The weekend of February 1 and 2, ShopBot’s Martha Barbour and Bill Young attended the How to Make a Makerspace event held at Artisan’s Asylum, a community Makerspace in Somerville, Massachusetts. ShopBot Tools was a sponsor and featured equipment vendor at the event, hosted by Artisan’s Asylum and MAKE Magazine.
The goal of this event was to give attendees a roadmap and the resources needed to start the process of creating sustainable makerspaces of their own, while also introducing everyone to each other and forming a support network for the long and arduous process of space development and creation. Barbour, who serves as Business Manager for Shopbot Tools, described the atmosphere of the gathering. “There were about 175 people in attendance, representing the gamut of experiences and interests. Some people were looking to set up mobile makerspaces that can travel to schools; some wanted to set up makerspaces within existing public libraries; and just about everyone was concerned with securing funding for their projects.”
So what is a makerspace?
The President of Artisan’s Asylum, Gui Cavalcanti, is a robotics engineer and co-founder of this makerspace. He and his team describe makerspaces this way: “Makerspaces are community centers with tools. Makerspaces combine manufacturing equipment, community, and education for the purposes of enabling community members to design, prototype and create manufactured works that wouldn’t be possible to create with the resources available to individuals working alone. These spaces can take the form of loosely-organized individuals sharing space and tools, for-profit companies, non-profit corporations, organizations affiliated with or hosted within schools, universities or libraries, and more. All are united in the purpose of providing access to equipment, community, and education, and all are unique in exactly how they are arranged to fit the purposes of the community they serve.”
Makerspaces represent the democratization of design, engineering, fabrication and education. They are a fairly new phenomenon, but are beginning to produce projects with significant national impacts; notable projects and companies to emerge from makerspaces include the Pebble Watch (a programmable watch whose team is the recipient of the largest Kickstarter campaign in history), MakerBot (creators of a low-cost 3D printer that’s revolutionizing the entire rapid prototyping industry), and Square (a painless payment gateway enabling small businesses to collect money easily worldwide), just to name a few.
Martha Barbour noted that the speakers and session leaders “really gave people a ‘reality check’ in regards to figuring out the financing of starting up one of these spaces. They gave very practical financial advice about how to go into this with eyes open, and not risk personal savings in the process.” She said that the team from Artisan Asylum, as well as the Ann Arbor Makerspace, shared advice ranging from finances to rental agreements, as well as insurance and legal liabilities related to running the equipment in a makerspace.
Jim Newton of TechShop emphasized the importance of buying new tools when outfitting a space, because the latest technologies are better and there are fewer problems with down time. Bill Young and Martha Barbour had the opportunity to introduce attendees to the ShopBot Desktop CNC, the company’s most affordable platform tool for digital fabrication.
About the Event Sponsors
Artisan’s Asylum, the host and main point of contact for the event, is the largest makerspace on the East Coast. The Asylum has grown organically from a 1,000 square foot after-work hobby for two people to a 40,000 square foot cultural institution in two and a half years’ time, which now serves over 250 members a month. The space is a unique blend of a “traditional” makerspace (with a significant educational program and several different shop areas) and a small village of over 140 private rental studios. The result is a vibrant community of makers who collaborate, teach each other new skills, and create projects like Stompy the 4,000 pound hexapod, a laser harp for Popular Mechanics and RadioShack, the Rascal microcomputer, and the Node.js tank robot, among others.
MAKE unites, inspires, informs, and entertains a growing community of resourceful people who undertake amazing projects in their backyards, basements, and garages. MAKE celebrates your right to tweak, hack, and bend any technology to your will. The MAKE audience continues to be a growing culture and community that believes in bettering ourselves, our environment and our educational system – our entire world. MAKE reaches out to the maker movement through efforts like Make Magazine, Maker Faire, Makezine.com, Maker Shed, and Makerspace.com.
ShopBot Tools, based in Durham, N.C., designs and manufactures high-value subtractive digital fabrication systems (more commonly known as CNC routers). ShopBot is known for making computer-controlled fabrication technology affordable to small and medium sized businesses, and as a result, there are more than 6000 ShopBots at work in 54 countries. ShopBot is one of North America’s largest producers of digital fabricators for the wood, plastics, sign making, prototyping, aerospace and DIY markets. In 2008, ShopBot was named to the Inc. 5000 list of the fastest growing private companies in America and was recently named one of the top-25 North Carolina companies to watch by the Council for Entrepreneurial Development.