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Exploring What It's Like Working in Makerspaces


Maker-what?

If you’re one of those individuals who just need to do something; If you love learning and want to learn a new skill; If you’ve got that great idea you want to take to the next level; If you’ve got something to make, but not the tooling or space, then you need a makerspace.

“What’s a makerspace?” you ask. Let me tell you - They can be described in a variety of ways, take shape in many forms, have wildly different tooling, or even cater to different markets, but at their core, they help people ‘make’ physical things.

Makerspaces, in so many words, are locations which have a variety of tools (woodworking, metalworking, 3D printing technology, mold making equipment, etc.) to help its members learn and use to produce something. Makerspaces are almost always membership-based (like gyms), usually community-centric, regularly holding workshops and training sessions relating to their tooling processes and crafts.

Makerspaces have the tools you need, teach you how to use them, and help you to “make.”

Find a Space

We want to “make” something, but don’t have what we need. You’re in need of finding a space.

Living in a metropolitan area? Here’s a good place to look: http://themakermap.com/ While the map certainly doesn’t have everything, they do have quite a few.

Further outside of the city? In Southeastern Ohio, LIGHTS is growing makerspaces in Athens, Zanesville, Marietta, Nelsonville, Somerset, and Portsmouth. For other regions, you should utilize Google & search for terms like makerspaces, hackerspaces, tech shops, DIY spaces, or sometimes co-working spaces. Each of these may have a different focus, but can be useful.

Become a Member

Again, makerspaces almost always operate by a membership. Like a gym, you sign up, get access to the tools, and have access to help. You need to provide your own material resources, like wood, metal, plastics, etc. In most cases, current members or the staff will have knowledge about what you should source, and where you might source it from.

Many makerspaces also offer workshops or training with regards to a specific trade or practice. Membership sometimes gets you access to these events, but more than likely you’ll pay ala carte for what you want. Most events are run by highly trained members or put on by corporate sponsors. Often, when you complete the training, not only do you learn and grow in competence, but often you’ll gain further access to your makerspace’s more complex tooling.

Most makerspaces place a heavy focus on community. The tools, events, and sponsors are almost always locally influenced. Each space is tailored to its local market, so it makes sense that market is the community itself.

Most members are locals, and thus you’ll be getting to know them better and better. If you’re so inclined, you may make a friend of two there, sharing skills and even labor to help move your ideas forward.

Makerspaces are really good at building community, and even helping to revitalize economically depressed environments. The book Maker City has many examples of how spaces build community and affect different sectors through its impact. The best part it is, if you want to read it, just follow this link to the full online version: https://makercitybook.com

Makerspaces end up turning into community spaces, and further, into ‘safe’ spaces to explore new ideas and opportunities. It is up to its members to take advantage of this, and share their experiences along the way. Don’t sit back sleep on your idea, join a makerspace and make it happen. Have fun!

About LIGHTS: Ohio University's Innovation Center founded the LIGHTS (Leveraging Innovation Gateways and Hubs Toward Sustainability) program in 2016. LIGHTS' Innovation Network catalyzes the creation of companies to create high-wage jobs, and attract greater private investment in the coal-impacted regions of Ohio, West Virginia, and Kentucky. The Appalachian Regional Commission generously funded the program because of its unique way of matching complex problems and opportunities facing corporations, communities, and individuals to a network of two strategically-placed Innovation Hubs and seven Gateways. New marketable products arise from these problems. The Gateways and Hubs are new business incubators and makerspaces serving a 28-county area.

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