ourWindsor: HackForge seeks to enhance technical community through community collaboration

Jonathon Liedtke – ourWindsor.ca – July 15, 2013

HackForge, a technical alliance which aims to foster creativity, enhance the technology sector and where resources are pooled for the benefit of participants, is steadily growing in both size and in terms of the projects undertaken.

Doug Sartori helped to create HackForge and he explained that one of the major challenges that the group is facing is that the concept of a ‘hacker space’ is difficult to explain to “people who aren’t primed for a Hackerspace or understand what a Hackerspace is.”

“A Hackerspace is a place where technologists [and] people who are interested in technology, can come together, pool resources, and work together on common projects,” said Sartori. “HackForge is a pretty unique Hackerspace [because] most Hackerspaces are private clubs.”

What differentiates other hackspaces from HackForge is that others are private, typically charge high fees and are accessible only to members of the hackerspace.

“In Windsor, we feel that the technology community is a bit more in its infancy [and] needs a little bit more nurturing,” said Sartori who added that “times are hard in Windsor, we really are cognizant of that.”

HackForge is provided a space in the central public library rent free. “Our financial obligations to the library are extremely minimal, which means that we have extremely low membership fees,” explained Sartori.

The rate for students is $10 per month and for the general public membership is $20.

HackForge has taken measures to ensure that the group doesn’t evolve into what Sartori referred to as a ‘boys club’.

“We didn’t want HackForge to turn into a ‘boys club’ and [sought to make sure] that it wasn’t limited to a privileged demographic who are already interested in technology and have access to a lot of tools,” said Sartori. “We’ve done some things to reach out, particularly to women, to make sure that HackForge is friendly to all people and encourage people of all walks of life and all backgrounds to come learn about technology.”

HackForge is an informal learning environment which offers biweekly tech talks.

“They’re very informal … one of the things that we are trying to do with the tech talks is give people an opportunity to try public speaking and learn and grow in a friendly environment,” said Sartori. “We’re both informative and it’s a practical learning exercise.”

Some current projects of HackForge include the creation of an electronic sign, the restoration of a Commodore 64 and a summer games event at the end of August.

“The response has been really good,” noted Sartori. “We do have some lessons to learn with communicating with the public and getting the word out.”

Sartori hopes to see HackForge become the nucleus of a technical community in Windsor, so “graduates who are in computer science or related disciplines see a community here and see reasons to stay and live in this community, rather than move on.”

“If in some small way we can help people connect with each other … identify opportunities … [and create] opportunities to learn and grow, that’s what I hope we can do,” he said.

Paul Anderson is the facilities manager of HackForge and his responsibilities include layout of machinery, deciding which tools should be added and general house keeping.

“We have a cnc milling machine that is computer controlled and is able to cut from plastic, metal and wood,” said Anderson who added that HackForge also has a very basic 3d printer which is able to print all 3d objects using plastic.

“So far [members] love it,” explained Anderson. “We’re really building a small community with a broad technical base so that there’s people with expertise in all fields sharing their knowledge and filling in the gaps of people’s understanding.”

Jon Liedtke

HackForge seeks to enhance technical community through community collaboration

Jonathon Liedtke is the Features & Opinion Editor for the University of Windsor Lance Campus/Community Newspaper and a reporter for ourWindsor.ca. As a founding member and current Co-Chair of the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Committee, he is committed to representing, connecting, engaging with and advocating for local youth. He is also a member of Windsor’s “Punk with Horns” band The Nefidovs, and as such, is committed to enhancing and sustaining the arts community.


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