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Interface Research Lab

Join the discussion in the Beacon Computing Club forum or email questions, comments, and thoughts to: [email protected]

Abstract

A proposal to create a community technology education and digital fabrication lab in Beacon, NY.

Motivation

This effort is motivated by a desire to help prepare our community for the future of work and industry through education in the concepts and tools of modern technology and participation in an exploratory process of new, local industry creation.

Mission

The Interface Research Lab will exist to:

Directives

Education

Our primary directive is to empower our community with the knowledge and experience necessary to leverage the tools of technology toward creative, productive, and financially sustaining ends.

Technological awareness and competency is increasingly important as we move into a future dominated by software, advanced manufacturing, and artificial intelligence. By leveraging the extensive knowledge and experience of IRL staff and local experts, we will guide and support community members in pursuit of their interests and achievement of their desired outcomes.

Educational programming will assume a hands-on, project-based approach that encourages inquiry and experimentation in both thought and action. The projects will be useful, fun, and playful, with learners encouraged to view and use technology as building blocks and tools as opposed to an end in itself. The exact nature of the programming will be shaped by the interests and needs of the community, but may include:

Local Data Center

In order to provide a learning environment for real-world web application development and deployment, and as a host for community web sites and data, we will provide public access to a local cloud computing cluster.

Digital Fabrication

We will provide access to and instruction in the design for and operation of digital fabrication machines such as laser cutters, 3D printers, and CNC routers. Instruction will follow a hands-on, project-based approach that culminates in the creation of useful and/or aesthetic physical objects. We will emphasize the ways in which these machines can be used right now to fabricate sellable products and will acquire or construct additional machines as necessary to support the expansion and distribution of community fabrication capabilities.

Initial Goals

Physical Location

A physical location is required to facilitate community access to the necessary tools, devices, and materials, and to provide a location for the local data center hardware.

Community Outreach and Needs Assessment

We will establish relationships with the local library, schools, government, businesses, and other community groups and organizations to determine how we can collaborate and support each other, as well as identifying any specific software, hardware, and data access needs that we may help address.

Community Computing Cluster

We will assemble a local cloud computing cluster from donated and/or new hardware and provide information and guidance to the community on why they would want to use it, what types of things they can do with it, and how to access it remotely from their computers and mobile devices via the Internet. In addition to providing an environment for community members to learn about and experiment with software development and deployment, this cluster will provide free community website, web application, and file hosting, as well as an IOT (Internet of Things) hub that allows for communication and interaction with fun physical devices located within the community.

This effort is already underway; you can view and access the current services at: https://beaconny.net

Game Design Workshops and Arcade Machine Fabrication

We will conduct video game design workshops that instruct how to create a video game from scratch using modern web technologies such as HTML, CSS, and Javascript. We will design and fabricate low-cost, modular arcade machine cabinets which we will place in public locations throughout the community to showcase independent, locally-made games.

Robot Builds and Battles

We will conduct robot design and building workshops that combine popular construction toys (e.g. Lego, Erector Set) with low-cost, commodity mechanical and electrical components in a collaborative effort to build fun and useful robots. One thematic focus will be on robots that can be used in a competitive capacity, around which we will organize and host public competitions.

Funding

The Interface Research Lab is part of the Beacon Community Network 501(c)(3) Collective. If you’d like to support this project, please donate here.

Get Involved

We need your local expertise and talent:

please join the discussion in the Beacon Computing Club forum or email [email protected] to get involved.

People

derek_enos

Derek Enos

derekenos.com
[email protected]

Derek is a software engineer (currently @ Internet Archive), maker, and humanist who believes in the potential of technology as a force for good. He has built many hardware and software systems over the years, including elements of the Rock Band 2 & 3 video game controllers, and is excited to put his skills and experience to work for the Beacon community. If you see him on the street, say hi!