I’m typically not one to tout an ideology of fate or divine intervention, as I am more often of the opinion that reliance on such ideas negates our own influence on our, and others’, lives. However, I can’t seem to shake that “everything happens for a reason” thought as so many pieces of my life have fallen together this week regarding, oddly enough, makerspaces.
At the beginning of the week as I began to contemplate my ideas of a makerspace, I was flooded with just a little bit of crippling fear– in the interest of space, I had ignored the budding technology of 3D printers knowing that if I invested my thoughts in them, I would inevitably become disappointed with the realization that my library simply doesn’t have the space for them and their supplies. Additionally, with a very weak background in coding and programming I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to support a program (and being the most technologically savvy on my library staff, it seemed like that was the end for me).
So I began to discuss with my boyfriend who works in TV and Film, and knows much more than I do in this field, and who knows a lot more people who make their livings on computers. We talked about how makerspaces are glorified workshops, open for collaboration and working on any and all projects. Essentially, they can run themselves with the right set up and people involved. We discussed makers guilds housed in old warehouses that supply the tools and space for working that many people don’t have in their home living spaces. The problem, is that many times these organizations require membership dues in order to afford the cost of rent, tools, and other maintenance costs, and this isn’t feasible for a lot of people, or for people who wish to use the space periodically rather than on a regular basis.
Through my week of wondering about what one would need to start a makerspace, and how on earth my library would even begin to house one of them, a community member with whom I am very close, attended a makerspace fair and was struck with a desire to find, or create, a space like this for her child. A conversation began, and ideas were flowing; this could be a reality and a movement that I could be a part of, through community collaboration. The answer was so simple, that I couldn’t believe I hadn’t considered it yet: it doesn’t need to be stored in the library.
My vision for a makerspace to serve my community is still very much in the beginning stages, but ideally it would be a place to offer local children, young adults, and even full blown adults a space to explore, design, and create projects. For children, this will be a place to be exposed to new technology and tools, and to organically interact with the scientific method. By this, I mean a place where people carry out their ideas and in the face of setbacks, head back to the proverbial drawing board for new solutions. The great thing about a community maker space, though, is that because it fosters collaboration, it invites people to share their setbacks in order to openly problem solve to invent new solutions.
Here are my goals for my makerspace:
- A place where children and youth gain exposure to computer programming and new technology.
- A place that is open and free for community members to utilize tools, such as power tools, crafting tools, a 3D printer, and computer software that they may not have the means to invest in, or the knowledge to be ready to invest in them for themselves.
- A place where programs are held to teach people how to use and engage with tools and technology.
- A place to encourage people to openly explore, work together, and discover new ways and ideas to implement solutions to local problems.
Since one place likely will not have the space to house tools and supplies for the makerspace, we may need to invest in a movable unit, like a trailer, that can be stored elsewhere until open makerspace times are available. Some things, like a 3D printer, may need to stay in place and stored safely. However, mobile tools and supplies, like hammers, nails, LEGOs, piping, laptops with software, can be stored in a mobile unit and brought to the meeting times at the makerspace area.
We could have a place for physical exploration, with LEGOs/building blocks, those pipe walls where you construct a flowing path for a marble to travel through open and closed structures like a roller-coaster, building supply tools like various saws, and maybe some welding materials and tools, along with more basic supplies: hammers, nails, drills, computers. Through donations of items, and being sponsored by local organizations such as the library, this space, and its available tools, becomes a place that everyone in town can utilize regardless of what their personal finances allow them to invest in.
I envision collaboration not just with organizations within the community, but also with makerspace organizations in the surrounding area to glean insight as to how to run a makerspace, but to share their skills and knowledge to teach our community members how to code and program, how to utilize tools like the Makey Makey in order to turn ordinary objects into functioning tools (watch the video below, or on YouTube). There will be formal classes to teach skills, followed by open times for exploration and informal engagement with tools and programs.
Through collaboration with currently running Makerspaces, and by engaging community members with varying skills, we can offer times of formal instruction to teach people how to use the items available to them. Then, people will be equipped with the knowledge to allow them to design and build their products with their new tools. Additionally, through collaboration, we introduce people in town to others who may have skills that others wish to learn from further, or even to foster collaboration on projects.
Last year, there was a robotics club at the school that would come to the library to conduct research for projects that they were working on. I envision the maker space to be a place where the leaders of that robotics club engage new people in learning the skills of building robots, allow time for designing and building, and then possibly having a robotic showcase.