I got involved through my new group of friends over at Sector67. Remember how I went to San Antonio and ran across the collaborative workspace Geekdom? Well when I returned I knew I needed to find something like this in Madison. Turns out that there is one only it's smaller, runs on a hell of a lot less money, and is just as cool.
So what is this place? It's many things, but mostly it's a place where people hang out, exchange ideas, and help each other to make stuff. It's also a classroom, lab, woodworking space, foundry, glassblowing, metalworking, sewing, pottery, programming, and just about anything else space. From the moment I wandered in I knew I had found a place to spend some serious time.
Sector67 is a non-profit started by Chris Meyer. I'm not sure if Chris started it to make a space for creative people in Madison to build stuff or if he just wanted to hang out in the best geek clubhouse ever made. It's probably a little bit of both and he's certainly achieved both goals. Chris, like many of the people you'll find there, knows a little about everything, and a lot about most things. He's a great resource and he's always helping someone build something, acquiring new stuff for the space, or teaching a class on anything from welding to microcontroller programming.
Since I left Sonic Foundry I have been accumulating computer and electronics stuff to play with for various projects. Unfortunately this has slowly turned the living room into a computer lab. I'm now renting a space down at Sector67 and have moved it all (well most of it) down there. It's sometimes not the best place for writing software, particularly when Chris is teaching engine repair to a group of 7 high school students. Even headphones have a hard time blocking out the BANG BANG BANG of a 15 year old taking a hammer to an old lawn mower engine. But the vibe in Sector67 is worth it. You can't help but want to create stuff while you're there.
There is a live web cam on the Sector67 site which will show you what's going on in the main room at any given time. A buddy of mine texted me a pic the other day saying "hahahah just saw you on the Sector67 cam". I'm talking to Chris who's eating his lunch. I was telling him that it's hard to figure out if he's cooking his lunch in the toaster oven or if insulation is burning off something. The two smells are really similar.
So I plan on being a part of this place and so should you. Don't be intimidated. Sector67 is kind of like doing yoga for the first time. You walk into a room with a bunch of people doing stuff that you can't imagine you'll ever be able to do. All you need to do is start. Next thing you know you're doing it along with everyone else. And if you've got kids you should check out this list of classes. If I had kids I'd buy them a membership just so they had a place to hang out and do cool stuff.