In the Beginning
Dan first contacted me (Michelle) via the local Ham Radio club about trying to form a local hackerspace in April of 2011. We talked a little but nothing really came of it. At that time, I did not know what a “hackerspace” was so I looked it up and was impressed, but did not know how to proceed.
Dan registered with hackerspaces.org with the desire to form a hackerspace in the Hickory area. On June 20, 2011, Rich found Dan’s post and contacted him about getting involved. Rich lived in Granite Falls and was also looking for a hackerspace in the area.
The organizational meeting of those interested in forming a hackerspace named the Foothills Community Workshop was scheduled at Rich’s house on July 30, 2011. Six persons were in attendance at that meeting. The “accepted” method of starting a hackerspace was to organize a bunch of members, then look for a space. Rich wanted to do things “backwards”” get a location first, then push for members. Four of us: Rich, Dan, Colin, and Michelle put up some initial money to get started.
Rich went to the city manager of Granite Falls and was led to location in an old cotton mill that we could use. As part of the organizational meeting, we checked out possible locations in the mill. We were offered three different locations, but the one we chose would provide us with the most space, and a bathroom.
The space was somewhat sad looking, divided into two parts. The “cave” was an open space with no lights or power, and the “office” was a storage area. But, we liked it and a lease was signed so that we could move in, so on August 23, only 24 days from the first meeting, it became home for FCW.
Over the next several months, all time and resources were spent installing wiring and lights, and cleaning up. We picked up two more members during that time (Warren and Gene). Just a few weeks after we started cleaning up, a sprinkler head on the upper floor was broken and our area was flooded — it was “raining” in the cave.
Rich was active on Craig’s List and found sixty four-foot florescent fixtures from a business that was upgrading, and also found three sets of “school” lockers. The lockers were in sad shape but cleaned up well and, with a little repair and paint, became usable.
We started out with four simple metal chairs so were looking for affordable furniture. Michelle worked at a community college which was having an auction in October. Michelle and Dan went to the auction and “hit the jackpot” getting seven 2-person computer tables, four 12-ft computer tables, two 6-ft tables, several chairs, a non-working copier, and some assorted equipment and tools. The landlord donated us a couch, so we went from nothing to usable furniture rather quickly. We decided to have an open house in December 2011. It pushed us as we barely got the lights in and some of the machinery moved before the open house.
At the first open house in December 2011, we had just got the machine shop equipment moved, but not ready. There was a radial arm saw (inoperable), planer (inoperable) and a circular saw in the wood working area. There was one 120V line on the West wall (office side) of the cave but no power on the machinery side. Outlets had just been installed in the office area. None of the rooms were built so there were signs saying where the classroom and railroad/modelshop would be. The electronics area was operational, but barely, as most of the equipment was brought in by Rich and Michelle just for the open house. We had just bought the large tables from a WPCC auction so we had most of the tables, but some of the chairs were bad.
Even so, several people attended the open house, including a contingent from Hackerspace Charlotte and a group wanting to start one in Asheville. There was much interest in the potential and a few that attended eventually joined, including Ross. In early 2012, Ross and Michelle checked out the copier and found a huge paper jam in the fuser. After it was cleared and a scrounged toner installed, the copier became fully operational. Michelle brought in a color laser printer, and Dan added some network gear to start the LAN.
Next: The Areas Come to Life