits from the organisational infrastructure of the maker movement. Many laboratories start in hackerspaces, which serve as clubhouses for makers. Amsterdam’s Open Wetlab, for instance, is part of the Waag Society, an organisation which also runs a shop for makers. Moreover, many tinkerers have started dabbling in biology.

We’re following the trail of breadcrumbs…  we have a small team of people who are deeply involved in BioTech, and we’re forming an advisory committee, both to learn what it takes to set this up properly, as well as going after funding sources.

Stay tuned!

Big Weekend: NEMSTEM and Workshop Signups

We had a huge weekend, starting with the North Shore Community College NEMSTEM Conference – a first-ever meeting and discussion of robotics, AI, and it’s impact on industry and education.  Check out some of the photos:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Next up was our Meet and Greet, and our very first sign-up for pop-up workshops.  The turnout was amazing!  Nothing can quite speak to the enthusiasm and support from the community better than this – and nearly 50 signups for classes!  Here are some photos of that, on Saturday afternoon:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A big THANKS! to all our supporters, old and new friends!  The momentum keeps on building!


Reduce, Reuse, Recycle… and Repurpose: The Upcycling Guide

One of the more interesting conversations we’ve had lately was with an advisor who had considerable experience with makerspaces in the state.  It was a cautionary tale, actually, about how makerspaces pretty much universally become dumping spots for well-meaning donors getting rid of equipment and materials of almost every description.  The challenge is to weed out the usable stuff from the trash, avoid hazardous waste disposal expenses, and keep from insulting the donors, who often are trying to help you.

Our reaction was simply, why not turn this into a revenue and materials stream?

Upcycling amounts to taking various pieces, parts and products and repurposing them.  Create clothing from scrap cloth.  Use computer parts to make new electronics.  Turn trash into crafts projects.  Along with our focus on renewable and sustainable energy, The Brickyard Collaborative’s mission includes recycling materials like plastics, metals, wood, paper, fabrics and other castoffs into raw materials for projects and creations.  We are committed to turning scrap metals into workable stock, and repairing and reconditioning equipment – from machine tools to household appliances – to keep stuff out of the landfills and dumpsters.

To see what we’re doing about it, take a look at our lineup of upcycling workshops:

Come to our Meet and Greet at Land of a Thousand Hills on March 10 to learn more!

Got you interested?  Here’s our page: THE BRICKYARD COLLABORATIVE: UPCYCLING CENTRAL, which we’ll keep updated with information and resources as we get them.  Here’re some reading materials from various places on the web:

How to Salvage Useful Components from Old Electronics – Electronic Products

These DIY Machines Let Anyone Recycle Plastic Into New Products

Upcycling and the Low-Tech Makerspace _ Edutopia

…and some cautions: Be Careful How You Upcycle

The Brickyard Workshop Meet, Greet and Sign Up

Yep, it’s happening!  We’re almost tight on a workshop schedule, and we’re putting together a meet and greet and signup.  Meet the instructors, learn more about the workshops, and sign up for the ones you’re interested in.

 Check back in as we update the listings!  Here are the deets for now:

March 10 @ 2:00 pm4:00 pm

Come to Land of a Thousand Hills on March 10, from 2-4pm to meet up, talk to a few of our workshop instructors, learn more about the workshops we’re putting together

…and sign up!

Here are the workshops we’re offering – click for more info:

Coming soon:

  • Basic Machining (milling, lathe)
  • Welding (TIG)
  • Tube Fabrication (Bicycles)
  • Basic 3D Printing and Design
  • Holography
  • Traditional Darkroom Technique
  • Photo/Video Lighting
  • Building Electric Vehicles: Principles and Practicum
  • Principles of Radio Control
  • Solar Energy Basics

Workshops are typically one-day, 3 hour sessions, depending on the subject and instructor.

Fees are typically $25/person, $10/student (ID required)

Scheduling and locations are determined by the instructors.  Fees will be refunded if there are schedule conflicts.  Scheduling to be announced.