Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Searching for the Long Lost Idea

So today is my last post for my school project. I want to thank all of those people who checked on my blog often. This was a great experience, and I hope I helped you. I am not sure if I am going to continue this and keep updating it, or not. It probably will not be updated until after the summer either way though, because I am heading to the University of Georgia. But I thought I would leave you all with some helpful advice and links about projects. We all can have times where we just have no ideas. These are great places for you to get inspiration, and make something awesome.
Probably the handiest piece of updated information for a maker is MAKE: Magazine. They are the Wall Street Journal of the Maker Movement, and constantly have pages upon pages of great projects, ideas, and tips for makers. I cannot stress how great this magazine is. Here is the link to their website, with their blog, and forums. These are also great places to look, because you get much more stuff on the blog, and you have a ton of support from people on the forums.

Another great website is This site has millions of user submitted pages in all sorts of categories, teaching you how to make and do things. From tying a bowtie to making a fire-breathing jack o’ lantern, you can find anything on there, and it is a great place to browse for ideas and solutions. Instructables does a great job of meeting a lot of interests, while supplying a great community and a way to make your projects worldwide.

Another great place to get ideas, help, equipment, and projects is a makerspace. These places constantly have people coming in working on projects, looking for help, or looking to help you. It is a great support system to any maker. If you are looking for a place to show off what you have made, or see what other people have, one of the best places is Maker Faire. These places are the official meetups for makers, and have so many people from all over the country, and world, showing off what they have done. I have gotten ideas for a bunch of projects just wandering around and bumping into people at Maker Faire.

Something that was put on by Make last summer was the Google+Make Summer Camp; which, though directed at kids, is a great resource of a bunch of different projects and ideas. It was on Google+, but all of the videos and projects have been moved onto the Make YouTube channel.

The best way to come up with ideas and solve problems is collaboration, and the Maker Movement has no lack of that. Everybody is looking to help each other, and that is what is truly magical about all of this. There is competition, but not so much that you withhold secrets. I have started conversations with random people I have never met before at Maker Faire, and we talked like we knew each other our entire lives. With technology and the internet, it has become easier and easier for us to reach out to the world. I live in Dallas, Texas, and my blog has been read by people as far as Russia. Right now, a total of 1,168 people have read this blog. This kind of reach and collaboration will change the world forever. There are going to be entire textbooks dedicated to this time period, and we need to make our stamp in those books. Thank you so much for reading my blog and being with me on this journey. 

Monday, May 6, 2013

Crafting New Knowledge

About a week ago, I went down to the Dallas Makerspace, and was able to attend a class on Blacksmithing.  We started with railroad spikes, and, by hammering away, created a nail forming tool. It was mostly an accident that we even attended the class at all. My dad was looking into the Makerspace to see if he wanted to become a member, and just happened upon a schedule of events that the makerspace was putting on. We saw the blacksmithing class and thought it would be a fun way to learn more about the Makerspace. This was right before I had my interview with the President of the Dallas Makerspace, Andrew LeCody, and was what gave me the idea to interview him.

The class was not a one-time deal though; they have classes every weekend to learn how to make different items. Nor was this the only class the Makerspace offered. In my interview with Andrew LeCody, he mentioned some of the classes, let me mention some others. They have a python programming class every week, as well as classes about 3D printers, lock picking, laser cutters, 3D modeling, and other assorted special classes. Members of the space are constantly setting up new and exciting classes.

The experience was a lot of fun, and I learned a lot about metalworking, and myself. I realized that I was nowhere near strong enough to do it. My hardest hit with a hammer would hardly leave a dent, while the instructor could easily work the metal into the shape he needed. I really developed a respect for the skill and precision it takes to make these things with this craft.

The class was an amazing example of how Makerspaces reach out and help their members by teaching them new skills. It is important for Makerspaces to foster this kind of collaborative learning, because it will help many people learn more about different skills. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Space of Making

So you’ve become a maker. You have this great idea for a project, but don’t have the knowledge or resources to pursue it. You could spend hours researching on the internet trying to find out how to do something, but you still wouldn’t have the 3D printer or laser cutter or whatever thousand dollar tool needed to build your project. There is salvation. Makerspaces are large workspaces owned and operated by a group of makers.  Members can come in at any time to work on whatever they like. It takes the mindset from the 1950’s of having a workshop in your garage, and moves it to a more modern scale, working with many different people’s needs.  Since members pool resources, they can afford expensive equipment and provide it for many different needs. Also, with all of the makers working there, you will be able to get fresh new ideas for your project, and be able to learn new techniques that you might have had to go to college to learn otherwise.  A couple of days ago, I had the great pleasure of talking with the President of the Dallas Makerspace, Andrew LeCody. I would like to thank Andrew for talking with me, and I wish the Makerspace well. Here is our conversation:

For those people who do not know what a Makerspace is, how would you define it?
“A makerspace is a place to find other people who like making things. Some spaces are focused on particular fields (such as BioTech) while others are more general purpose. Often times a Makerspace will have tools and equipment that are difficult for one person to acquire, but to me the biggest asset is always the community.”

Could you tell me a little more about the Dallas Makerspace? i.e. how long has it been around and how was it started?
The Dallas Makerspace has been around since 2010; we started out as a group of people meeting in public places but quickly gained enough members to lease our first space. Within a year we were already outgrowing our initial 1,600 sq ft space, and chose to move to our current 4000 sq ft location. Just last week we have signed a new lease, expanding our current space into a newly vacant office directly adjacent to us, which brings us up to 6,200 sq ft total.
I love the Dallas Makerspace; no matter what you are interested in you can always find someone else who wants to talk about it. I have made some great friends since joining the Makerspace. The members are a great resource, just from talking with other people I went from knowing almost nothing about electronics to designing my own circuit boards.

How many active members does the Makerspace have?             
Just over 150 as of right now, we’re hoping to have over 200 by the end of the year so that we can afford an even larger location.

What type of facilities and equipment do you have available for people?
I couldn’t list out everything, we have rooms filled with tools and dedicated to various purposes such as: Electronics and Robotics, 3D printing and laser cutting, Drone Aircraft, Crafts and various types of arts, Film photography (working darkroom), Woodworking and Metalworking. We also have a classroom that can hold nearly 30 people, with more classroom space on the way.

Does the Dallas Makerspace focus on one area, or do you have a broad spectrum of projects?
The Dallas Makerspace has always had an incredibly broad spectrum of interests. We welcome any and all projects at the space.

What kind of projects has the Makerspace worked on?
We have built a supersonic ping pong ball cannon (It was able to dent metal!) and competed in a 72 hour Red Bull Creation challenge, where we made the Dizzy Fling, a game of skill that pits two dizzy people against each other to see who can score the most points.
We are currently working on projects for another Red Bull Creation challenge as well as building a car for the PowerWheel Racing league.

Are the projects worked on in the Makerspace more individual, or collaborative?
Most of the projects people work on are individual, but we [have] plenty of collaborative projects as well. If someone is working on a project you find interesting, it’s likely that they would love to have additional help.

Does the Makerspace help members develop new skills?
We offer classes on a wide range of topics, as well as sponsor meetups so that people can meet others in their field of interest. Example meetups include: Foto Fridays (for photography), Electronics night (usually Wednesdays), Robot Builder’s Night Out (Tuesdays), Blacksmithing (every other Sunday), Python, Blender, and more.

Do you offer any programs for younger makers?
                Currently we don’t offer any programs specifically for young makers.

For anybody interested I the Makerspace, where are you located, when are your meetings, and how can someone join?
I always recommend checking out the makerspace on Thursday nights, which is when we have our weekly meetings. There are always tons of people to give tours and talk about projects. Joining the makerspace is really easy, you just need to sign up on our website then show up in person to fill out the liability waiver and get your RFID tag (for 24/7 access to the space). Our dues are currently $50/mo or $35/mo for “starving hackers” (i.e. students, unemployed, and retired), with slight discounts given for anyone who pays for a year upfront.

Once again, Thanks to Andrew LeCody for talking with me. Makerspaces are great places that foster ideas and innovation. I would highly recommend visiting one. Even just talking with different people about your projects and ideas can do so much good for your problem solving and thought process. It gives you a way to relay ideas and get a better sense of what you are trying to do. Your mind can quickly get set in a certain direction, and hamper you from solving problems. It is a great thing for people to get a fresh, new opinion on their projects. Makerspaces are spreading all across the nation, and I hope you join your local one.