2013-2014 was my second year as President and this was really the year where TechSpace flourished from an idea into something that can make a real impact on people’s lives.
Our year started at our new location in Nind St, Southport. We missed the space of the shed in Johnson St but it sure was nice to have some air-conditioning in the Summer months. A great working-bee was arranged to get the new space ready and my thanks go out to all the people that helped in the mammoth job of moving everything from the old space, and cleaning and painting the new space, and also to those that donated furniture and other useful equipment. We certainly learnt from our first year in Johnston St that hoarding always comes back to bite you when you relocate, and we endeavoured to reduce the amount of junk around the space.
The front of the space was quite lightly utilized in the day so it was decided to run a co-working space for IT workers who needed an inexpensive no-frills desk to work at. This was quite successful and helped us pay the rent and keep the space afloat through a turbulent time. The co-working space continues to run at Nind St (even after Techspace moved to Robina) and it’s a testament to the no-frills approach that it has continued to survive where other co-working spaces have failed.
Later in the year when an opportunity for a cheaper space at Robina came up we decided to move the Hackerspace and Education components to the 2nd floor of Robina Community Centre alongside Silicon Lakes. The move certainly saved us a lot of money and has removed some expenses such as Electricity and Internet. However we continue to struggle with lack of space and often have to spill out into corridors or neighbouring rooms.
One plus side of being at Robina Community Centre has been our proximity to other tech organisations and we have had a particularly good relationship with Silicon Lakes, with Techspace members taking part in GovHack and 2 Startup Weekends. It is a testament to our membership that most of the winning teams at all these events featured Techspace members. I was particularly proud of the fact that we have been able to push the boundaries on these events and made people start thinking about incorporating hardware into their startups. My own 2 teams, LocalLookout and Rehydrate, both featured hardware components.
Arduino hack nights have run throughout the year on Wednesdays for members, and David Tangye continues to run our new members welcome night on Tuesday nights. We also run a regular drop-in on Sunday afternoons. This model has worked well. Wednesday nights continue to be our busiest night with lots of new people being introduced to the work of Arduino, 3D Printing and all things hackable.
Paul, Skip, Conner and I ran the Discovery Workshops on Wednesdays throughout the Summer school holidays. This has recently moving away from a focus on Lego, to Arduino and Robotics. These events have been mostly sold out and have received tremendous praise from kids and parents. It is an amazing sight to see kids programming for the first time and getting the same bug that we all got as kids, but also very saddening to me how very little of this is taught in Schools and even Universities.
In more recent holidays we have sadly been unable to run the workshops and it saddens me to take the weekly disappointed phone calls from Parents asking if the workshops are on. Our decision to stop running the workshops was caused mainly by the Council making our lives difficult… they took a dislike to kids spilling out of the rooms into the corridors to test their robots and this has also contributed heavily to our decision to leave Robina Community Centre.
Conner has also continued to run the Minecraft LAN parties every other Saturday and we have recently added to this a “KidHack” event incorporating a drop-in for Discovery Workshop topics. The Kid Hack events are a lot smaller than the holiday programme so we can still run them without much fuss and we are immensity grateful to the IT Forum for loaning us their room next door for these events.
Skip and I have also designed our very own “GCDuino” board that has been used during the Kids events. We also have a robot shield and a 3.3V networked version for building IoT devices.. These are available for sale, with a 20% discount to TechSpace members. For more info please see http://gcduino.com.
In relation to other groups, our sister relationship with Shanghai Hackerspace (xinchejian) continues and I was able to participate in a brilliant Hackerspace forum at MakeHackVoid in Canberra held during Linux Conference 2013 (Ricky and Min Lin from Shanghai were even present!). We also continue to cooperate with HSBNE in Brisbane and had a very successful and inspiring visit there in December. Despite our small size and meagre resources compared to HSBNE, there is still much that we could pass on to our Brisbane friends.
David Tangye and I have spent a lot of time reaching out to other like-minded groups on the Gold Coast. I would encourage all members to make sure you engage with other groups both on and away from the Gold Coast and if you visit another city please check to see if they have a Hackerspace, I’m sure you will be welcomed with open arms (and please get your passport stamped if you have one).
Most of the remainder of this year has been spent looking for a new space for Techspace – our lease at Robina ends at the end of July and the community centre is clearly not an ideal location for us. We need to find a free-standing, sustainable space that we can make our own, settle in and plan for the next 10 years. I will post separately about this issue, but if anyone has any contacts that find us a low cost, long term space for the Techspace in a nice central location, please get in touch.
President, Gold Coast TechSpace
steve at gctechspace dot org