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News, Stories | 25 June 2021

Culture Near You: Jeffrey Roe from Tog Hackerspace

Jeffrey testing a bubble machine at a Tog event

Jeffrey testing a bubble machine at a Tog event

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Culture Near You is an online map of culture in Dublin.

From arts and heritage, to sports, nature, food, hobbies, community involvement and more - the map helps you find the places where culture happens and the people who make it happen.

We’re constantly adding to this cultural map so we get to meet lots of the great people featured, and we thought you might like to meet them too!

We’re meeting the makers, the movers and shakers, the partakers, and the doers of the map - to find out more about what they do in the city.

You can find out more about Culture Near You and how to get involved here.

Meet Jeffrey Roe

Jeffrey is the founder of Tog Hackerspace, a makers space in Dublin that has been running for over 12 years. It offers a unique opportunity for makers from all walks of life to explore and further their skills - from tech, to beer brewing, boat building, and beyond.

We sat down with Jeffrey to learn more.

Can you tell us a bit about Tog Hackerspace?

So we're a community and makerspace, we have over 100 members. We've been going now for 12 and a half years. We cater for people who want to make things - and that can be anything from software to crocheting, knitting, welding. If people want to learn more about digital fabrication and things like laser cutters and 3D printers, they can do that here. We have people brewing beer and building boats - lots of different sorts of activities!

Tog also featured on the RTÉ show Big Life Fix - could you tell us a little bit about that experience?

It was great being the host location for Big Life Fix. We had two of our members were the fixers Shane, and Niamh, and I even got in on the fixing part, helping David McKeown with some of his stuff! But it was great fun overall.

How did the idea for Tog come about?

So I've been a part of another organization for about 15 years, and it's been going on for over 20 years, called Dublin 2600. They meet up once a month, and talk about information security, software and that sort of thing. A couple of us at the event, we're more interested in the hardware side - we were building Wi Fi antennas out of tubes of Pringles, building LED displays back when you used to have to make all the PCBs and stuff yourself. So we were going to that organization and bringing along all this hardware stuff. And we were saying “Oh, wouldn't it be great if we had another place where we could do this more often”. And then it kind of crystallized when we went to a conference in 2009, in December in Berlin, and we went to C Base, which is a hackerspace over there. And once we kind of got a name for the thing that we've been talking about for months, we came back home and in January set it up.

How did you come up with the name for Tog?

So we're originally going to go with Tóg - which in Irish can mean “to build”. And then we thought it would be difficult to put a fáda in a domain name, so then we just went with Tog. And then Tog is also the unit of the insulation, like on your duvet!

Do you have any standout or memorable moments from the last 12 years?

I guess one of the big ones that I was involved with and that was great fun was the giant duck that we built. So it was just under three meters long - the inside of it was a mobility scooter and then we built a frame around it. We got the crafters to help us put fabric to make a yellow skin around it and it also had a giant papier-mache duck head! We brought it to events like the big day out in Merrion Square. We brought it to the UK to a few science festivals and to Dublin Maker that year. It was just one of the biggest, most eye-catching projects that we've done and it got a great reception.

Do you have a favorite invention of all time?

I guess the most obvious one that comes to mind would be the internet - modern communications. If we didn't have the internet, I'm not sure our economy would have survived this pandemic. It's the great communicator and removes the barrier to entry from people who want to publish their ideas, thoughts and projects. It's a great equalizer and allows all these other people to connect, and has allowed me to connect to the original 2600 community, which got me into a lot more hardware making and electronics.

If you had a dream project, or like an ultimate invention that you could work on, what would it be?

I guess because I studied engineering, I'd like to work on a large civil project would be my biggest dream. I'm working at the moment on projects down in Dakar in Senegal - we're working on building systems to help modernize their ports. So I'm always interested in these kind of big infrastructural projects. Like this one in the ports - it's critical infrastructure, it's how people get their food in and out of the country. So yes, really working on these kind of large infrastructure projects is real big thing for me.

What advice would you have if somebody might like to explore making things a tech but they aren't sure where to start?

Join a group, socialize. There's a meetup on every topic now - if you're interested in Python, if you're interested in woodworking, woodturning, crafting. What I found was, with these projects - you see them on the internet and that can be a bit isolating, and new people tend to get imposter syndrome and they don't know they can achieve, but these other people were beginners themselves. So I really encourage people to join social groups around the activities and then they'll get to know people that understand that there's beginners there, too and there's so much help. I really like this whole peer to peer learning aspects of these kinds of social meetup groups that really kind of push people on to get them started in the whole making scene.

If somebody would like to get involved with Tog, how, what's the best way for them to go about that?

So at the moment, the best thing is that there's our website. We have lots of virtual events now. So we have virtual crafting events, virtual coding, and Wikimedia editing. We even have virtual science fiction book club, all kinds of virtual events since we've been dealing with restrictions.

What are you most looking forward to in the weeks and months ahead?

Well one of my big passions is science communication. I've been involved a lot with Engineers Ireland and doing engineering outreach. And when we founded TOG one of the big things I always wanted to do was [focus on] science communication. And I think in the last 10 years, Tog has been involved in Science Week, Engineers Week and lots of these. In the months ahead I hope to get back into the workshop so I can work on various projects that showcase some science concepts. Then use these at outreach events such as Maker Faire Rome later in the year.

What's your favorite thing to do in Dublin?

I love going to the Science Gallery. I think the hybrid mix of art and science - these two communities bring different ideas and aspects to it. I always love going along to their openings and their events. Or the second one would be the Chester Beatty Library. Always great to visit and it has such a great collection.

Bio

Jeffrey Roe is a software/hardware engineer. For the last number of years, he has been building hardware and coding for public transport systems from bike-share schemes, parking and port traffic access management systems. In his spare time, he likes to make crazy projects like bubble machines, bone conduction, IoT projects and anything with LEDs in it. A big fan of getting people making, he co-runs ‘Dublin Maker’ an annual maker showcase festival and Dublin’s Hackerspace Tog. He is a member of Engineers Ireland and servers on their council.