Get a peek inside NYC Resistor and see where the maker revolution started
But hackerspaces aren't just good places to go to if you want to build something; they're great resources if you want to learn new skills. On certain nights, Resistor holds classes on how to use laser cutters and how to get started with Arduino (as you might imagine, the latter is Resistor's most popular event).
Even when no event is going on, the makers gather together to share whatever knowledge they have with each other. Nick explained how he recently used all the OpenCV programming skills he had learned from a project controlling robots using computer vision to create a visual presentation for the Brooklyn Ballet.
NYC Resistor has even attracted the attention of some small businesses. Christina Mercando came to the hackerspace for advice on a hardware problem she encountered while creating Bluetooth jewelry.
“The hardware space is becoming more popular,” Christina said. “I get more nervous every day as new hardware comes out. I think that’s just because things are getting smaller like new smartwatches, [rumored] Apple watches, and Google Glass.”
While Christina worries her idea might be taken one day, she’s also confident that the self-made electronics market is getting bigger because it’s easier make stuff than it used to be, thanks in part to more accessible hardware. Meanwhile, it’s easier to start smaller production runs thanks to hardware accelerator programs, as well as services like Kickstarter that can help anyone with an idea get funding.
Outside of the hackerspace, Nick says, some Resistor Members go out to teach at schools. Dustin, a Member of Resistor and a Ph.D. candidate at New York University, runs an introductory robotics program with weekend classes for high school students. Nick himself teaches a class for eight-year-olds.
The making craze
After speaking with Resistor Members who have been there since the beginning, I realized that making isn't just for hardware hackers any more.
“There’s been a swing back to making things for the sake of making them,” said Nick. “Sometimes, you just want to know how it works or sometimes you just want to make it—make your thing. You just have something in your head that you want to get out of it and get it into the real world but now it’s so much easier to do it.”
Thanks to the rise of making technology in the last few years, it’s easier than ever to make anything your mind can imagine. For instance, as Nick explained, you can design a digital file and send it to Shapeways to have it 3D-printed without having to purchase any equipment.
On the components front, Arduino has made putting together physical computing projects way simpler and cheaper than in Nick’s early programming days in the mid-1990s. Back then, a development board alone costed $100. Nick also calls the laser cutter a "gateway drug" to DIY work that you can use to cut out just about anything you want.
Raphael Abrams, one of the founding members of NYC Resistor, shared a similar sentiment about the growing popularity of the maker ethos.
“[I]n terms of the culture at large, making has really caught on, and it’s mainstream now,” Raphael explained. Raphael backed up his claims by mentioning how RadioShack now sells discrete electronic components again, just as it did in the old days when you would work on your tech gear yourself.
“Things like Maker Faire and spaces like these have really brought putting together stuff back into the mainstream consciousness. I’m really happy about that. I certainly am not upset that my cool little niche is getting mainstream because that was the whole mission.”
NYC Resistor has been extremely successful since it opened, and it continues to grow. The space has moved to larger quarters twice, and it will expand further as needed in the future.
NYC Resistor’s next expansion includes a plan to open a new, larger space it's calling “Heavy Industries.” The new space in Brooklyn's Sunset Park neighborhood will be dedicated to larger machines, including a 5000-pound milling machine, a larger CNC machine, a welding space, and a lathe. Raphael says to expect larger human-sized hardware projects coming from Resistor in the near future, such as bigger robot arms or a more deadly barbot.