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Get a peek inside NYC Resistor and see where the maker revolution started

Kevin Lee | April 30, 2013
Papercraft lamps. Cables hanging everywhere. An overhead clock with a dot-matrix display that looks like the DRADIS from Battlestar Galactica. A vending machine that dispenses food as well as electronics. Someone inside a closet yelling, "firing the laser!" This is the mad-technologist scene you walk into when you visit NYC Resistor, one of the most well-established hackerspaces in New York City.

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.


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