As a member of the AIAA San Francisco Section council, I’ve been exposed to a lot of aerospace-oriented groups that make themselves available to either specialists in aerospace or the general public. There is a wealth of such activity in the Bay area. It is a major challenge to catalog them all.
This page (and invariably the subpages to follow) are an attempt provide pointers to a broad range of them. This is my own initial attempt. But I suspect that it may someday be taken over by one of the organizations (most probably AIAA SF) and maintained on their site.
AIAA San Francisco Section
Mountain View, CA
“The San Francisco section of the AIAA serves about 1100 members of AIAA in the San Francisco Bay area. The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) is the world’s premier organization for professionals in aerospace and aeronautics.”
Silicon Valley Space Business Roundtable
Moffett Field, CA
“The Silicon Valley Space Business Roundtable (SVSBR) is an organization that encourages the growth and development of aerospace-related businesses in California’s Silicon Valley. We closely collaborate with for-profits, universities, other non-profit organizations and government agencies including NASA Ames Research Center.”
Mountain View, CA
The SETI Institute is a research institute focusing on astronomy and astrobiology. SETI stands for “search for extraterrestrial intelligence”, but that is not all they do. Many of the types of instruments which may be used for the SETI search can be used for pure astronomy.
Located a few miles away from NASA Ames, the SETI Institute holds a weekly colloquium on topics related to their work, and geared toward scientific peers. Often scientists from other institutions across the country are visiting, and may arrange to give in the colloquium. Talks are usually recorded and can be found on the SETI website.
Silicon Valley Space Center
The Silicon Valley Space Center (SVSC) is a non-profit business league committed to the acceleration of entrepreneurial business concepts in the developing NewSpace sector. Its mainline activities have been: (1) helping launch space-related start-ups through evaluation of their business and technology plans, and networking with potential legal and financial resources, (2) workshops that bring together space entrepreneurs, researchers, and business people from across the country, and (2) a series of local technical talks for “small payload entrepreneurs” co-sponsored with AIAA SF, providing regular networking and discussion for the local space entrepreneur and maker communities.
During 2013, SVSC was instrumental in the creation of the Moffett Federal Airfield Alliance (MFAA), answering a proposal call by NASA and the GSA to turn over management of the field to another organization.
Mountain View, CA
The Hacker Dojo bills itself as a “community center for hackers + thinkers”; it is a membership organization ($100/month), but members often sponsor programs which are open to the general public. It has large open spaces, an electronics prototyping area, a small machine shop, and a variety of large and small meeting spaces. They maintain a very active public calendar of events.
Menlo Park, San Jose, San Francisco
TechShop is a membership-based DIY workshop with lots of expensive machine shop tools that most individuals could never afford on their own. Some tools simply require a safety checkout; others require a course for a modest fee.
The TechShop started in Menlo Park, CA, but in the Bay area has spread to two other locations. The locations are not identical. Occasionally, a member will travel to another location to use tools that are only available there. Engineering students or teams often utilize TechShop for their projects.