Indie Lab RVA in Action

Indie Lab RVA is bringing independent scientific discovery and experimentation to Richmond. They have recently held two events to inspire and inform. The water bottle rocket launch hangout pictured above, and a class on electroplating.

They also have an upcoming event DNA Extraction, just click that link to sign up.

Indie Lab RVA currently resides at HackRVA while they hunt down a space dedicated primarily  to science. In the mean time, HackRVA has been happy to have them as members as open science, opensource, open hardware, and making are all of a kindred spirit.

To learn more about Indie Lab, visit their website here, and join their facebook here.

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Monthly Maker Workshop – CAD Dojo

CAD Dojo1

HackRVA trained beginners of AutoCAD in the CAD Dojo.  The CAD Dojo uses repetition and scaffolding in a video-game inspired level system to drill students on common commands for drawing in AutoCAD.

This method forgoes the stickier parts of the UI and broad explanation of the AutoCAD environment, instead focusing on students drawing straightaway. After surviving the grueling trials of the Dojo, they can leverage the power of the internet or youtube tutorials to learn the UI and particular aspects of AutoCAD as needed.

The file linked here is the Dojo training regimen self-contained in a single DXF file. Brave students can download and start the “Trial of Boxes”, then move on to the “10 Student Tribulations”, picking up valuable CAD skills along the way in this “game-a-fied” take on CAD training.

Our goal is to give makers more power to design and eventually create their own things by taking CAD drawings and translating them into G-Code for tools like the HackRVA 3D Printer, Laser Cutter, and CNC Router.

To stay tuned for more workshops in our monthly maker series, join our Meetup page where we announce HackRVA events.

CAD Dojo 2

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Non-Traditional Learning at HackRVA


Let it be known! A serious amount of non-traditional learning has occurred at HackRVA this year and continues to go on!

I’ve most recently been attending Jonathon’s amazing QT C++/Frameworks class. It’s the closest thing that I’ve seen to an actual free college class (not online video, real meatspace instruction!), and yet is much more relaxed and bi-directional than a traditional classroom with the student and teacher (in this case, the teacher being hackrva member and  friend, Jon, who goes beyond the pale to answer questions beginner and advanced… it’s really amazing to see the amount of diversity in conversation to “what is a ‘for loop’ ” to “what is the underlying infrastructure of that function”).

The QT class or meeting group or hangout (depends on what you want to call it) has been going on for over a month with at least 7 members involved. Teacher Jon’s overall goal is to give people the power to code, make apps, and possibly create a community of open source developers than can collaborate on a meaningful project through hackrva.

Though this is the latest and greatest effort at hack to find a way towards non-traditional learning in the community, there have been others. Kramer ran two different open courseware groups over the spring and summer. A CCNA study group produced two qualified persons ready to move up in their profession. And there’s the monthly hackrva workshops that have given introductory skills to many a maker and hacker in the Richmond community.

HackRVA is a member funded and member run organization. Thanks to all those teachers that keep “hacking” toward independent learning and to those that attend to put there best foot forward to learn.

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Expert Makers Forged Legions of New Hackers at RVA Maker Fest


Countless hours of planning, effort, and fretting were poured into the first RVA Maker Fest.  Richmond is a city of festivals, and a city of makers, but there was plenty to do and plenty to worry about in the weeks and days leading up to the event.

We needed to design a board, source the components, find a board house to manufacture them, design and order a banner, plan the physical set up and supplies, and organize our members and volunteers for the day.  After a few close calls, everything was ready and the banner arrived with just two days to spare!

A large portion of the festival was outdoors, and it seemed to be gray and rainy during the entire week.  Soldering can be a challenge at times, but it would be nearly impossible to solder if the irons are all wet!  Luckily, all of the hard work paid off. Nature smiled on us and the clouds parted for an amazing day of sunshine, socializing, showcasing, and soldering!

Our small army had a lot of fun showcasing member projects, chatting about HackRVA’s mission, and teaching the valuable skill of soldering.  The tables were almost perpetually packed once people started filtering out of the science museum into the outdoor area.  We taught over 150 people how to solder, and got to see exuberant pride and excitement as the skill was picked up.

A multitude of other awesome makers came out to share their craft and spread the joy of making.  Indie Lab was busy extracting DNA, CVBG had hammers pounding and forges burning, Maker Guild was creating paper passport booklets.  I met a ton of awesome makers, far more than I could mention here.  You can check them out on the RVA MakerFest site.

What made this great?  It was the people involved – the dedicated volunteers and expert makers!  Thanks to everyone that made this possible.  Volunteer as an expert maker at the next event or come show off your project during Open House on Thursday nights.  Also, check out the blinky badge details on the Maker blog.

Ok, so maybe it wasn’t legions of new hackers, but the first RVA Maker Fest was a phenomenal event!

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