THUNDER BAY – TECH – Yes, there is a hackerspace in Thunder Bay. But before you panic and start a scan for malware on your laptop, we should clarify that despite the rather suspicious connotations its name brings, a hackerspace has in fact nothing to do with cyber-crime. On the contrary, a hackerspace is a space in which a community of people get together to exchange expertise and knowledge, teach each other and experiment with all things technology, engineering, digital art and electronics.
Think of a hackerspace as a very techie men’s shed (without the arguing about whether to let women in or not). Thunder Bay’s own hackerspace goes by the name of Ohm Base, paying tribute to 19th-century physicist Georg Simon Ohm and the unit of electrical resistance named after him.
Fittingly, what you’ll find in a hackerspace is computer and electronics equipment, gadgets and people willing to discuss, fix or play with these. In some cases, resident experts are willing to troubleshoot consumers’ computer problems for a small donation, significantly less than visiting a for-profit repair shop.
But why is it good to have a local hackerspace? First of all, there’s the immediate opportunity of joining the community and learning from them. Although most hackerspace members are usually expert techies themselves, such groups often organise workshops and tutorials.
However, a hackerspace also brings benefits to the community, as it constitutes a hub to explore, promote and even spread new technologies locally. This way, the potential of such tech can be explored and even find wider application, boosting the local economy and bringing innovation to businesses. In fact, Ohm Base have set a goal of helping individuals to actualize their project ideas, by giving them access to tools, tech and knowledge.
To be more specific, Ohm Base’s services and equipment include a 3D printer. A technology that’s already well on the way to revolutionize manufacturing as we know it, 3D printing sees a machine “print” three-dimensional objects in non-factory settings, following instructions received in the format of stereolithography digital files. In fact, this printer is also available to the public to use for $5 per hour at the Waverley Resource Library.
Ohm Base also support and spread the use of Bitcoin, the innovative digital “cryptocurrency” which made it into mainstream news in 2016 and beyond due to its impressive increase in value. Our local hackerspace accepts donations in Bitcoin and is in fact one of the few local organisations which have embraced it, although worldwide its use is becoming more widespread, with brands like Expedia, Microsoft and Overstock.com all accepting such payments. In fact, some brands have gone all in for Bitcoin.
For instance, BitCasino was the first licensed online casino to trade exclusively in Bitcoin, and has since expanded its offerings to cater to a fast-growing market of Bitcoin users who can take part in the lottery or play live roulette and video slots, among other games.
Other equipment offered at our local hackerspace include soldering and reflow tools, which are used for electronic components and PCB etching tools, which allows for the creation of printed circuit boards. Ohm Base also call themselves a makerspace, as their projects extend beyond the technological. For example, they’ve had professional Halloween makeup tutorials. The group also organise board games and movie nights to socialize.
Ohm Base have also worked with the Northwestern Ontario Innovation Centre, which provides practical help and knowledge to brands and organisations in the area. Some of the latter’s success stories include collaborations with seafood brand Walleye Wings, independent cosmetics company HAIL and web hosting provider Sencia.
This non-profit community organisation is based at the ground floor of the Waverley Library, at 285 Red River Road – but members also meet up in other venues, including the Gameshelf and Naxos. Anyone interested in joining Ohm Base is invited to contact +1 807 333 HACK/4225 or send them a message on Facebook.