I'm happy to announce a new product today and it's kind of an interesting one. The idea for it didn't exactly come from me, and it will be used to do something wonderful. It's called the FredBoard (aka FreakLabs Breadboard) and it started its life as a learning tool inside Tokyo Hackerspace . We needed something that could be used to teach electronics and Arduino programming since the line between the two has gotten blurrier over time. I was discussing it with one of the workshop instructors (Emery Premaux) and he was using separate breadboards and Freakduinos to teach the class. I casually mentioned that we should combine the two, and like chocolate and peanut butter, it turned out quite nice. We've been using the FredBoard in Tokyo Hackerspace for about six months now for the classes and the occasional presents and they've gotten excellent reviews.
That brings me to the second part of this story. I was visiting my sister (Sho SHo Smith) a few months ago in Oakland and we were having a conversation over some macaroni and cheese. I was talking about all the cool things that go on inside a hackerspace and she was complaining that being a mom means that you don't have any time to do things like that. She then casually mentioned that it'd be cool if there was a hackerspace specifically for moms since they have a lot of constraints they need to deal with. I thought that was a great idea. The next morning, my sister and I were having breakfast with her friends (a bunch of artist-parents) and we started talking about what it'd be like to have a hackerspace for moms. Some of the ideas were hilarious. One of the parents wanted to learn about Arduino to get revenge on drunk people peeing on their fence at night. It involved a temperature sensor and a water gun that returned fire. Another mom wanted to do graffiti on buildings with things that a mother would say like: "Eat your vegetables - your mom". About two months ago, my sister actually started up the hackerspace and it's called Mothership HackerMoms. Its a bay area hackerspace specifically for moms and they meet every Thursday at one of the members' houses.
The idea is interesting on many levels. First, the main issue that parents have to deal with before they do anything fun is finding a sitter for child care. That gets taken care of by having on-site child care at the HackerMoms meetings and events. There are also special needs for a hackerspace with children running around, since many things need to be child proofed. Beyond that, its a chance for moms to socialize, be a support group for each other, do creative things, and actively participate in the hacker and maker communities. It's obvious that the ideas that come out of this hackerspace will be different than what we're seeing coming out of other hackerspaces because of their unique perspective. And the best thing of all, which also intrigues me the most, is that the children get to be immersed in the hacker, maker, craft, and DIY communities from such a young age. It would be very interesting to see how that experience influences their ideas and thinking as they grow.
So finally, I'm introducing the FredBoard and along with it, a new addition to my webshop. I created a special category called Fundraisers. Inside that category, there will be special allocations of items that I sell, and the proceeds of the sales will go to the organizations listed in the description.
The FredBoard will be the first item in my new Fundraisers category and I've created an allocation of 50 boards. The proceeds will go to HackerMoms and should be enough to move them into their own space. I'm hoping to sell out the allocation by the end of the year and hand over the funds so they can start looking for their own space at the beginning of next year. If you're looking for gift ideas this holiday season, the HackerMoms Fredboard would be a great way to give two presents. One would be to that special, nerdy someone you're thinking of and the other would be to Mothership Hackermoms so they can finally move into their mothership :)
Here is an interview with Sho-Sho, my sister and the founder of Mothership Hackermoms. Reprinted with her permission:
1. How did Hacker Moms begin?
I had started a creative moms group earlier this year because I thought we moms needed to have more fun in our lives to counterbalance the demands of being the perfect modern mother. Life with young kids can be an isolating state and a fractured existence. It became clear that childcare was a major barrier. Mothership HackerMoms evolved with babysitting as an integral part of our creative process, giving us the time and space to work. Traditional moms groups tend to be about the kids. We are here to first support the mother, her identity as a powerful creator, woman, explorer, entrepreneur, the artist of her life and of family life. We want to model active creative lives for our kids to learn from, so it's important for them to be present with their projects, too.
One misconception is that you have to be an artist to be a hackermom, but that's not true. Maybe you have a project in mind. Maybe you crave community or want to find a hobby. Maybe you have that spirit of curiosity as a mom interested in her own growth as a woman, individual and a mother. If we don't support this playful creative self, we risk burnout, depression, and 2-yr-old-level temper tantrums. It's a use it or lose it philosophy to motherhood sanity. All work and no play makes mom a dull mother, lover and friend!
Above all, these moms just want to have fun. Fun to us is not mani-pedis and blowouts (those can be nice), but making, breaking, learning and realizing our bright ideas, however outlandish, zany or normal. These other creations are like our children, too, and need a chance at life. It can be easier - and much more fun - to do that together than alone.
2. What sort of projects do people tackle?
We all seem to be in the middle of our own various side projects and passions like photography, screenwriting, illustration, businesses, craft. But our common workshop list runs the gamut from print/mold making, furniture building and refinishing, and product design/business development, all the way to taxidermy, voice talent, breadmaking, and stop-motion animation as things we're interested in exploring.
Right now we are making cool things to sell for an art show in December as our first fundraiser. The Leave It to Beaver sale of art and artifacts will be held on Saturday, Dec 10. Hopefully we'll rent a space next year for our really big projects!
3. How many people come each time?
About 10 regulars with a few people coming to check us out on Thursday nights. We are beginning to meet the second sundays of the month.
4. What else would you like to share?
It's great being part of the international hackerspace community. All hackerspaces develop their own identity over time. Traditional ones are techie guy spaces, but ours is the first women's hackerspace, and we are a very new group, just a few months old. I'm really interested how a female identity will be reflected in our space, how we will redefine hacking and making. We love the community of our local brethren, Ace Monster Toys in Oakland and Noisebridge in SF who offer mature models of hacker life.
5. What are your favorite East Bay places to go with kids?
Personally I like the Emeryville Marina, the Mini Maker Faire, the racetrack (gourmet food trucks, space to run, animals!), the East Bay Vivarium, Habitot, and Adventure Playground. My girls are 4 years old and 7 months old.