When you initially hear of a hack day event you quickly imagine the Hollywood film scene where a geeky guy, in front of several computer screens, is trying to bypass the security system of a famous secret service. This is far away from the truth and purpose of a hack gathering.
The preconceptions people have about hackers originate from the contradictory definitions of this word. According to the Merriam Webster a hacker is “a person who is inexperienced or unskilled at a particular activity (e.g. a tennis hacker)” but also an “expert at programming and solving problems with a computer” and of course the very popular “person who illegally gains access to and sometimes tampers with information in a computer system”. With such a plethora of definitions, there’s no surprise that most people have some deep ingrained stereotypes about hackers.
What is a Hack Day?
In reality, a hack event known as a hacker space or hack lab is a non-profit community-run workshop where people with common interests (and no, this does not include only computer programming or computer-related skills) can meet, socialise and collaborate. If you have any skill you would like to share with others, if you have any project for which you need some help from people with similar or different skills or if you just want to develop a particular skill, the hackspace is the place for you.
My Experience of a Hack Day
A few weeks ago I participated in my first hack day in Bournemouth (#hackbmth) and I was impressed of what I have seen, heard and experienced there. The event took place at Adido, a digital marketing agency, which had plenty of space for all of us. I believe we were around 50 people in total with various interests, qualifications and skills. There were different sessions throughout the day used for personal teaching – from introducing a new tool to asking for help with a particular problem. But you could also easily approach any of the participants to learn more about what they were working on and pop a few questions.
And that’s what I did when I discovered that @markjbenson had brought a RepRap 3D printer on the site. After writing several articles about additive manufacturing, it was time to finally meet the device that makes all of this possible. Seeing a 3D printer in action was completely mesmerizing. Looking at a miniature traffic cone being created from almost nothing during a 15 min process was just incredible. I know it wasn’t perfect, I know that the printer might need some adjustments and of course there is a long way to go until we will all have one and we will be able to print our own objects but we are getting there quicker than many might think.
If you are interested in finding more about a hack day and other hack events check out the UK Hackspace Foundation where you can find the links and more details about the hack space in your region or you can even start your own hack lab.