Board Game Day + SEM Event

This past Saturday, two events were held at the South Side Hackerspace: Chicago. The first included over 15 people meeting up to play board games and enjoy each other’s company. We had two tables of games going for Board Game Day, check us out in action:
Board Games + SEM 3
Board Games + SEM 2
Later that afternoon, more people arrived exclusively to check out a very cool demo of a Phenom desktop Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM)! What can a SEM do? SEMs are widely used in industry, from research to quality purposes, such as monitoring the quality of laser cuts, PCB solder accuracy, or even the composition of metals. One can also determine the elemental makeup of a sample using elemental analysis.
Board Games + SEM 1At our SEM event, guests were encouraged to bring in samples of small items to view underneath the microscope. Items ranged from human hair, beach sand, a plastic toy, a pistol shell casing, a piece of a hot pepper, and coffee beans. Along with optical and electron microscopy, we used the attached Energy Dispersive X-ray Spectroscopy (EDS) to conduct an elemental analysis of on the samples. Here are pictures of the microscope in all its glory, with Dr. Diane Hickey-Davis explaining how to operate it:


What’s that you’re scanning there???


A big THANK YOU to Dr. Diane Hickey-Davis, who was gracious enough to bring her SEM over and allow us to test it out! If you are interested in learning more about SEMs and have a question to ask, you can contact Dr. Hickey-Davis at

SEM1We will be looking to make the gaming day a quarterly event, so think of what games you want to play, and keep an eye out for the next event!

MAKE! Magazine Meetup

MAKE! Magazine came to visit blizzardy Chicago all the way from California!They attended the American Library Association Midwinter Meeting to promote Maker Camp and Make: Books.

SSH:C Members had a fun time connecting with MAKE representatives, local makers, librarians and other conference attendees at Temple Gallery where we discussed our plans for the coming 1On top of that, we were able to see a fresh design for a 3D Printer by Paul Kim of inbox3D and played with LEDs.

photo 2photo 4photo 5

Overall a really fun time! We hope to collaborate with Make Magazine again soon!!!

Holiday Party 2015

What a party! It was absolutely fantastic to see so many of our friends, family, and supporters. It was a night full of mingling, brainstorming, and tea!–and a selfie stick.

Holiday Party 2015 - Selfie! Holiday Party 2015 - Selfie!Holiday Party 2015 - Selfie!




No regrets.

Mike Davis of ScienceFIST started the night of demos off with a bang! Well, more of a VROOOShFFMMFMM. But ya know. See his video here.

Our super buddy, Sasha Neri, from the Chicago Public Library’s MakerLab showed us some awesome paper craft fun!

Holiday Party 2015 - Sasha Neri

Dan Meyer from the MSI’s FabLab and fellow member of SSH:C showed off his tri-copter! It flew. It conquered. It was so powerful, it blew away napkins and could probably have taken off some eyebrows. Not gonna lie, I was a little terrified. In this video he describes the process.

Justin Buschnyj & Martin Rivera from Working Bikes rocked their demo. They taught us that we could turn some old tires into sweet swag. Rock that belt, yo!

Holiday Party 2015 - Justin Buschnyj

The powerhouse known as Christina Pei of TOOOL walked us through some basic lockpicking!

Holiday Party 2015 - Christina Pei

I was sad that I didn’t get to participate as much in the demos myself, and it sounds kind of strange, but hearing everyone around me have such a good time was worth it. Everyone was laughing and sharing stories. It was fantastic to see how far the space has come and show off our new members. Looking back on the footage from the night, I think the best was the video from Dan’s drone checking all of us out. The sheer awe and the relentless smiles in that room reminded me how thankful I am to be part of such a brilliant community. Happy new year from SSH:C!!

For more photos, check out our FB album.
For a timelapse of the party, check out our YouTube channel.


We had a rockin’ time at C2E2 helping out our fellow makers from South Florida with their 3D Printing business called Zero Point 3D! Check out our FB album here!

These guys hacked some cool tech together in order to scan people on a rotating platform and create ceramic 3D-printed model figurines of them! Neat huh? Check out their FB page and website for more info.


Cryptoparty is a worldwide movement organizing events to educate users how to use cryptography. We’ve had two in quick succession at SSH with great turnout and they’ve been a lot of fun! The motivation is to empower regular people to protect their private data in an era of widespread surveillance. There are many tools available to do this – some more user friendly than others – and these events provide a forum for technical folks to come together and help those who are interested in learning how to keep themselves and their data safe.

The March Cryptoparty focused on setting up PGP for email encryption, and the April one focused on using Tor for anonymous web browsing as well as using Off-the-Record (OTR) messaging for encrypted instant messaging using XMPP/Jabber. In April, we split things up into two sessions: a session for absolute beginners where even the word encryption is explained, and a session for those who have more exposure to cryptography. For the inaugural advanced session, Eric gave a nice talk on the mathematical assumptions behind public key cryptography. Mason also showed us what data an attacker could gather by exploiting the recent OpenSSL Heartbleed bug on a VM set up in the space.

You can follow @Cryptopartychi on twitter to get notifications of upcoming cryptoparties, as well as check out the Cryptoparty wiki page at We plan on having another Cryptoparty at SSH in July.

If you’d like to be involved in organizing Cryptoparty, that’s great! If you know how to use the most commonly taught tools – PGP/OTR/Tor – and would like to help teach during the workshop time at Cryptoparty, just come to the events and your assistance would be much appreciated. If you have more knowledge about a particular area (e.g. cryptocurrencies, etc.) and would like to give a 20-30 minute talk telling us about it, please email

Money Money Monehhhh

Update: Our Indiegogo Campaign has been done for a while now. Thanks to everyone for helping us out!

IGG Screenshot

It’s been a few weeks since the launch of our campaign and I have to admit, the hardest part is waiting! I thought it would be less stressful than designing the t-shirts and stickers (all those long nights changing font types and sizes at least 30 times, and then moving things a pixel to the left, two pixels to the right, and then a pixel to the left again, only to wake up next morning and find that it really ought to be a little to the right after all.)


Emailing friends and family, contacting local papers and university organizations, and watching the money trickle bit by bit in is much harder! Of course we appreciate every single donation, not only monetary, but from those who volunteered to give us their helping hands to construct the space once we get the supplies (thank you Redditors!!).

Reddit Screenshot

We’re just so excited to purchase the things we need and tons of people have invited us to participate in events. We’re bursting with ideas for different public workshops/classes we’d like to hold, but we won’t be able to until things are cleaned up and fully functional. sigh


Progress is progress though, and as of today we’ve hit $1,418 in donations. That’s 20.26% funded! With over a month til the end, it seems like a long way off, but the goal is $7000!!! So yep, we’re going to keep chugging!

On Soldering

A few days ago we held a soldering tutorial in conjunction with the Chicago Public Library. I led the event, buoyed by over a decade of knowledge in how not to solder and a few years of actual decent soldering. Soldering is the art and science of joining metal to metal with the help of more metal. (It’s pretty metal.) The project I chose was the Digistump Digispark, a small USB-powered arduino-compatible board with limited I/O for people who don’t need the whole kitchen sink the Arduino drags along with it. CPL provided eight soldering irons, and generous members bought a bunch for the space so we’d have 20 total to match the expected number of attendees. The project seemed, from my point of view, juuuust on the cusp of what a newcomer could successfully build while still being useful for them for future experimentation. I’m not a huge fan of ‘blinkies’ and other kits that teach someone to solder but don’t leave them with anything beyond a trophy that will eventually make its way into a landfill, so the possibility for a project that would both exercise a newcomer’s ability to solder and provide future utility was too nice to pass up.

Holding Stuff Up

I placed the order for the Digisparks directly from Digistump, and it sparked a pretty nice email chain between the head of the company, Eric, and me. The kits arrived the day before the event, no fault of Digistump’s (sometimes stuff just misses a truck between USPS sorting centers) and I got to the space bright and early Saturday morning, inventoried the kits to make sure we had enough for the attendees to build, and set about rearranging the main space into a nice teaching setup.

People trickled in about ten minutes before the event technically started, which is always a good sign! Jessica graciously volunteered to go out front and help guide people to our back-of-building entrance while we printed out additional signs and hung them up to help newcomers find the space.

Overall Room

A CPL bus arrived with the majority of people, some legal waivers were signed, I gave a brief powerpoint about the “do”s and “don’t”s of soldering:

  • do clean the tip whenever you feel it’s not working well
  • do tie your hair back if there’s a chance it’ll hit the iron
  • don’t put solder directly on the tip unless you have to
  • don’t set the iron down against anything else
  • don’t accidentally grab for it while it’s falling because you’ll end up with a scar on your index finger when you accidentally grab it at the metal part (That last one may come from personal experience…)

The most important slide showed examples of “good” and “bad” solder joints.


After everyone received their kits, Dmitriy and Brian and I, walked table to table and helped people through the assembly process. It was great to see the participants encouraging one another and being incredibly patient.

Mason Helping

We tested the finished products and…

Digispark Action

Happy Birthday to Us

Update: Our Indiegogo Campaign has been done for a while now. Thanks to everyone for helping us out!

How to throw a party in three easy steps.

  1. Invite Friends & Family. Invite everyone!
  2. Have Fun.
  3. Repeat.


Ryan and I started off the day by making sure everything was as clean as it could be (Let’s be honest now; It’s a hackerspace so there is a certain level of messiness that is considered “the aesthetic”). We arranged the tables and decorated. A trip to Costco and quasi-effective signage were made by our valiant board and significant others while I furiously finished reviewing the FB Page, event page, and Indiegogo Campaign. We set up the food, music, and most importantly—tea!

And then…we chilled for maybe five minutes before the first hesitant party goers appeared! Every person who walked through the door has unlocked the “SSH:C HQ FOUND!” achievement. 😀


And wow, what a turnout! People kept pouring in and we kept the tea hot. Brian, Matt, and I were delighted to discover that everybody enjoyed at least one cup throughout the duration of the evening. After a fun lock picking demonstration by our good friends TOOOL, and the mesmerizing power of our 3d Printer, it was time to cut the cake! 

Celebrating your birthday is one thing, but toasting future success even better! We had the honour of launching our Indiegogo campaign with our friends, family, and future hackers. The goal: $7000 dollars to help finish the space and buy the tools/safeguards we need to make ourselves 100% operational! Led by a fantastic drumroll, we hit the big FUND button and watched the donations roll in! In the first night alone (~3 hours since it was already 9:30), we raised over $100!

Thanks to everyone for sharing this very special day with us. It was awesome to meet so many new people and we wouldn’t be here without those who have supported us from the very beginning. It was amazing to show off our progress. Here’s to a new and even more spectacular year of growth! ~And many more~


When I lived in Atlanta, I had my TV mounted to the wall of my living room. When I moved up to Chicago, I discovered that I had thrown away the actual TV stand. My girlfriend suggested that, rather than keeping the TV on top of a stack of cardboard boxes, why don’t I go down to the hackerspace and make a stand? So, I did.

I started with an 4×8 foot sheet of MDF, which Matt helped me break down on the table saw into two 3×3 foot pieces. I then thought about it for a minute, and realized I only needed one 3×3 foot piece, and kicked myself for buying a ton of extra MDF. I split one 3×3 foot piece in half diagonally, to form two triangles.

TV StandI traced a rough idea for a TV stand onto those triangles, and cut them out with the band saw. Finally, I joined them with some piano hinge. I plan to return tonight to paint them.


After that, I had some time on my hands and some scrap lumber, and a metal stand with nothing going on up top, so I decided to make it into a work table. I attached two scrap 2x4s to the metal stand using wood screws and some chunks of scrap on the bottom of the metal stand to receive them, then I made a table top out of scrap 2×6 that I oriented orthoganally to the 2x4s. I used the little bench to cut up some drywall, and it worked like a charm!