Arab American White House Delegation Inspires Egyptian Maker Space Project

Maker Spaces in Egypt


This post documents the birth of my current project. You can read about it here in this grant proposal to USAID.

Last Wednesday I had the privilege of attending a meeting between Arab American business and representatives from the White House, including people from USAID and the U.S. Small Business Administration. It really seems like the current administration appreciates the value that the business community and especially the Arab American business community can provide when it comes to their goals in the Middle East.

The last time I was there it was mentioned that one of their overarching goals of all their programs was to support stable countries. The reasoning behind which is that they will be less prone to violence and a better economic partner. Also, the tactic of supporting the countries economically makes sense as a way towards these goals. Thus, the Arab American Business Council took place to investigate ways the government can support these business people in developing the MENA (Middle East and Africa) region.

Thinking hard about what I had to offer this august crowd I considered my perspectives on the middle east. Remembering the fear in my cousins eyes in Syria, the lack of hope and self determination. Contrasting that with the attitudes I found around the country with my project The Two Hands Project, a documentary tour of maker spaces throughout North America. Those people were proactive, concerned about their community, building these spaces of empowerment for themselves and others. They were sharing tools, collaborating on projects, and changing their world by building it. It seemed strange to me that of all places in the world MENA was lacking maker spaces when they have the right ingredients. Watching the twitter feed of passionate egyptians setting up a physical space at Tahrir Square within which they organize, support the movement I was inspired.

Recalling Nick Farr’s project Hackers on a Plane trip and the massive impact it had on the hacker space / maker space community in the United States I started to plan in that inspirational route. When he left in 2007 there were a handfull of spaces, but that first crew of three interested people going to see with their own eyes the spaces in Europe inspired the group which included, Mitch Altman of Noisebridge, Bre Pettis of NYC Resistor, and Nick Farr of HacDC to start their respective spaces.

Noisebridge hacker space
Noisebridge hacker space in San Francisco

Knowing that these spaces existed for more than 30 years in Europe before having a sudden growth in popularity in the US makes really shows the power of a few inspired individuals and the open sourced manner in which how they started the spaces were published. You can see an early manual here: Hacker Space Design Patterns. This manual helped propel the growth of hacker spaces to over 50 when I decided to tour them in 2009 (two years later we’re over 500). We used this guide for the space we started in Ann Arbor MI called All Hands Active.

The last piece of the puzzel for this project fell into place when I called Willow Burgh a Seattle based organizer of the non profit organization The School Factory. The School Factory’s program The Space Federation’s mission is “to provide financial and organizational support to open communities in shared physical spaces who use innovative methods and technology in hands-on education.” And to this end they are hosting a Space Camp summit in Milwaukee. The objective of Space Camp is to distill the knowledge gained from 4 years of rapid growth of these collaborative community building spaces and to share it with those doing the same. This will be an unprecedented gathering of organizers of maker spaces and would be the perfect introduction to an inspiring movement.

Maker Faire Africa
Maker Faire Africa 2011

I thought about Maker Faire Africa happening in Cairo in October 2011 and all the makers that would be there. Knowing that the only hackerspace in Cairo on the list is virtual I thought that it would be ideal to go to Maker Faire Africa, survey Cairo and Alexandria for interested people, compile a twitter list of interesting hackers in the area and  if possible bring them to see what is possible by touring maker spaces in the US, starting with Space Camp in early 2012.

That my friends is how I started my USAID grant proposal. Please read it here and give me comments on this shared doc. While I was in the Eisenhower Building I was introduced to two USAID representatives who were interested in my concept. I’ve submitted my pre-proposal (they normally don’t take unsolicited proposals) and am currently waiting for a response. Judging from the US Department of State’s Global Entrepreneurship Program I think that this is a project that would certianly be of interest to the United States and their current policies of encouraging entrepreneurhsip.

The Arab American White House Delegation

If you are interested in this project I’m looking for help in any way you can think of. Let me know how you can help us bring the empowering maker space concept to Cairo first, then the rest of MENA.

Laser cutter – Etched brooks seats and more!

Sputnik is my new laser cutter! He arrived at my doorstep and I couldn’t but take it in. I’m pretty excited and have been experimenting with it fairly non stop. Sputnik is a 40 Watt laser cutter from Full Spectrum Engineering, I won it in a recent competition of theirs. I must say, for the price, it’s an amazing bit of equipment.

Sputnik is a beauty enhancing product. Things that look beautiful are often greatly enhanced with some laser etching. So I took a Brooks Saddle and etched it. I think it came out beautifully. What do you think?

Brooks seat looking good with some etching

Modati and UV ink at Spring 2010 Collection at the gallery project

2010 spring gallery project runway shot

Spring 2010 Collection description at at The Gallery Project

From the release:

The 27 local, regional and national artists have created their own collection line or individual pieces specifically for the exhibition, and have made work that will be modeled on the catwalk show during the opening reception. Artists explore the myriad influences and contexts of fashion, investigating issues such as identity and values, innovation and retrogression, trends and fads, materialism and consumption, high and low fashion, globalism and regionalism, thrift, reusing, recycling and reclaiming.

We participated in the runway showcasing our new UV fluorescing inks and in Basement6 doing live silkscreening. It was really cool to be able to finally present my own home town with the stuff we’ve been pitching all over the country. If you want to come hang out, we’ll be printing live every Saturday till Jan 11 from 6-9 if you want to get something made, bring by your clothing, we’ll print on it for free!

With Punch.

Actively Articulating Awesome in Ann Arbor

My Biometric Data
My Biometric Data

There is a lot going on. Let me show you it. These are a few of the projects I’m working on RIGHT NOW!

WreckLab / MakeLab is a class I’m proposing around town in which people take apart the things that mystify them, learn how the component parts work, then put them back together in novel ways. The idea is to empower people with the knowledge of everyday objects they mistake for magic. Cell phone: magic. Refrigerators… majick. Printers: sorcery!! Having the knowledge of the inner workings of their thingsgives people more ownership over the stuff they buy. If your watch breaks, you’re not out all the parts, you can use that stuff! Also there’s the potential for fixing it yourself.

There is the hope that more happens, that through this destructive and constructive play people find themselves inspired to experiment, to realize that science is done by people solving their own problems. That a playful experimenting mind is a fun thing to cultivate, and who knows what fun hacks we’ll develop along the way!

Radioactive Boardgame Free will and chance, these are things I’ve been thinking about ever since I was introduced to the concept of reductionism. I’d really like to see more large scale things controlled by quantum and subatomic weirdness. It is disappointing to know that something mysterious exists that has the potential to give life true randomness and in my opinion adds a fair serving of intrigue then realize that as it aggregates all the fun random effects blend out to your last choice at Wendy’s (you got something from the dollar menu). So I’ve built a scintillator using Zinc Sulfide and Americium and in absolute darkness I can see subatomic particles exploding off and shooting out individual photons. It looks like static (coooooool). What I would like to do with this is develop a way to amplify it singularly to make decisions for a board game. No idea what the game will be, maybe I’ll make it a SMS based application where you ask it a question and it replies with an answer selected by ATOMS.

Biometric data link with my online and audio inputs. I’d like to see if there’s a correlation between my blood pressure and the websites I visit regularly.

It’s now late and I have a letter to write. So I’ll just name a few others: UV graffiti, RGB UV plastic based inks, refillable spray paint cans (found some), laser projector, The Two Hands Project, and starting a hackerspace in Ann Arbor called All Hands Active.

Also, I’m working at a preschool.
-Bilal Ghalib

AHA! All Hands Active Maker Space Now Open!

All Hands Active Ate Your Leg

Awesome news! I’m proud to announce that Ann Arbor’s Maker Space is now with name! All Hands Active [AHA] has a good flow and ring to it. But for me I feel it implies immediate action, a hands on / personal feel, and community involvement and these are three things that I think are critical.

Our twitter page is: All Hands Active Twitter
Facebook: All Hands Active Facebook
Address: 525 E. Liberty Ann Arbor MI

Our build nights happen every thursday at 7:22 -> Sleep O’clock. Which reminds me! Why don’t you join us today!
AHA build night RSVP

See you soon!

Maker/Hackerspace Tour 2009 on JetBlue is a Documentary on Maker/Hackerspaces that will be shot in a month during a whirlwind tour of as many USA spaces as possible on the JetBlue 600$ anywhere anytime ticket!

JetBlue is offering a 599$ ticket for a month of unlimited travel. We can hop around the entire country visiting spaces for 600$ and a few couches. This is a project waiting to happen. I’m also looking for any exciting film makers and funding, check for more info and to donate / be a part of this trip.



New Inks and Designs

At Modati Clothing we’ve been experimenting with new inks and techniques including:

  1. Photochromatic
  2. Thermochromatic
  3. Fluorescent
  4. Phosphorescent
  5. Hand Dying Fabrics

All these inks combined with fresh talent Ala Sadie Scheffer and what do you have? A whole new series of shirts rolling out, you can check out our new website at I’m really excited about the interactivity of our new inventory. Products like the thermochromatic potholders that change to indicate their states (they catch fire when they get hot) and the mood shirt, which appears to change moods depending on if it’s bright and sunny out, or dark and scary.

It’s interesting to see how important design is to us, if you consider the fact that you are simply an aggregate of sensory inputs through time, every object you encounter becomes a part of you. So let’s keep making beautiful things, so like the girl, we can keep a bright sky above and smiles on our faces.



So I’m currently living with my friend Alex in Cambridge. He’s leaving in a few days to go to Brazil, but I think I’ve arranged a new spot to lay my head. I’m just starting a new job with a startup doing some Ruby/Rails programming, and I drive a moped around town. It’s beautiful:Garelli

Project based posting maybe be slow, but there’s some new programming snippets on their way here. Be good.

Yours in awesome