a visit to hacklab, edinburgh

Edinburgh, It’s a trek to get to for us in Nottingham, but I decided this year to attend the Edinburgh Mini Maker Faire at Summerhall, just below Arthur’s Seat. I didn’t really realise before I arrived to set up that the Edinburgh HackLab is right there in the same building. Summerhall is a weird and very cool place. It used to be a veterinary college called the Royal Dick but the Dick moved away in 2011 and the local authority have turned the whole college into artists units and that sort of thing. IMG_8059 During setup I found that I needed a 13a kettle lead and a 9v battery connector. I was pretty sure they’d have them over at the lab and having already had a tweeted invite I headed right over. I was greated by Peter and Grace who were working away on projects for the Faire (an Arduino sombrero and a Rubbin’s tube waterfall) Grace in particular seemed rather keen to get on with her project as it was not nearly finished and looked to have several more hours work on her project which included flexible 3D prints, lots of laser cut parts and water. They’d been apparently running their big laser cutter night and day and had resorted to putting an ice filled Club Mate bottle in the coolant to help drop the temperature (NOT RECOMMENDED). IMG_8034The space was roughly divided into 3 (possibly 4) rooms, a main “lab” like room with electronics, the kettle, fridge and quite cool shop. All the main projects and efforts seemed to be focused on this room. Storage space in this area whilst plentiful (looked like an old biology with the white Trespa type worktops and draws (very expensive stuff) there was stuff everywhere and every draw I saw was stuffed full. Every chair and work surface had gear on it and projects in progress. This might have been because of the Faire the next day perhaps. The “dirty” workshop room was quite small, no bigger than a domestic bathroom really. It had some cool tools though including pillar drill, CNC Mill (work in progress) and a larger than A3 laser cutter. Which is there pride and joy. Apart from that the workshop was really very messy indeed. I suspect they had a good tidy up before letting the public in the following day, as I understand it the HackLab was to be open to the public as part of the Faire. The third room was a sort of store room with abandoned projects, materials, donations and members boxes. There was a complicated looking QR code sticker system setup by the door but I didn’t ask about it or read the instructions. IMG_8042 IMG_8051 They had made some really awesome infrastructure projects. They had a touch panel for addressable lighting, heating and fan control. They have used the sites RFID system to setup door access to the lab which had a fancy conductive door handle ensuring that a keyless person can always get out but the keyless can’t get in if you are conductive and keyless you can open the door from the inside but not gain entry from the outside. Very cool. They also had an awesome looking Mindstorms, bluetooth controlled IP camera on a monorail going about on the ceiling. They had also hacked an tube hours counter for their laser cutter which looked pretty cool.   IMG_8048A member told me that they have about 40 paying members in total and the main challenge they face is the price of rented property in central Edinburgh (which is lovely by-the-way), he said they used to have a £40 a month fee but had been able to make that a lot more flexible recently. Open nights are twice a week on Tuesday and Thursdays from 7pm and I am sure they are looking for yet more new members to get involved. So if you are local but haven’t been already pop down, lots of people were interested in learning about laser cutting at the Mini Maker Faire and didn’t realise that a laser cutter was available right there at the Hacklab so I encouraged them to visit.

I was pleased to be able to stamp my Hacker Passport. I usually forget to take it when I visit or I forget to ask if I do. 

From the corrections dept!

1. It is a private investor rather than the local authority that has converted Summerhall

2. Yup, we have 3 rooms

3. No IP camera in the mono-rail at the moment unfortunaley

4. Member fee was previously £30

5. … and yes they had an EPIC tidy before MMF!

(thanks Peter)