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.