Freeside Atlanta Questions for William Kaya Erbil
1. What do you think you can offer the space? (Skills, personality, a nice smile, etc.)
I am a trained chemist (Ph.D. UC Berkeley ‘09 – chemistry) who has spend ~seven years following obtaining my Ph.D. working in postdoctoral training in academia. Immediately after I finished my Ph.D. studies I dreamed about acquiring skills to help make science accessible to the general public. I ended up taking three years during the seven years after my Ph.D. to attend seminary (~1 year), work with refugees, and teach public school to get some experience in engaging the public. At present, I am see the interface of art and science as the place where I want to work. I am passionate about finding social and technical solutions to climate change. In addition to skills in chemistry, I love poetry. I think poetry can be put together with music to teach science. This is a current area of interest in my work, merging machines, science, and poetry. I love to teach and can teach classes. I was thinking of my first class being called “Biochemistry for Hackers” where the class would cover how to analyze DNA, protein, and RNA sequences and structures with cutting edge computer tools. I could introduce people in the Fireside community to the tools that academic researchers use to study these biological molecules.
2. What do you think the space can offer you? (New talent, social networking, space to work, etc.)
I think the space can offer a place to find networking opportunities with other creative hackers in the Atlanta area to work at the interface of art and science. I am passionate about giving more than I receive and would love to contribute what I know about science to the space. I feel that I can learn about computers and electronics from the space. I just bought a Raspberry Pi 3 and a Beaglebone and want to get proficient in their use in electronic sculpture. It is a very beautiful space that Fireside Atlanta offers and I hope to help maintain it. The new chemistry laboratory space might offer a good place to teach about chemistry. I could use some of the new chemistry equipment to do classes on herbal remedies for disease. I have an idea for a class on extracting essential oils from plants that I could do with the new chemistry glassware.
3. What are some current project you are working on/want to work on? (If you have past projects you’re proud of, now’s the time to boast too)
1. Solar Poem Machine:
The Solar Poem Machine translates and delivers poems from communities around the world impacted by climate change into American art museums.
In an ever shrinking world the arts provide a means of delivering messages across boarders, bringing people together via a shared appreciation of beauty and aesthetic virtue. The Solar Poem Machine is a mixed media work merging machine language translation, sculpture, and poetry into a piece that delivers messages submitted via a web app into American art museums. Channeling the principles of Maker culture, the skeleton of the Solar Poem Machine is constructed from an antique piece of computer hardware (e.g. Digital Equipment Corporation PDP-11).
The electronic infrastructure of the Solar Poem Machine is entirely powered by a solar panel, giving the piece the ability to exist entirely off the grid. Electric power derived from the solar
panel powers a smartphone hidden inside the skeleton of the machine loaded with a custom app based on Google Translate. The custom Google Translate based app accepts poems submitted from around the world via a web app and translates the poems into English for an American audience. The activity of strategically placed LEDs and motors in the Solar Poem Machine are triggered by the inflection of the translation voice through a microcontroller board connected to the smartphone, giving the viewer the illusion that the Solar Poem Machine is a conscious machine.
The Solar Poem Machine will showcase advances in machine translation software. While such software does not yet deliver perfect translations, particularly of complex language expressions such as poetry, it promises to lower the barrier to growing interactivity between Americans and the rest of the world. The Solar Poem Machine will have a computer terminal that gives audience members the ability to contribute human translations of submitted poems, correcting the errors made by the machine translator. In participating in poetry translation, members of the American public will be drawn into dialog with the world around the social and cultural consequences of climate change.
2. Zika Virus Repellent (Herbal Mosquito Repellent)
Herbs from urban gardens are extracted for their essential oils to make a natural DEET replacement. (Will write more soon…)
5. How did you find/get interested in the space?
I learned about the space from a friend in 2011, but it took me a couple of years to come. I worked for a couple more years in academia after finding about Freeside until I got to the point where I felt it was best to leave the ivory tower and pursue art full time. Now, I have a bunch of poems that I want to turn into a Solar Poem Machine art exhibit. I want to learn from folks at Fireside about the hacker lifestyle. I love the art vending machine project y’all did a while back and followed that online while it was in the works.
6.What classes would you be interested in seeing at the space? What might you be willing to teach?
I am interested in electronics and programming for preparation for the Solar Poem Machine. I would like to do a series of classes on biology, chemistry, and physics. My current interest in teaching a class called “Biochemistry for Hackers” as described above. I am also very interested in learning how to work a metal machining machine and to get skills in woodworking. The Solar Poem Machine will require a lot of work with metal and wood working so I hope to learn a lot about those areas of hacking.
7. What does the term ‘hackerspace’ mean to you?
The term hackerspace means a space where people come together collectively to empower each other in their individual projects for making the world a better place through creative design and making stuff. I see the hackerspace as a place where creative collective projects can be launched, as it offers a place for similarly minded people to meet and talk about new ideas. The hackerspace is also a great place of learning, outside traditional spaces like school, where people can learn by doing. The hacker culture is a culture of doing, where theory is important, but doing is the measure of accomplishment.