Robot ducks and fabric cadavers: Tog Hackerspace celebrates 15 years

26 Jan 2024

A soldering workshop. Image: Tog, Dublin’s hackerspace.

Tog, Dublin’s hackerspace, started in 2009. Since then, it has created an incredible community of hackers and builders who are always finding ways to solve problems.

Maker and hackerspaces serve a number of purposes. They can be an accessible, fun, hands-on way for people to dip their toes into the world of science, technology, engineering and maths; they can be an interactive way for the science and tech community to engage with the wider public and provide more effective science communication opportunities; and they can provide new learning experiences.

But Jeffrey Roe, a founding member of Tog, Dublin’s hackerspace, highlighted another important element to these spaces. “A space away from home and work or school is so important for people to have. A third space where people can find a community and creative outlet,” he said.

“It allows anyone to turn up who might not know what they want to learn but have a willingness to pick up a skill. We have so many examples of peer-to-peer learning in the space.”

Tog was founded in 2009 to create a space for people to work on projects from electronics to crafting, and from beer brewing to metal working. Tomorrow (27 January), the non-profit organisation is celebrating its 15th anniversary.

Roe is a software/hardware engineer who, in his free time, loves to experiment with everything from bubble machines to bone conduction technology. He also co-runs Dublin Maker, an annual festival that showcases the best of the maker community.

Two men sitting at a table working on electrical equipment.

Jeffrey Roe fixing a vacuum cleaner. Image: Tog Hackerspace.

Tog was set up as space for hackers to come together and work on projects and since its inception, has had four spaces across Dublin city. Currently, it resides in an industrial unit on the Kylemore Road.

With humble beginnings, the group behind Tog focused on building a community rather than worrying about having the best equipment. “We opened ourselves to all types of hacking and making. We welcomed a broad church of people with all sorts of interests and skills. Thinking outside the typical box of the IT person or engineer but to anyone looking to learn something or follow a creative passion,” said Roe.

“We now get calls or emails from places that are changing over their equipment asking if we can make use of it or in some cases, we have to build the equipment ourselves such as our laser cutter.”

Roe’s passion lies in the scientific outreach and encouraging the next generation of hackers, so the standout highlights from 15 years of Tog lie in the times when its members give up their time to take part in events that help in the outreach and engagement aspect.

“That can take the form of soldering classes at science festivals, a giant robotic duck that drives around to a fabric cadaver to teach people about the human body. I think the special projects come out of the space when we have people with different skillsets working to complement each other like the escape room games we made.”

‘We are now getting members joining who first came across us as kids’

Roe also talked fondly about the hours Tog’s members have given to repair cafés – a grassroots event that allows people to bring all sorts of broken items and learn from a fixer how to repair them. Last year alone, Tog was involved in nine of these cafés.

“It’s a bit of a magic event where you get exposed to all the stories of people who have kept these items safe for years in the hope of someday getting them repaired.”

A major birthday is a great time to not only reflect on how far something like this has come but also to look to the future. For Roe, this is all about looking to the future generation of makers and hackers.

“I am proud to say we are now getting members joining who first came across us as kids at one of our outreach events. It’s this passing onto a new generation who still see our community as relevant and important to them that has given me hope for the future of the community.

“We are a flexible group of hackers and have always found ways to solve any problems that have arisen and I am sure we will in the future.”

Tog Hackerspace will celebrate its 15th birthday at an open social night at its current location, Motor City behind Mr Price on Kylemore Road at 7pm on Saturday, 27 January 2024.

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Jenny Darmody is the editor of Silicon Republic