News / Windsor

'Hackerspace' slated for Windsor library

Want to learn how to code a mobile app? Enthusiastic about metal fabricating? Ever dreamed of building your own robot?

There's a space for that.

Hackforge, a group of Windsor-based technology enthusiasts, is set to open up a collaborative workshop in the city's central library.

"Hackforge is a space where like-minded people with an interest in technology can come together and pool resources to work on projects that might be out of scope for one person," says Doug Sartori, president of the Hackforge board.

Some might call it a hackerspace.

Sartori and company have been offered the space formerly occupied by the city's woodcarving museum. The deal isn't 100 per cent yet, but Hackforge members are confident they'll be up and running early next year.

"It's been really positive so far. We're getting a lot of great feedback from the administration," says Marc Pillon, a Hackforge member who also happens to be the library's IT manager.

Pillon says the library is a natural place for Hackforge to set up shop.

"Hackerspaces and libraries are becoming quite the trend in North America," he says. "Libraries are learning institutions, and there's lots of ways to learn other than by reading books."

Once they're established, Pillon says Hackforge will offer workshops to library patrons covering everything from basic computer programming to how to build simple robots.

"It's an advantage for both institutions," he said. "One is looking for space, and the other is looking to deliver this kind of service to its users."

Having found a location, the group is looking for funding to purchase equipment, including a scanner, laser cutter and 3-D printer.

Sartori, a software developer and consultant, hopes the new hackerspace can act as a "catalyst for capacity building" as Windsor tries to rebrand itself as a technology hub.

"There's a brain drain here," he said. "We graduate lots of developers and engineers every year and so many of them leave town. It's my belief that if we can create a community, we'll be able to retain people that might have otherwise left."

In conjunction with the University of Windsor and the WEtech Alliance, Hackforge is sponsoring an upcoming 'Hack-a-Thon.' The event, scheduled for Dec. 1 and 2 at the Downtown Windsor Business Accelerator, will challenge teams of students to develop an application using the city's open data catalogue.

"The data is all there, hopefully the development community can do something for us," said Harry Turnbull, Windsor's executive director of information technology.

For more information about Hackforge, visit their website or follow them on Twitter.

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