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  • Staff photo by Don Himsel


    Joe Schlesinger with a powered louvre at MakeIt Labs, part of the new ventilation components that were installed. The lab has received a new certificate of occupancy, allowing creatives to return and use the unique space.
  • Staff photo by Don Himsel


    A cabinet used to store flammable material now has ventilation to the outside at MakeIt Labs.
  • Old circuit boards will become floor tiles in the new MakeIt Labs bathroom.
  • Staff photo by Don Himsel


    The lab has received a new certificate of occupancy, allowing creatives to return and use the unique space.
  • Staff photo by Don Himsel


    Make It Labs
Thursday, February 9, 2012

City permits in hand, Nashua’s ‘hackerspace’ MakeIt Labs has reopened

NASHUA – With all necessary city permits finally in hand, MakeIt Labs, the state’s first “hackerspace,” has reopened, complete with the realization that safety requirements will force its casual attitude to become a little more formal at times.

“Thousands of man-hours of work have been poured into the lab during the closure, a significant portion of which were dedicated to cleaning and organizing. MESSINESS WILL NOT BE TOLERATED,” wrote board member Adam Shrey of Hudson, in a mass e-mail announcing the reopening.

The nonprofit MakeIt Labs sells monthly memberships in its location in a former foundry on Nashua’s Crown Street, part of a ramshackle industrial area near the Merrimack River.

Membership provide access to tools, workspace, and most importantly, shared expertise from other members, all in a free-wheeling culture that encourages people to make things, from software to pottery to car parts, in innovative ways.

Places like MakeIt Labs are often called “hackerspaces” to reflect a shared ideology with the good-guy aspects of computer hacking. Many exist around the country, usually in large cities – the Boston area has at least two.

MakeIt Labs opened in July, after moving from a much smaller space in Lowell, Mass.

In December, city officials shut it down after an inspection revealed a lack of various permits, plus concern about some safety issues resulting from having lots of expensive and potentially dangerous equipment, including an automobile lift, a high-temperature kiln, saws, drills and laser cutters, all in 6,000 square feet.

Since then, using mostly volunteer labor, including a large amount by electrician and plumber Nick Peck, the lab has been reorganizing, cleaning and doing a few big projects. Among them was rebuilding the bathroom, because the one they built when moving in wasn’t handicapped accessible.

It won’t be quite a normal bathroom, however. In the sort of move hackers delight in, the lab has collected a pile of defunct computer circuit boards, and plans to lay them down to create the new flooring, covered by clear acrylic.

Founder Joe Schlesinger said the reopening was the result of “a lot of work by a lot of people.”

He said the lab was able to keep all equipment except for a small woodworking area used just to build shelves and other equipment. Dust created by woodworking can pose special hazards.

Schlesinger – who, like all five members of the board of directors, is an engineer – said the city was cooperative and helpful during the process. After MakeIt Labs shut down, it drew support from various city and business officials, who appreciated its attraction to young professionals, the kind of people that Nashua wants to attract. It was also described as a sort of “business pre-incubator” for potential entrepreneurs to work on ideas that might some day become businesses.

The company plans a reopening party Saturday, Feb. 18, from 10 a.m.-6 p.m., and it will resume open houses for potential members.

Shrey said the lab also plans classes, beginning with an elementary course in electronics and soldering.

It’s also open to donations, and is selling a MakeIt Labs T-shirt as a fundraiser.

For details, visit www.makeitlabs.com.

David Brooks can be reached at 594-6531 or dbrooks@nashua telegraph.com.