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The Geek Group's Hacker-Oriented High Voltage Lab In Michigan Damaged by Fire 65

Posted by timothy
from the they've-got-stuff-on-ebay-too dept.
Tech educational collective The Geek Group, based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, has more than 25,000 members, scattered all over the world — most of whom have never been to their flagship location in Michigan. Sadly, a fire Thursday damaged one of the facilities at their Leonard Street Labs (damage report starts about 26 minutes into this video), the High Voltage Lab. Since there aren't that many places for amateurs and hobbyists to learn about high voltage (even with the growing number of maker spaces around the world), that leaves a hole that hopefully will soon be filled; lucky for anyone interested, The Geek Group welcomes volunteers.
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The Geek Group's Hacker-Oriented High Voltage Lab In Michigan Damaged by Fire

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  • Not again... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Why is it that every couple of years something catastrophic happens to the group that severely impacts their progress, and trivializes the hard work of many contributors? And, why does it *have* to be something that’s amplified by the group’s “quirky” management who are clearly out of their league?

    My prediction is that their insurance won’t cover this. Eerily enough, the building’s lack of a fire alarm was also made evident. They will have a salvage mission on their hands

    • by stms (1132653)

      It seems plausible that a group of people regularly hacking high voltage equipment might have multiple incidents of fire. I would however be leery about taking their advice regarding the matter.

      • by flyneye (84093)

        Sounds like the sort of place that needs to be rebuilt; concrete, cinderblock and rubber.
        This is the internet, they have 25000 members.
        Im guessing between stumping for donations and passing the hat, this can be accomplished quickly.
        Theyll be up and Teslaizing before you know it.
        Used to be, sticking a fork in the toaster was the extent of learning outside school, and usually the end.
        From a Darwinian perspective, the more weeded out through caveat increases the likelyhood of obtaining the services of a COMPET

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The High Voltage Lab at OSU is nearly 100 years old, and they have never had a fire. Wonder why...

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Washington State University has a great one too. As an undergrad, I played in there a bit. In the power lab, I got in trouble for experimenting with seeing how many devices I could cascade before I couldnt get useful power out the other end. I started with a 10HP DC-AC motor-gen set and did a bunch of three phase transformer connection to a couple other gensets and all kinds of other stuff in series until I could only power a 100W lightbulb at the end. The prof came in and made me calculate the efficiency a

    • by megabeck42 (45659)

      You know, I think the lack of fire alarms is by far the biggest WTF especially considering how much effort they invested in the HV room's grounding setup, for example.

      Hindsight's 20/20.

      • Re:Not again... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by DerekLyons (302214) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (retawriaf)> on Saturday January 04, 2014 @01:10AM (#45863481) Homepage

        Hindsight's 20/20.

        Horsepuckey. Not having fire alarms isn't a "hindsight 20/20" moment (I.E. something no one could have foreseen a need for), it's a "WTF were you *thinking* you blithering idiot" moment.

      • For what it's worth, fire alarms and large Tesla coils don't mix.

        • Seems like a small Faraday cage [wikipedia.org] around each battery powered smoke detector would work. I have experience with high powered RF (VHF through 2.4GHz, 125W of emitted RF power) and smoke detectors never had a problems with this equipment.
          • The thing is, fire alarms are more than just battery-powered smoke detectors. The alarm sensors are wired to a central control unit, and shielding the wiring is tricky. If you're unlucky enough to have problems, you end up needing to individually RFI-proof all of the sensors as well as the main box.

            Either that, or downsize the Tesla coil, and that's no fun...

    • by iplayfast (166447)

      I watched the video, and he seemed to be handling the situation as well as anyone could. What exactly do you think he should have done. They cleared the building of people, and animals. Found that the fire was in the other end of the building so went and retrieved the expensive cameras. Helped the firemen as best they could, and assessed the damage. He obviously had a plan in place, since they were talking about head counts, and the time it took to evacuate (2 minutes).

      I don't think he was out of his league

    • Paul Tertuit says:
      January 3, 2014 at 9:56 am

      Why is it that every couple of years something catastrophic happens to the group that severely impacts their progress, and trivializes the hard work of many contributors? And, why does it *have* to be something that’s amplified by the group’s “quirky” management who are clearly out of their league?..

      Why didn't you put your name to your comment here like you did on HaD? [hackaday.com]

  • Add to the heap (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 03, 2014 @09:31PM (#45862565)

    There's been a lengthy discussion over at HaD regarding the fire:

    http://hackaday.com/2014/01/03/fire-at-the-geek-group/#comments

  • by Anubis350 (772791) on Friday January 03, 2014 @09:57PM (#45862663)
    ...Shocking! I'm positive the emergency contacts for the lab blew their fuse when they heard. Nothing like getting such negative reports to ground you in the harsh reality of life's load.
  • It's a shame. I would imagine that's all insured and such. But they're going to need cleanup supplies, etc. Just go hit their amazon page to donate those.
  • So each throw in $2.00, fix the lab.
    • by MattskEE (925706)

      I doubt they really have 25,000 members, that's probably the number of people who have signed up on their forums at one point or another. Active membership is surely much smaller.

  • What a mess. And where the fire was is in pretty bad shape, too. The guy that kept his face in front of the camera and wouldn't stop talking was too irritating to me to watch the whole video, but I saw a hazardous, sloppy work area. So my comments are I'm glad nobody was hurt and why did it take so long to have a fire?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    So my local hackerspace basically went quasi bankrupt once or twice, they sent out emails asking people to fundraise to pay the rest. Prior to that they had a brief legal battle with their landlord about rent/improvements they made to offset rent and so on. Do I want to get involved in this? .... No. So I'm kitting out my garage long term as a maker space for myself and my kids. Maybe if we had a maker space with like a minimum age of 30 or something.....

    • by Lehk228 (705449)
      I'm kitting out my garage long term as a maker space for myself

      it's called a workshop
  • by RedBear (207369) <redbear@redbearn e t . c om> on Saturday January 04, 2014 @02:30AM (#45863773) Homepage

    It's very weird to me that I've been reading /. and other geeky websites for a decade and a half and I've never, ever heard of this "The Geek Group" with 25,000 members and a 42,000 square foot headquarters/lab facility. What is their purpose? Should I have heard of them? Where would I hear about them, if not here? Am I supposed to turn in my geek card if I have no idea who these people are? Are they the ones that issue geek cards in the first place?

    Questions abound.

    • by Obliterous (466068) <shawn.somers@NOSpam.gmail.com> on Saturday January 04, 2014 @03:45AM (#45863911) Homepage Journal

      Disclaimer up front: I am a IRC moderator and web volunteer for the Geek Group.

      Remember the shrunken quarters that you used to be able to get over at thinkgeek? Yeah, The Geek Group made them. you can still buy them over at thegeekgroup.org/store

      I'll be the first to admit that a lot of people don't like Chris Boden, but really, what large organization DOESN'T have a personality conflict or two?

      Yeah, Chris can be kind of a dick at times, but this whole thing started as his dream, and still is. You'd be a dick too, if people were fucking with or fucking up YOUR dreams.

      Please keep in mind, tho, that every story has more than one viewpoint, and there's more than one person that has been asked to leave and never come back, and some of them stir up shit as often as they can.

      As for the clutter in the room, the area has been used to store a lot of spare parts, both new and used, like high voltage power supplies, actuators, and parts for various future projects.

      So Yeah, lessons have been learned, the cleanup has already started and plans for rebuilding are being made and executed. Maybe they'll even be able to find a smoke detector that can handle being next to a 100KW arc.

      If you're interested in helping out, chatting, or just seeing what the Geek Group is all about, I suggest you watch their videos on youtube, visit their web page, and/or come join us in IRC @ irc://irc.thegeekgroup.org/#thegeekgroup

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      25,000 is how many people they have "worldwide". Physically, they only have like 20 people. Chris, the owner has managed to swindle lots of donations out of people since he has been in this business (I met him in 1997), so he bought an old YMCA after a long line of other locations.

      No need to turn in your geek card or anything else. It's a group of 1 guy who cycles through volunteers on a very regular basis who sucks $$ of out the community that could be much better spent on the real makerspaces around to

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by slewfo0t (679988)
        Obviously this was posted by someone from the "Other" makerspace in town. Physically we have much more than 20 people, there are several hundred working directly with The Geek Group on a daily basis. Anyone can become a member - just visit the website and sign up it's free. If you want to work on projects at the lab, it's $40/month. The Geek Group is much more than a physical building, it's a community. It's geeks online and at the multiple facilities around the globe. It's crowd sourced engineering and sc
    • I'm from Grand Rapids and studied CS here. Still haven't heard of them. Or if I did I've forgotten.

  • As a Grand Rapidian geek, I had no idea we had something like this in town. I must check this out once they're back on their feet.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Me too. I didn't know about it either. How about you join me helping get them back on their feet?
    • Or you could check out the 'other' space in town, GRMakers.com
  • The Fifth Third Ballpark went up in flames mysteriously as well yesterday.
    • Yeah, but the fire department attributed the ballpark fire to a work crew knocking over a space heater, starting a fire, putting it out, and then walking away, exacerbated by the sprinkler system being turned off. That's not mysterious so much as it is just plain foolish.
      • That seems akin to the situation in this story where they ran the equipment right before the fire to show off to a potential employee and then locked it up and walked away.

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