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OmniCorp Detroit hacks into Eastern Market's energy



Detroit sure knows how to do incubators these days. There's arts (Russell Industrial), high-tech (TechOne), alternative energy (NextEnergy), small business (Elevator Building) and...well, a ton more. Now there's one for tinkerers in Omni Corp Detroit (OCD), a hacker space that has set up shop in Eastern Market.

First things first, what's a hacker space? It's a location where people interested in experimenting with electronics, technology, digital and electronic art can collaborate. Imagine a photographer working with a robotics expert on a mechanical arm that can take weird-angle shots. Or an illustrator working with a circuit-builder on slick graphics that clearly describe an esoteric signalling device. "It's a nerdy, muti-disciplinary version of an artists collective," says member Andrew Sliwinski.

The space's 3,000-square-foot ground floor will house welding and carpentry equipment, while the 5,000-square-foot second floor will have audio and photography studios, a kitchen and bathroom as well as an expansive main space with computers, couches and flexible work space that can host a variety of workshops. As it renovates, the team plans to respect the "original character" of the warehouse space, says Nina Bianchi, a graphic designer and educator that is a member of OCD.

The collective members, of which there are currently 20, each pay a monthly membership fee towards rent and improvements. Talents represented at the table include Bianchi, educator Sarah Trahan, photographer and set designer Kristine Diven, mechanical engineer Brandon Richards, computer whiz Ben Chodoroff, musician and robot enthusiast Anderson Walworth and Sliwinski, whose main interests include circuits and electronics. "It's a well-rounded group of skill sets," says Diven. "There seems to be ways we can work together and there's lots of crossover, and that's what's going to make us stick together as a group."

The Eastern Market location suits the team. It's quiet during the week and busy on Saturdays, perfect for noisy work and some public outreach. "(It's) a weird phenomenon," says Sliwinski. "It's the thing, other than sporting events, that draws people into Detroit -- and they're captive in this little neighborhood for an afternoon."

All of this plays into OCD's wishes to be a service of sorts to the community by offering learning sessions. There's one coming up on Saturday, August 28 from 5 to 7 p.m. when CMKT4 will present a workshop on Piezo-electrics, or contact microphones. The group will also do a live demo with their circuit-bent instruments.

Sliwinski's brother, Ted, is a facilitator at another developing hack space, Mt. Elliott Makerspace, that is a project of Earthworks Urban Farm. More on that to come.

Source: various members of Omni Corp Detroit
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh

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