Center City: Hacking at Hive76

Brendan Schrader works on a project during an open house on Wednesday at Hive76.

The walls of the Hive76 headquarters are lined with part bins containing all types of electronic doodads from circuit boards to transistors in a kind of organized chaos that bespeaks the organization’s Do It Yourself (DIY) cyberpunk attitude.

Off in one corner of the workshop, Hive76 Quartermaster Brendan Schrader toys with a series of gutted drum machines and mixers plugged into a suitcase that has been converting into a four-speaker boombox.

Justin Dunham, a new member of Hive76, works on his MakerBot.

“A lot of us don’t know what we’re doing,” Schrader said, while generating an organic-sounding beat on the post-apocalyptic dance machine. “If we knew what we were doing, we wouldn’t be hackers. We’d be engineers.”

Founded in 2009 by current board members Far McKon, Jack Zylkin and Jordan Miller after a break from Philly’s first hacking collective, The Hacktory, Hive76 is a member-run co-op that encourages the DIY spirit. Science education and general, creative tinkering are also instilled  in the surrounding community through the use of its shared workspace at 915 Spring Garden St. in Center City.

Brendan Schrader works on a project during an open house on Wednesday at Hive76.

The workspace provides not only an area for hacking projects, but also the tools to complete those projects. Shared among members of Hive76, the organization’s tinkering toolset includes everything from ordinary drill presses and soldering irons to more specialized machines like 3-D printers known as MakerBots (that are the pièce de résistance for many members).

Use of the hackerspace, as Hive76 calls it, is not limited only to members of the group.  Every Wednesday starting around 8:00 p.m., the Hive opens its doors to non-members for a three-hour open house that allows attendees work on their own personal projects and network with current members.

Community outreach for Hive76 goes beyond their weekly open house, with many members planning and directing specialized workshops each week that range in topic from lock picking to circuit board etching.

“There are a lot of people from diverse backgrounds, so if you have questions on how to fix a project or if you want to learn something interesting, that’s what Hive76 is for,” said group member Chris Thompson. “The most important part is the other members.”

Members of Hive76 work on projects late into the night at the shared workspace cooperative.

And that membership is growing. According to Events Organizer Sean McBeth, Hive76 has experienced a 30 percent growth in membership since the start of 2011.

“Our name is really getting out there,” said McBeth. “We’re really getting involved with the other organizations in Philadelphia and it’s getting our name out. We’re doing really cool stuff.”

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