The keyword when it comes to makerspaces is collaboration. When you get right down to it, these spaces are workspaces in schools, libraries, public or private buildings… any facility meant for making, learning, exploring and sharing information and knowledge, that can be utilized by numerous companies or even individuals that need a place to work from on a temporary basis. A lot of the people visiting such places are also friends of Open Source Hardware, so they can learn and share their knowledge freely.
What do you do at a makerspace?
A sub-group of these spaces are hackerspaces – despite the name, there is nothing nefarious going on there. In fact, they are just another kind of makerspace. This type, however, is devoted to a more specialized type of activity: Things related to digital art, electronic art, computer sciences, machinery or technology in general. It’s STEAM and more, if you will. The idea here is to give people the opportunity to get a little hands-on experience with technologies they might otherwise not encounter… or for tech-whizzes to exchange their crazy ideas and concepts.
The purpose of either type is to provide a community-oriented space that allows people to connect, interact, collaborate and, of course, brag about their projects to fellow creative minds! This type of space is already pretty common in the US as it often provides a low-cost (or free) way for tiny businesses and startups to get going. Their nature allows for more collaboration than a typical office setup, and because of this, they are often much easier for more creative minds to work in.
They can be found all around the world
Other places around the world also have makerspaces, also called hackerspaces, of course – they are rapidly gaining popularity in Europe. There are already several places all over the world, even including places like China. Some of the most notable ones include c-base and RaumZeitLabor, both of which are located in Germany, Xinchejian in Shanghai, and Artisan’s Asylum. The latter was once believed to be the largest in the world.
TechShop – a US-based makerspace – is particularly noteworthy for being the first chain of commercial spaces. Launched in October 2006, there are half a dozen of them around the US, from Texas to California and more. Generally, these spaces are non-profit, however, this isn’t always the case – if you plan on visiting one, be sure to always check in advance.
If you’re wondering why any of this should matter to you, you might want to take a look at the equipment you can often find in these spaces. From 3D printers and laser cutters to things like soldering irons and sewing machines, these are often pricey tools and utilities that can otherwise be difficult to access for participants of the space. This is a great alternative to renting equipment, especially if you’re running a business that is just starting out.
A space for all who make
Since some of these makerspaces are open for children as well, they can also provide a great learning opportunity for those interested in certain materials, techniques, or just technology in general. Some libraries even offer spaces specifically for kids to get to know certain industries or techniques – you should definitely keep an eye out for opportunities like that near you as they can be a wonderful development opportunity.
If you’d like to visit your local makerspace, you can google for it or use platforms such as the Makerspace Directory. If you can’t find one near you, why not make your own and start it all for others to join you.
YouTube: Makerspace: Make Community | Jamie Leben | TEDxFrontRange
YouTube: Makerspaces – The Future of Education: Marc Teusch at TEDxLuxembourgCity
Photo credit: The feature image has been done by Aubrey Gemignani for NASA. The image “makerspace” has been done by Juan Francisco Casal for the U.S. Embassy Montevideo. The image “Milwaukee Makerspace” has been done by Pete Prodoehl at Milwaukee Makerspace. The image “Holiday Make-a-thon” has been done by Jason Gessner at Milwaukee Makerspace.
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Mel is a UK-based journalist that has been writing about tech, science and video games for a few years now. After studying in Vienna, Austria she followed her dreams and moved to London. Said dreams took her through a few different jobs before she settled on what she really wanted to do – write about the exciting world of technology and the delightfully strange things it sometimes produces.