Defense Department Funds High School “Hackerspaces”

A new $10 million federal program is bringing “hackerspaces” to high schools, the New York Times reports. Hackerspaces are community groups for hackers to build and invent technology (and take things apart). They are considered incubators for innovation and a major part of the DIY movement—but the high school program has sparked some controversy.

A new $10 million federal program is bringing “hackerspaces” to high schools, the New York Times reports. Hackerspaces are community groups for hackers to build and invent technology (and take things apart). They are considered incubators for innovation and a major part of the DIY movement—but the high school program has sparked some controversy. These experimental workshops are funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa), and many fear that the Defense Department’s role will steer young hackers toward military projects.

But Darpa funding has already contributed to the development of the Internet and GPS, proponents point out, and it plays an essential role in keeping the U.S. at the forefront of computer science and engineering. Darpa also awarded a $3.5 million grant to Techonomy favorite TechShop. (See TechShop’s Mark Hatch talk about the DIY economy at Techonomy Detroit here.) The partnership will enable TechShop to open two new locations, and it gives Darpa employees access to TechShop equipment after the workshop closes to the public at midnight. As depicted in Erick Schonfeld’s recent article for Techonomy, TechShop is a space where gearheads and techies can build their most whimsical inventions—hardly a breeding ground for the military industrial complex.

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