There's a new clubhouse in New Haven, and it's meant for geeks. It's called MakeHaven. It offers space and equipment for people looking to build gadgets of all kinds, and imagination is the only limitation.
Frank Pelliccio is standing in a brightly lit space. It's an old Knights of Columbus building in downtown New Haven. There are boxes of spare parts, lenses and other curious pieces, alongside table saws and drill presses. Pelliccio stands near a five prong robotic arm. And he's holding a tiny black square between two fingers. When he speaks, a squiggly bright line running across the center: it vibrates.
"Well this is just an oscilloscope. A little pocket oscilloscope," he explains.
"Yes. So as you can see it's just sort of taking the sound waves and sort of visualizing what you're hearing."
"So it's reading our voices."
"Yup, so any ambient sound it just picks it up and shows you what the wave form looks like."
I can't really understand how the tiny, wireless object is picking up my sound waves, but it's happening. And it's cool. Pelliccio rigged up this little device -- in his spare time -- at his new home away from home: MakeHaven. The non-profit opened its doors in February thanks to New Haven's Economic Development Corporation and a few committed members. One member owns the building and is offering subsidized rent until the group can collect enough in dues. Everything else is donated, salvaged or refurbished.
John Scrudato is president. He says creative, resourceful people don't always have access to the expensive equipment they need to turn their ideas into reality.
"But just having the the ability to play around and explore, really can open up some new horizons. And that is what I'd love to see here."
MakeHaven has 23 members and counting. So far, MakeHaveners have worked together to refurbish an old, fire damaged laser cutter, and built a 3-D printer from open source plans found online. They hope to set up woodworking and bike repair stations in the basement.
Member Marcus Notz says the group has the curiosity and skill to make… pretty much anything.
"Jon is a great mechanical engineer, Mike does lots of carpentry and woodworking and that kind of stuff, Cad designing. There's a lot of different areas of knowledge there which makes this place a great resource."
For a monthly fee of $50, members get 24/7 access to the space. And it's an ideas incubator: MakeHaveners collaborate, riff, and improvise. One member is working on a large LED display sign for the front entrance. Soon, they'll start offering workshops and classes to the public.
Pelliccio, with his oscilloscope, is a computer programmer by day. He says MakeHaven came at a perfect time for him.
"I'd started to get tired of working alone in my basement. I thought if I could work with other people, be inspired by other people, you know, share whatever knowledge I have, we could trade expertise and experience. That's kind of what this place is for me."
Another collective in Brooklyn -- called NYC Resistor -- is a similar meet-up of mad scientists, tech gurus and tinkerers alike … part of a growing trend of so-called "Hacker" spaces.
For more information, visit MakeHaven at www.makehaven.org.