The Book Tie-In: Hackstudio

February 24, 2016

This is the first in a series of posts highlighting important businesses or areas in Evanston.

HackstudioYou wouldn’t think that at the age of 37 a person could become a curmudgeon, but there is at least one area in which slot neatly into the definition.  Hacking.  It’s not that I don’t like it or think it’s a bad idea.  It’s that I haven’t quite internalized the phrase itself.  Hacking.  It sounds like something my cat once did, not the cusp of the new Maker movement.

For the uninitiated (of which I count myself one) here’s a quickie crash course. The New Yorker wrote a piece in 2014 called A Short History of “Hack” which proceeds to explain what the term means to us today.  Appearing in the lexicon as early as 1955, “it derives from a verb that first appeared in English around 1200, meaning to ‘cut with heavy blows in an irregular or random fashion,’ as the Oxford English Dictionary defines it.”  To hack something is to rethink and reimagine it.  Maybe to approach it in a new way.

All this brings us to Hackstudio, here in Evanston. If you’ve driven up Green Bay Road on your way to Wilmette, you might have noticed a garage-like structure with its lovely big sign out front.  Inside you encounter a cavernous space full of activity.  What precisely is going on?  Never the same thing twice.  A visit to their website may raise more questions than answers, so I’ll try to explain what the place is here.

Imagine that there was a location where kids could go to make stuff, come up with ideas, and basically create create create.  Whether it’s a birdhouse or a piece of art or a new invention, you’re going to need space and supplies, right?  You’re probably going to need some help as well.  Imagine there’s a place to do that.  Now there is, and it’s way more than just Shop Class.

The site describes itself this way: “Hackstudio is a program in Evanston, Illinois where kids come together with their supportive peers for two hours every week to learn how to succeed by being who they are. Kids define their own projects from scratch, work to get them done and learn who they are by confronting the obstacles they encounter along the way.”  And for the projects, “Kids can choose literally ANYTHING. The important thing to us is that kids’ projects are pointed in a direction they really want to go. Our program has been painstakingly designed to help kids connect with who they are so they can connect who they are with the world. Without the freedom to explore exactly what matters to them, that process gets constrained.”

Sure, they’ll supply that help, but there are some rules in place.  Everyone helps with everyone else’s project.  This is a collaborative space and while you may walk in with just your own project in mind, soon you’ll be making connections with other people and their projects.  And that’s the kind of thing that leads to experimentation and new ideas.

The site is good but I was pleased to see that they even have a Booklist of titles, saying, “We recommend these titles to anyone looking to dive deeper into the concepts that built Hackstudio.”  Happily, you can pick up most of these here at Evanston Public Library.  Here are ten starter titles you get from EPL:

A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future by Daniel H. Pink


Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown

Daring Greatly

Drive : The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink


The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything by Ken Robinson


Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity by Andrew Solomon

Far From the Tree

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi


The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to be and Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown

Gifts of Imperfection

Hacking Your Education: Ditch the Lectures, Save Tens of Thousands, and Learn More Than Your Peers Ever Will by Dale J. Stephens

Hacking Your Education

The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom: [Why the Meaningful Life is Closer Than You Think] by Jonathan Haidt

Happiness Hypothesis

I Thought It Was Just Me: Women Reclaiming Power and Courage in a Culture of Shame by Brené Brown

I Thought It Was Just Me

Finally, keep up with the Hack Studio blog here.

Mystery solved.


Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.

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