Makerspace Urbana Brings Tech Knowledge to UC-IMC

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An unusual group for Urbana-Champaign has
begun meeting at the IMC recently. They plan
to forge a new model for creating and democratizing
technology within the community.
Urbana-Champaign has been fortunate to
have community groups and workshops
capable of teaching people how to create and
distribute many kinds of media. The local
IMC is composed of groups that community
members can work with to produce and
broadcast their own radio show, record and
produce their own movies, publish their own
newspaper articles and even build their own
bicycles. Outside the IMC, groups like WEFT
provide even more public radio access.
Together, these groups provide Urbana-
Champaign with needed access to traditional
forms of media. However, as technology saturates
almost every facet of daily life for residents
of Urbana-Champaign, no entity has
been able to provide the needed comparable
access to create new, electronic media.
Makerspace Urbana intends to fill this
gap in Urbana-Champaign’s public media
creation capabilities. Urbana and Champaign
lack any kind of public access to the
equipment and instruction necessary for
learning how to create and manipulate electronic
media. Even community members
who are electronics experts do not normally
have access to expensive and powerful testing
and fabrication tools. Communities the
world over have begun addressing this
deficit in public access to technology by
establishing organizations commonly
known as “hackerspaces.” These groups provide
their members with access to raw electronic
materials, tools, testing equipment
and sometimes even the machinery necessary
for creating small computers. Makerspace
Urbana (or Greek letter Mu, for short)
was established to bring these capabilities to
the Urbana-Champaign community, and it’s
off to a great start. Says group member
Chuck Geigner, “The Makerspace is the best
thing to happen to Urbana since HAL.”
So far the group has secured a physical
space located in the IMC and has begun
procuring equipment, forging relationships
with other local groups and, most importantly,
attracting new members. Makerspace
Urbana is currently made up of 12, bright,
friendly individuals who have among them
decades of experience in electronic hardware,
computer software, building cool stuff and
creating beautiful works of electronic art.
The group is still working towards holding
their first public workshop to direct
people in learning the basics of electronics.
In the meantime they plan to spread the
word and establish working relationships
with the community. Soon they’ll help set
up community technology centers, and they
already help staff the IMC Computer Help
Desk every Thursday night at 7:00pm. The
Makerspace also hopes to serve as an incubator
for radical product design and a
springboard for entrepreneurs who wish to
take their projects outside the group.
Everyone is welcome to attend Makerspace
Urbana meetings, especially as the group formulates
its structure. Drop by the IMC on
Wednesdays at 6:00PM. Find the group in the
Family Room in the basement of the IMC and
introduce yourself. You’re invited to take an
active role in distributing tech knowledge, the
capacity to create and the maker’s spirit
throughout Urbana-Champaign.

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