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South Side Hackerspace Group Looks to Expand

By Casey Cora | March 18, 2014 6:51am
 The South Side Hackerspace is turning to online crowdfunding to help supply its studio with tools.
The South Side Hackerspace is turning to online crowdfunding to help supply its studio with tools.
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South Side Hackerspace

CHICAGO — Although memberships with the South Side Hackerspace are steadily increasing, the group's new Cermak Road home remains a work in progress. 

The group last year moved out of a Bridgeport apartment and into a 1,000-square-foot studio inside the Mana Fine Arts building, 2233 S. Throop St., where they meet weekly to tinker with woodworking, metalworking, 3-D printing and soldering projects.

Now, they're looking to complete the space with help from an online fundraising campaign that aims to speed up their plans for creating a home base for technology hobbyists.

"The space is built out significantly and people do come to hang out here, but the reality of it is that it's been going slowly. So we've decided that raising money through crowdfunding would be an extra boost," said co-founder Dmitriy Vysotskiy. 

The donated money would help buy some basics — storage units, workbenches and trash cans — along with specialized tools and technical equipment to be stored there and used by the group.

South Side Hackerspace was co-founded in 2012 by Vysotskiy and Matt Campbell, former Illinois Institute of Technology students who hatched plans to create a shared hands-on workspace for the do-it-yourself crowd, not unlike the collaborative effort taking place at Pumping Station One in Avondale.

The group has doubled in size since then to about 30 dues paying members and continues to draw interest from curiosity-seeking "makers" across the South Side, Vysotskiy said.

That growth has led to a new emphasis on collaborative partnerships with similar efforts across the city, including a "Nerf-hacking" workshop with the TOOOL lockpicking group. Later this month, they'll welcome teens in the Chicago Public Library's "Maker Lab" program to their space for a tour.

Vysotskiy, 25, of West Town, said educational outreach "used to be kind of a secondary mission," but it's taken more of a front seat as the group makes more connections in the city's burgeoning tech scene.

"The original mission was to have a space, become a members and use the tools. But more and more, as people joined and heard about us ... the discussions became about how we can collaborate ... and helping people educate themselves and educate others," he said.

South Side Hackerspace hosts open meetings at 7:30 p.m. each Wednesday at room 214 the Mana Fine Arts Center, 2233 S. Throop St.