My company in NYC was doing a community service day in the South Bronx. On the way there, I got waylaid on the street by a short older man who said in a thick Jackie Mason accent: "Young man! Do you want to learn electrical engineering?"Link
I was so intrigued that I followed him a few blocks away, past a whole bunch of disquieting, Wile E. Coyote-style "Free Technical School in basement: GO RIGHT IN! RIGHT THIS WAY!" signs, and found, basically, an underground maker's lair consisting of a big unimproved basement filled with chairs, boilers, and homemade electrical diagnostic devices. Plus LCD monitors mounted on the wall, CAT6 cable, and dry-erase boards filled with math. All the ingredients of a supervillain's lair. Except used in the service of creating more geeks.
I was terrified the whole time (South Bronx! Three stories underground! Genial elderly man who's spouting theories about biodiesel to passers-by!), but it turns out that he's teaching a highly employable skill, for free, to anyone with a clean police record in a depressed neighborhood.
There are some pictures here, if you want to see the "Free elec. school in basement go right in" signs for yourself.
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. His new book is Maker Dad: Lunch Box Guitars, Antigravity Jars, and 22 Other Incredibly Cool Father-Daughter DIY Projects