A “Make Tank” in Brooklyn

Arduino Workshop
A “Make Tank” in Brooklyn



This past week I’ve been in New York and had a chance to visit Brooklyn Research and chat with Jackson Snellings. Jackson is an instructional designer at Hofstra University, but also a member at this place he calls a “Make Tank.”

Straddling itself between hackerspace, company, and co-working space, this group consists of nine alumnui of NYU’s ITP. They all have expertise in varying fields, and will often collaborate in various combinations as a project allows. Working with and alongside each other bolsters their creativity and output. By pooling their resources, they’ve also put together a formidable array of tools such as a laser cutter, high-end 3D printer, electronics, soft lab, and woodworking tools.

The idea was to preserve the sense of camaraderie and cross-pollination they had at ITP while doing similar work professionally. Since opening they have expanded their space, have released some great projects, and accumulated a few interesting stories along the way.

When Hurricane Sandy hit NYC, the Eyebeam hackerspace was flooded. They donated a waterlogged Dimension BST 3D printer to Brooklyn Research. Members Johnny Lu, Ezer Lichtenstein, and Alex Dodge cleaned it up, replaced some parts, and got it up and running as a high-end prototyping tool.

To add to the list, member Eszter Ozsvald successfully launched HeatIt-C on Kickstarter, Alex Dodge was on a panel for Technology in New York with the Chamber of Commerce, and Alex Dodge and Erica Newman presented their project, RePlayables, at the UN ECOSOC Youth Forum.

Brooklyn Research occupies space in the old Pfizer factory, a company started in Brooklyn in 1849. The factory is immense, occupying an entire city block, and some of the vestiges of pharmaceutical production still remain. Jackson showed me around and pointed out giant clean rooms, plumbing that used to carry acetone, and tanks used to mix chemicals.

Ezer actually hacked Pfizer’s existing RFID system with an Arduino to provide secure access to their space. It’s an interesting course of events that innovation is now being built upon the shoulders of old industry.

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In addition to being an online editor for MAKE Magazine, Michael Colombo works in fabrication, electronics, sound design, music production and performance (Yes. All that.) In the past he has also been a childrens' educator and entertainer, and holds a Masters degree from NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program.

View more articles by Michael Colombo