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Sierra Club Outings

For the last year and a half I’ve been training to become a Sierra Club Outings leader. This coming September I’ll be putting in my assistant training time at Isle Royale with one of my mentors/leaders Robin Green. And this past weekend I went to our bi-yearly leadership meeting with my wife Sarah, who’s also training to become a leader.

What a great group of folks and a great organization to be a part of. If you’re interested in attending one of the trips we’ve got in the works, you know where to reach out to me.

In the meantime, here are a few pictures from our training trip in Estes Park.


Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

IRL2 Building Up, pt. 2

This is a continuation of my blog post from a few weeks ago about the original planning that went into the IRL 2 development. Plans change, and so after the original planning for IRL 2 went out, we set out to iterate. Major changes included wall moves, furniture changes (as a result of wall moves), electrical considerations, and more. At each step in the process, these changes were precipitated by factors outside of our control (building codes, etc), but important factors to discuss nonetheless.

For instance, Chicago has some very tight restrictions when it comes to the use of extension cables (not allowed) and power strips (also not allowed). This limitation forced us to add additional quad outlets, and to think about where those outlets were located in relation to where power would be used. Imagine having to determine, then, where students are going to linger in a space that doesn’t even exist yet. Where will they want to plug in their laptops? Phones? Etc.

Even further, imagine having to map out where every machine in a dynamic space will go and then determining electrical load based on the sum total of machines plugged into an outlet. How those machines would then facilitate traffic flow in a space. Would they be noisy? Dirty? Would students want some to be adjacent to others for ease of between-use?

That’s something I did!

Additionally, we had to worry about things like emergency exits, noise (there are classrooms adjacent to the space, lighting (the area is quite dark, so we built in some lighter furniture/flooring options to adjust), breakout space flexibility, and more.

I think the reason why I enjoy these projects so much is that they are an extreme challenge in systems thinking. Holistically anticipating how an environment and the objects within it will interact with each other is a test on one’s forethought. The constraints, whether they be building code, electrical, community, or otherwise all interact and contribute to some end product. In part, you can’t anticipate what that will be.

But you can try.

Updated and revised plans for the IIRL:


Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

Portfolio Updates (recent talks)

Just updated my portfolio with several presentations that I recently gave at: Thotcon, Chicago Public Schools Techtalk, and DePaul’s Alumni University. Check them out!


Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

IRL In Review

This year our student workers at the IRL came up with the great idea of putting together a “year in review” book for the space. As part of that, they asked me to write a kind of forward to introduce the book and reflect on where we’ve come from and where we’re going. I enjoyed writing this so much that I wanted to share it here. Special thanks to my pal Dave Wolinsky for helping me edit.


Last spring the Idea Realization Lab emerged into DePaul’s consciousness with a student-led mission to engender exploration, tinkering, and a community service-oriented tradition. Through countless stories of imagination and inventiveness, we’ve built a community where all are welcome to learn how to commune through materials, tools, and each other’s ideas in the spaces between.

Today we renew our dedication to that mission and the promise that it has for DePaul. We challenge ourselves to hold a higher standard for makerspaces: one where we all have the access and support to tap into our latent creative potential. To that end, I am incredibly proud of our student employees, members, and our community partners who embody this spirit of seeking a new way forward together. A way where thinking and making are tied together, and where we pursue this endeavor with earnestness and playfulness.

Let’s celebrate this year.

The Idea Realization Lab now averages over 1,000 visits per month. Our student workers have hosted nearly 200 community events since opening. We have supported projects ranging from robotics to alternative game controllers. The list continues to grow. On the Internet, one student comment — which I think encapsulates our success well — states that “discovering this lab has led to finding an area that has fellow creatives [with] a strong desire to learn, test out ideas and grow together.” That last part is critical.

Looking forward, our continued success has given us the opportunity to grow together toward new horizons. Beginning in fall 2019, the IRL2 (or IIRL) will open on DePaul’s Lincoln Park campus. Though the IRL and IIRL will have their own differences, both will have the same mission, and will amplify each other’s successes. I look forward to seeing what our Lincoln Park community contributes to this second space, and how we can use our dual-campus presence to strengthen the bonds between students, faculty, and staff across departments and colleges.

The Idea Realization Lab name is a clever play on the popular abbreviation “IRL” (in real life) and also a play on words indicating that here, in our space, your dreams can become reality. These two ideas are necessarily bonded together in spirit. “Creative practice doesn’t really arise from some unseen, divine inspiration that strikes an artist [..] rather, art emerges from a negotiation between a creator, an initial vision or context, and a set of material limitations that help lead the idea from abstraction to concreteness,” the game designer and philosopher Ian Bogost writes. The individual, the idea, and the material are one, and ideas become reality when we commune between these spaces.

Let’s see what new ideas become a reality as we grow together and explore – negotiate – the unknown spaces between.

Jay Margalus


Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

IRL and Thotcon in Newsline

Here’s a great writeup by Elizabeth Clements on the Thotcon + IRL/DePaul partnership and how it went for this year’s badge project. Love it!


Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

Thoton 0xA Badge Workshop Pictures

Big thanks to Jeff Carrion, DePaul University photographer pro, for coming out to Thotcon 0xA and taking these great pictures of our workshop. Keep your eyes out for an upcoming article on our collaboration with Thotcon!


Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

Round Up of Thotcon 0xA Badge Hacks

I’m planning on doing a longer write-up of the Thotcon 0xA badge that Rudy (Ristich) and I developed this year, but in the meantime, here’s a brief list of code that we, and other folks, put together to enable you to hack the badge:

  • Great for getting started. Our Thotcon 0xA workshop/demo code that walks you through using the LEDs, capacitive touch, WiFi, microphone, and speakers can be found here.
  • For those looking to get musical, @palleiko on Twitter put together an awesome cover of Africa by Toto using the badges. GitHub code.
  • On Twitter, @lokkju posted his methods for hijacking badges. We totally anticipated that something like this was going to happen! Super excited to see folks picked up on it. GitHub.

If you’ve got any other hacks or are still adding to the toy, please reach out to me on Twitter and I’ll add your work to this list!


Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

De-centralization

From ReadWrite:

If left unchecked, centralized systems will lead to unbalanced exertion of control by the select few elites. For this reason, decentralization, a process that distributes and delegates decision-making and planning away from central authority, is essential.

I’ve been thinking about de-centralization quite often lately. De-centralized networks is what our proposed DePaul makerspace network relies on. It’s an approach that allows silos to exist while gradually opening them up by networking them together. Connecting seemingly disparate ideas and giving them room to synthesize and grow together.


Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

Speaking at Thotcon – Hacking Conference Badges

As a reminder: I’ll be speaking at Thotcon this Friday from 2-4pm about hacking conference badges. Hope to see you there, and can’t wait to show you all what we’ve been working on with this year’s badge!


Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

TSW* Ep. 19 – Makerspaces at DePaul with Terry Steinbach and Betty Shanahan


Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus