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Archive for the ‘Maker Spaces’ Category

“Founding a Hackerspace”

I found a report about hackerspaces that was written by three students for a college project.  In my opinion it’s almost a must read for anyone who is interested in starting a hacker or maker space.

Two of the authors wrote it for scholarly reasons and the third because he wanted to start a for-profit hackerspace. It’s not dated but it looks like from the bibliography that it was written during or after November 2010. The sixty nine page PDF has three parts:

  • Its main section describes the history of hacking and hackerspaces and how they’re evolving.  It also lists some resources for learning more about hackerspaces
  • It gives the replies to questionnaires they submitted to five hackerspaces: Noisebridge, Hacker Dojo, BUILDS, Sprouts (defunct?) and NYC Resistor.
  • And it includes the business plan for MakeIt Labs, a for-profit hackerspace that is now located in Nashua NH.

I haven’t studied the business plan enough yet to say how helpful it will be to us.  But I think the answers to the questionnaires are fascinating.  They asked good questions and got some great replies.

  • Do you call it a hackerspace? Do you use the term hackerspace? If so, what do you feel that term means?
  • What are the demographics of your hackerspace (age, professional/ education background, etc.)?
  • How did the hackerspace start?
  • What is the management structure like?
  • Are you a formal business entity? If so, what kind? (LLC, Corp, non-profit status, etc)
  • How do you deal with liability? What kind of insurance do you have? How much of your operating budget do you spend on insurance percentage-wise?
  • What are legal problems you’ve faced, if any?
  • What are your sources of income? If you charge members, how much? Are there special discounts for poorer members?
  • What are some regular activities if you have any? Do you charge?
  • What is your relationship with the public?
  • What is your relationship with other local hackerspaces?

By the way.  While getting the link to Hacker Dojo I noticed they’re trying to raise $250,000 (yes, a quarter of a million dollars) to “Save the Dojo.” They’re going to use the money to renovate their building and eliminate some fire and zoning code issues that prevent them from having large events.  So far they’ve reached almost half their goal and have received some huge donations ($20K, $15K, $10K).

BuildMore Workshop

BuildMore Workshop thinks of itself like a fitness club. Members of the community can come in, utilize the thousands of dollars of equipment the club owns and socialize with others who share their interest. Except instead of treadmills and free weights BuildMore Workshop has professional grade tools.

The club, located in suburban Columbus, Ohio, has a mix of metal and woodworking machines along with plenty of power outlets and pneumatic hookups. It strives to be part-workshop, part-classroom, with a front lab filled with computer stations, reference materials and electronics. The space gives members a place to learn more about how to use the equipment, study new projects, brainstorm with the others using the area and just take a break and relax.

The focus of BuildMore Workshop is on woodworking and metalworking projects, so while there is a range of mills, saws and drill presses, there isn’t really anything for people looking to embroider or sew. But though the focus is tighter than some other do-it-all makerspaces, the arsenal of tools is not. It has machines of all sizes made to fit any project, and even two different CNC mills, one smaller and the other a larger vertical one.

BuildMore Workshop makes projects easy for its members, keeping a variety of the materials they need. Members don’t have to work about lugging in things like lumber, nuts and bolts or hardware products, as these are all provided. The workshop even keeps scrap parts for members to tinker around with, and if members can’t find what they need BuildMore Workshop will order the part from its exclusive industrial supplier.

The workshop is a bit different from other makerspaces in that it offers members expert help. Professional designers are available to help members learn about some of the more technical aspects, creating 3D computer models or working prototypes for their ideas. BuildMore Workshop also has its own robotics lab, a place where members can see a real industrial control system at work. The workshop encourages members to bring their children along to see how the robots work and get interested in engineering.

BuildMore Workshop aims to be more than a resource for its members. The club offers classes on workshop safety and opens its doors to events like Boy Scout meetings, craft fairs and robotics clubs. People interested in becoming members can look over pictures of projects other members have created on the BuildMore Workshop website. There they can also follow links to online resources, videos and blueprints to give them new project ideas.

Maker Works

Maker Works wants to be more than just a space for hobbyists to work on projects and socialize. The club, located in Ann Arbor, Michigan aims to help give a boost to the local economy by encouraging members who want to start craft-related businesses, adding what the club calls “micro-manufacturing” to the area.

Club organizers say the mission is especially important in the Ann Arbor and Detroit area, hit hard in past decades by the departure of automakers and manufacturing plants. The club sponsors a series called Crafting the Small Business that teaches the logistics of running a craft-based business. Participants can work with experts from around southeastern Michigan, including consultants, instructors and sellers.

Maker Works has workshops for metal, circuits, wood and crafts, each with benches and tables along with plenty of electrical outlets. Each area in the club’s open floorplan has top-of-the-line tools, like a Clausing Colchester Engine Lathe and Tormach CNC Mill in the metalworking area. The craft section has a MakerBot 3-D Printer and an Epilog 50W Laser Cutter, one of the club’s most popular tools. The club helps make work easier and more efficient for members, providing an online calendar where there can sign in and reserve tools for certain times. It even has a conference room with a whiteboard and digital projector where local maker groups can hold meetings.

Maker Works also offers different classes and camps to members, including Brain Monkeys camp, which encourages young students to learn robotics. In the summer Maker Works hosts three resident artists from the area to work in studios, giving them a chance to use the tools they might not otherwise afford. The club trains them on tools they are not familiar with and offers storage space and access to computer software. At the end of the summer the residents showcase their work to the public during an evening lecture.

The Detroit Techshop’s Collaboration with Ford

What is a Maker space? In layman’s terms, it is a huge clubhouse for inventor types.  In more technical, correct terminology, it is a common physical location (as opposed to cyberspace on the internet), for craftsman, artists, inventors and “makers” of all things to congregate and work.  It is a place where they can collaborate; share ideas, knowledge, and resources; socialize; work on projects or inventions; with access to a large variety of tools, training and equipment.

A “Dream Maker Space” is the Detroit Techshop, which anyone can join and use.  It has developed a partnership with the Ford Motor Company that allows Ford employees to use TechShop’s facility and equipment for work or personal projects. Ford has strong hopes it will be a catalyst for economic recovery, new jobs and business for Detroit.

TechSpace is currently located in five cities and they’re getting ready to open a new one in Brooklyn.  Their Detroit facility has 17,000 square feet and houses $750,000 worth of laser cutters, 3-D printers, CNC machines and tools of all kinds.  In addition, TechSpace has “Dream Consultants” on hand to give advice and act as sounding boards. It is indeed an elite maker space facility.

Ford believes prototypes are taken more seriously than designs that are only on paper, and Ford executives, suppliers and the community are more apt to pay attention to them. Patent disclosures are up an impressive 30-percent since they launched the program.  They say the patents are usually for the common and greater good; to be shared with all industries.

Whether a member of the Detroit Techshop is a young college graduate of engineering or art, or an industry person, an inventor or even a hobbyist, young or old, the tools and opportunities are there to build a dream.

QC Co-Lab

The Quad Cities area, a stretch of Mideastern Iowa and Northwest Illinois with five major metropolitan regions, is a hotbed of artistic activity and a growing technical sector. These qualities combine make the perfect setting for a makerspace and QC Co-Lab has created just that.

Created in March 2010, this non-profit organization is meant to be “a haven for technologists, entrepreneurs, engineers, educators and hobbyists to meet and create their wildest dreams.” It operates out of a 4,000-square-foot space with industrial and electrical workshops, dedicated conference rooms, an audio-visual studio and a classroom.

Though it may be newer, the club is working hard to gain a strong foothold in the area and promote creativity between many other groups. It wants to build strong relationships with other makerspaces, and tries to entice members of other groups in by offering them free t-shirts or coffee mugs if they bring one from their own club. QC Co-Lab also tries to stretch its reach beyond just makerspace projects. In the fall it is hosting a multi-day video game tournament where teams compete to finish levels of the MegaMan series. Classes offered at QC Co-Lab also run the gamut of interests, like a screen printing class held earlier this year where participants made their own t-shirt designs.

Members of QC Co-Lab get round-the-clock access to the space, and the club gives ample opportunities for non-members to check it out as well. Dues are $35 per month for an individual or $45 for a family.

A Love Letter to Plywood

This is the most interesting video you’ll probably ever see about plywood. The Rochester Maker space will not only have a table saw (with a blade guard) for cutting it, but also a CNC router for cutting out very intricate shapes that would be difficult to make with manual tools

7hills Makerspace

Tucked away in an old Masonic Temple in Rome, Ga., the 7hills Makerspace is a non-profit group that allows members to come together and share tools and resources in a close community. The workshop brings together a collection of artists, engineers, economic developers and even business people to work on projects.

Following in the tradition of its Masonic home, the organization requires that new members be “sponsored” by two existing members. The club has a slate of open meetings and events in its space to give newcomers a chance to check it out and meet other members. Once they become members, they pay dues and receive a key to have full-time access to the space, though 7hills Makerspace notes it can terminate memberships of people who “flake out, go bonkers, embarrass 7hills” or engage in other kinds of disrespectful behavior. It’s clear the club strives for a tight-knit community of people looking to help one another grow in their skills.

Though the club keeps the spirit loose, the equipment at 7hills Makerspace is serious. They have a 40W laser cutter/engraver that can cut wood and acrylic up to 1/4-inch thick, a 12×12 CNC router, a MakerBot 3-D printer, a computerized sewing/embroidery machine and much more. In all the collection has tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment. And the tools themselves aren’t the only cool part about the shop. It is an open, bright space with room for sitting and reading books about various aspects of design that it keeps in a library. There is even a large-screen television for watching the instructional videos and DVDs that the club keeps.

7hills Makerspace is as active online as it is in the shop. The organization maintains a website with frequent updates about events and projects along with technical resources and links to neighboring maker spaces and clubs. One member made a recent post about how he learned to operate the laser engraver, using it to carve a design into the cover of his cell phone. The organization also has a fairly active presence in social media, keeping an e-mail group and pages on Facebook and Twitter that, unlike many other clubs, actually post updates and links to relevant articles.

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