Intellectual curiosity is rewarded

Ever heard of what is called “hacker space”? If not, then it’s high time. One of our colleagues applied for Krones AG’s CSR scholarship on behalf of a hacker space – the non-profit-making organisation Binary Kitchen Regensburg. The organisation’s members aim to educate people about technology and the digital world. An innovative approach, says Krones, and is supporting the project with 5,000 euros.

But let’s start at the beginning: what exactly is the CSR scholarship? Peter Steger, our colleague from the CSR-Team, explains:

“CSR” stands for Corporate Social Responsibility – to put it briefly: everything here revolves around the issue of sustainability at Krones. And this relates not only to sustainable business and the company’s ecological responsibility, but also, of course, to respectful dealings with people – including clients, staff, and the public as a whole. So twice a year Krones awards the CSR scholarship. Our employees have an opportunity here to apply for the scholarship on behalf of an club, an institution or an organisation of their choice – ideally from the fields of social work, culture, science or the natural environment.”

And because this time the one-off subsidy of 5,000 euros was going to the Binary Kitchen, we naturally enough wanted to know what sort of organisation it was, and what purposes the donation would be put to. Clemens Grünewald, one of the organisation’s members and mentors, explains.

Binary Kitchen – what precisely is it?

Clemens Grünewald: The Binary Kitchen is what’s called a hacker space. Six years ago there was a veritable boom in Germany: because during this period a hacker space was set up in almost every city – like the Binary Kitchen in Regensburg. The term denotes quite simply an actual room in which hackers or anyone interested can enjoy mutual feedback about science, technology or digital art. Because we’re a non-profit-making organisation, we are not pursuing any money-making goals. What we’re really committed to is adult education – particularly in the field of information technology and the new technologies. The Binary Kitchen is located in the Walderdorffstrasse in Regensburg. There, our participants can chat away undisturbed, and unleash their creativity on their projects. Meanwhile, we even have two rooms at our disposal almost opposite each other on the same street. This is convenient, because we were able to separate our carpentry workshop, where it’s always noisy and dusty, from the electrician’s workshop.

Quite specifically, what topics and projects are you offering in your organisation?

Clemens Grünewald: Basically, there are no limits to the ideas involved. We offer soldering courses, for instance, and various workshops for woodworking. We also address technical questions like: what can artificial intelligence do? Or: what is cloud computing? To put it briefly, we simply want to know how certain things actually work. The salient feature of a hacker space is that here there are people with specialised knowledge. So you can find an expert on almost any field, enabling us to offer presentations and workshops from all sorts of different specialisms. A few weeks ago, for example, one of our members, a lawyer, gave a talk on the DSGVO (the EU’s Basic Data Protection Regulation). And on the next day, though, we ourselves make soap out of beef kidney fat. At the moment, we’re building hives, because we want to try our hand at beekeeping. Quite generally, what we do is user-generated, which means our participants suggest for themselves what they would like to try out or share with others. This also means, of course, that we need a large inventory of tools. These include soldering stations, welding apparatus, 3D printers or a CNC milling machine, which we printed out with a 3D printer ourselves, by the way. This enables us to offer adults an opportunity to try things out for themselves, and discover something new every week.

That sounds as if the Binary Kitchen is a truly diverse bunch of people. Or are you addressing a particular target group?

Clemens Grünewald: No, we don’t have a particular target group. We’re a really diverse group of people: students, engineers, lawyers, computer scientist and many others. Some of them find it relaxing after a day at work, and enjoy being able to develop their talents. We show people that there’s lots you can make for by yourself instead of buying it. What I would also like to emphasise is this: currently we have around 95 permanent members, who have access to the premises at all times, but we also give non-members an opportunity to work with our tools and materials. This is why, on the first Saturday of every month, we offer what we call an Open Lab: this means that anyone can drop by, take a look at our hacker space, and try out the equipment, of course. On Monday evenings, too, we open our doors to everyone: this tends to involve social events, like mutual feedback, or cooking a meal together. And because it’s so important to us to share our knowledge with the world, we make everything we do available on our website and our social media with free-of-charge instructions.

To finish up with, can you reveal to us what you’ll be using the 5,000-euro donation for?

Clemens Grünewald: We’ve been planning for some time now to buy a laser cutter. You know: lots of people have a saw at home, a few will have a 3D printer too, but normally no one has a laser cutter. So we want to offer people an opportunity to work with a specialised device like this, and we also hope, of course, to trigger some interest among newcomers as well. Because the laser cutter is very expensive at 8,000 euros, and we have so far saved only just under 2,000 euros ourselves, we’re absolutely delighted with the donation. We thought we wouldn’t see this dream come true for another three years, but thanks to the CSR scholarship, the purchase of a laser cutter is finally within reach. So we’re extremely grateful to Krones AG.

You will find more information on the Binary Kitchen here.