One of the first things I noticed when I moved to Manchester over 4 years ago was the very active tech community outside the university – there were plenty of general geek meetups and various user groups for programming languages and technologies. But since then, this number has grown exponentially, with so many events in meetups in the city that it is almost impossible to keep track of what’s happening where and who is involved in what. Getting involved with user groups outside of uni is a fantastic opportunity for you to broaden your horizon or improve your skills, make contact with potential employers or colleagues, and show enthusiasm for your chosen subject, all while eating pizza and having chats with some brilliant and fun people.
To give you an idea of what to expect when you’re studying in Manchester and want to get involved in some tech action outside uni hours, here’s a short (and, most likely, incomplete) list of groups and meetups:
The MadLab is not only a building in the Northern Quarter which functions as a meeting place for various user groups, but it is also run by a bunch of amazing and incredibly enthusiastic geeks and makers, who have been running events since late 2009. If you’re in any way involved in technology in Manchester, you will end up here sooner or later.
Right. So, these are *some* of the groups that meet on a regular basis (monthly) in or around MadLab: Google Technology User Group, Free Software Foundation Europe, Drupal User Group, the Manchester Lambda Lounge (functional programming languages), Android Meetup, WordPress User Group, 3D Printer User Group, Linux User Group, Manchester Free Software, Open Data Manchester, Perl Mongers, XP Manchester (extreme programming), iOS Developers Group.
Manchester Girl Geeks organise events for girls and women who are interested in (and/or) work in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (I’m the chair of the group 🙂 ) We cover everything from “build a robot” to “mathematical origami” workshops, and run regular “Girl Geek Dinners” with some great female speakers.
Another fairly new meetup at MadLab, Ladies Who Code does what it says on the tin: It’s a meetup for girls and women who are into coding. The group is a mix of students, professional developers, and coding enthusiasts – a great place to meet, chat, and up your coding skills!
If you’re into games, this is the place to be! The game jams are full weekend hackathon style events where people get together to build games – both video games and board games!
HacMan first started out at the MadLab, but they recently moved to a bigger space on the same street. The hackspace offers a membership scheme which allows you 24 hour access to the workshop, storage space, and use of all the tools and machines at the space. Wednesday evening is their open night, where newbies are welcome to chat, work on projects, and eat pizza.
Fab Lab (not to be confused with MadLab) is a workshop just north of the city centre which provides access to laser cutters, a 3D printer, a CNC router, and other tools.
NWDC is a calendar and mailing list which tries to aggregate a number of tech events around Manchester and the North West. Sign up to stay tuned!
Another tech event calendar and newsletter for Manchester. They’ve only just started out (mid 2012), but they’re slowly growing to include more events in Manchester.
Phew. That was just a fraction of what’s *really* going on in Manchester – I hope some of those groups caught your interest. Now go and get active, get involved, meet people and up your skills!