Freeside ATL: a DIY paradise
I spent last Tuesday evening checking out Freeside Atlanta, a local hackerspace collective off Metropolitan Parkway, nee Stewart Avenue. I was aware of Freeside’s existence peripherally through some of El Hermano’s friends, but hadn’t paid enough attention to really understand what it’s all about. BTW, does anyone else have the experience where no one seems to know where Metropolitan Parkway is? I told El Padre I was headed over there, and he had no clue where I was going. “Stewart Avenue,” I said. His reaction was predictable, “At night?!” Which is why they changed the name, I guess.
Getting back to the point – what is a hackerspace? Well, I was all set to make a Johnny Lee Miller joke, but Creative Loafing beat me to it a while back. The term hacker is a bit of a misnomer for a public focused on computers. Nowadays, the term hacker encompasses a much broader range of activities.
Freeside, basically, is a DIY paradise. Want to know how to make a 3D printer? They’re working on making one out of a CNC router (a what??). How to make an aluminum foundry out of $50 in spare parts from Home Depot? Check. Sewing? Not only can you learn how, but they’ll show you how to take it apart.
The space itself is half lounge, half workspace. There are couches and a kitchen, along with a rather large recycling bin full of empty bottles. Various computer parts and monitors are stacked on shelves halfway up the warehouse walls, motors in various stages of assemblage litter the workroom. Motors seem to be a side obsession for Freeside members, in fact.
The space itself is a focal point for a community of DIY enthusiasts. Freeside, above all, is a community. It’s is a place to go and find folks who can help you with whatever project you are working on. They have regular classes for things like welding and circuit bending, while the First Friday Flash Talks are a series of five minute lectures on a wide ranging array of topics, from the stock market and card counting to making the perfect omelette.
Overall, Freeside is about sharing and expanding knowledge – it is the open source mentality taken off-line. They pay their rent with member dues, and try to get as much stuff donated as possible. I took a few minutes to chat with Madelynn, Duckie, and Raiford about Freeside.
If you can’t tell from the interview, the vibe at Freeside is remarkably relaxed and communal. Just as we were starting the interview, someone walked by playing Marco Polo. A local artists collective was there, as well, basically taking the Freeside approach to non-profit forming – basically, “we haven’t done this before, and you have, so we came here to learn.”
I also have to mention what seemed like a fantastic idea. At the next gathering, someone threw out the idea of “PowerPoint Karaoke”. It is like regular Karaoke, except you are giving a random PowerPoint presentation instead of singing a song. Brilliant! This in itself might be enough to get me to go back over there.