Making a Makerspace: Recap
Jan. 10, 2019
In the last year, we have created a space where students from every walk of life can feel at home, and also, make things. I’ve watched as the core team shook hands, as we slowly got to know each other. The kind of getting to know a person that only comes by working with them. The kind you get by not asking where they went to college or what their parents do, but by observation and shear time spent with one another. We weren’t afraid to get our hands dirty. The first month was comprised of assembling Husky tool boxes, ripping open the most creative (sorry Apple) packaging I’ve ever seen. There were countless trips to the dumpsters in the “blistering” Sacramento winter, and more pizza consumed than I care to mention.
January was about laying the groundwork. What did we want this space to mean? What did we want it to accomplish? I was keen on building a website and trying to understand how students were going to navigate through this very new—very chaotic in a lot of ways— environment. What safety requirements needed to be met? How were they going to “sign-up” for workshops. What workshops were we going to offer? What in the hell were we doing?!
Yes, there were many questions that hadn’t been answered, and still to this day haven’t been answered. But what we learned in the first year of making a makerspace, was this: we care.
Everyone involved in this project worked, for the most part, for free. It seemed to me there was a task at hand and the people that happened to be in the midst of the twirling whirlwind of the maker movement on Sac City’s campus, jumped at the opportunity to help out. Whatever needed to be done, someone knew how to do it, and if we didn’t, we learned how.
Trainings on the machinery were down and dirty, “This is a CNC Mill, this is what it does, these are the buttons you push, next!” Thanks, Rick. While it may not have been the most corporate way of doing things, we eventually learned how to use the machines...by making things. And when one of us would learned one machine, either together or by ourselves, we would show the next guy how it was done. It was a rippling affect, and I was all wrapped up in the middle of it.
I was drawn to the laser cutter, it’s the first machine I learned how to use. It’s a very “oo-ahhh” kind of experience when you first see what it can do. And as a creative, watching its capabilities made my mind go wild with possibilities, “I can make, LITERALLY, whatever I want.” Obviously, that’s not true with just the power of a laser, but that’s what it felt like when I first saw the light ;) …
After about three months of unpacking and labeling and trying to make the physical space look orderly, we opened our doors to the campus community. Imagine a water balloon. A big red balloon filled with water all the way to the little tie at the top. The affect of opening the doors of the Makerspace resembled something like poking that big red water balloon with a pin—the water slowly starts to trickle out, the hole might get a little wider, and then all of a sudden it bursts!
We didn’t do much marketing around campus, a few posters and word of mouth. The people that knew about Makerspace walked by and saw a sign or knew someone that had been in. It was a slow trickle
The fall was a crazy heap of maker madness. We are just learning the ropes and navigating a relatively ancient school administration that has never seen anything like a space like this appear on campus. So it’s quite an understatement to say that we were ready for the new school year. Mostly we needed supplies and expertise—organizational, business, marketing—but we all pitched in a did what we could. The students didn’t seem to mind, they were just extremely stoked about the new space. Excited about what that they could make and how they can grow their businesses.
I was happy to teach them anything I knew and so were the rest of the entirely student run staff, that had JUST learned how to operate most of this machinery.
The fall also encompassed developing and implementing a new internship program involving a a community business leader, rapid paced design thinking, and students working in teams to solve a real world business problem.
As this whole process (becoming involved in the Makerspace Movement) has unfolded it was natural for me in the beginning to document our process. It was so new and I wanted the world (or at least our little community) to see the work we were putting in to make this happen. My first movies were filmed on my iphone, interviews were impromptu, and lighting audio weren’t a thing I spent much time thinking about. I wanted to capture people making! Because it was happening so often and all around me.
I’ve been fortunate enough to use and hone my storytelling skills and create a business for myself. With the support of our funders, and networking in this space, I have surfaced from this experience with new direction and new opportunities for my career and I can’t be more grateful for the people who helped me along the way.
We built a place that allowed for making. In that we succeeded and there is still so much work to be done. We must work together to sustain environments like these. They function as a household— everyone must do their part to maintain the space. We have a lot to learn from each other, makerspaces around the state, country, and world are at all different stages of development and of course they are all different in their mission and capabilities.
Creating a network of makerspaces, learning from each other so that we can become sustainable and self-sufficient as an on-campus makerspace is our next goal. It is how I see Makerspace being successful for many years to come.