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Science

How to get into making and fixing your own gadgets

A Maker Faire, which is being dubbed Europe's first major event for learning about DIY technology has just kicked off in Rome. We take a look at some of the resources that people can use to get into DIY tech.

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Spurtbot has been working with students in the Rostock region for 13 years to help them become more enthusiastic about building their own gadgets and electronics.

"We want to help them see that electronics are very simple and that they don't need to be afraid of them," engineering professor Hartmut Pfueller told DW, noting that he founded Spurtbot as a way of getting more students excited about technology at a time when fewer and fewer people were enrolling for courses in his department.

As manufacturers build gadgets that are harder for consumers to open and fix on their own, Pfueller said it has become even more important to have such programs. As a result of closed electronics, there are several initiatives to help people hack and fix their own devices in the maker community - a subculture of DIY tech enthusiasts.

A man building an arducopter at the 2013 Maker Faire in Hanover

Drones are very popular in the maker community, but they prefer to use the word, "arducopter"

Makers have organized themselves and in several cities created hacker spaces - places where people meet to share ideas about how simple, everyday devices can be tweaked in order to perform other functions. Hackerspaces.org lists many such spaces all around the world where consumers can meet up to hack devices.

According to physicist and maker Mario Parade, the increasing number of hackers choosing to get together marks a change in DIY culture. "DIY is the first step. I make things alone and the second step is sharing that knowledge with others and making things together," he told DW.

Parade is the founder of a so-called fab lab (fabrication laboratory) where people can meet not only to exchange ideas, but also to get access to 3D printers, scanners, laser cutters and other tools to make or hack devices.

The maker community, however, also works to finds ways of fixing devices that are broken. Repair Cafés have sprung out all around Germany, but the idea originally comes from the Netherlands. And for those who don't feel like waiting for the next Repair Café, there's always ifixit.com online, which offers DIY guides on how to repair all kinds of electronics ranging from appliances to cameras and game consoles to hand-held drills.

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