Got a passion project and want to build a team around it? Start in your makerspace! Dr. David Crawley desperately wanted to hack robots and build a useful platform, not an inexpensive toy that couldn’t do anything or a useful robot that few could afford. He wanted his to be inexpensive and capable. To pull this off he knew he needed passionate contributors with the right technical backgrounds so he joined Hacker Dojo.
Legions didn’t jump on board immediately. His efforts began with posting an event on Hacker Dojo’s calendar, an event that nobody showed up to. Undeterred, David plowed ahead and gradually curious bystanders became active participants and by word of mouth the team grew, albeit slowly. Not till one day when someone suggested Meetup.com as an extension to the calendar did things really take off. All of a sudden 30 people showed up including a PhD in mechanical engineering, a couple of software engineers, and others with skills useful to the project. His effort had traction and he now has 150 people on his list of participants.
So what are they trying to accomplish? That was an important question to answer for the team to answer. David and the team wrote a problem statement: How can we build a robot with high endurance, payload, vision, and navigation capabilities for less than $500. This was followedwith 12 challenges which included: drive around three cones, detect the face and body of the owner, draw a chess board outdoors, and identify a bad guy in a line up of people. This clear sense of direction ignited the effort.
Moral of the story? Don’t wait, just start and the team will surface.
Space update: At their booth in Expo Hall at this weekend’s Maker Faire, I also got an update on the zoning compliance issue that almost shut down Hacker Dojo. Their crowd funding campaign was a success but after presenting their plans to the city for approval the city inspection revealed more that was not in compliance and they couldn’t afford to make the additional $250,000 in improvements. It was time to consider alternatives which happily resulted in a better space. They moved in January and if you’re interested in their old space then they have a deal for you. Lesson? Don’t avoid code compliance. Get it right at the start so you don’t get an ugly surprise later on. The consequences can be terrible, or at minimum a costly dent in your space’s financials.