Making Space For Makers

Making Space For Makers

Treehouse Team Attends “How to Make a Makerspace” Conference

On February 1, some of the Treehouse team headed to Somerville, MA, for the first ever “How to Make a Makerspace” conference hosted by MAKE and Artisan’s Asylum. Before the conference we got a personal tour of IDEO‘s Cambridge office, which gave us insight into how the global design and innovation firm is evolving its own practices and work.

At the conference, We spent time with people from 25 states, and 3 countries. In particular, we made new connections with New Mexico Highlands University faculty (Miriam Langer @arduinogirl) and students (Mariano Ulibarri @marianoulibarri and Miles Tokunow), Art Institute of Chicago (Liz Neely @lili_czarina), Maker Media (Dale Dougherty @dalepd and Parker Thomas), Maker Faire Africa (Emeka Okafor @emeka_okafor), and Columbus Idea Foundry. These conversations, in addition to the panels and workshops we attended, provide us a strengthened understanding of how to create a successful makerspace and a rich network for continued learning.

What is a makerspace?
While there is no standard for what a makerspace is, the simplest way to describe it is a common space where tools and knowledge are also shared. There’s hackerspaces, fablabs, techshops, and other models. Each makerspace is as unique as the people that are in it and the community it is a part of. Some exist purely to support creative expression while others have primary interest in supporting entrepreneurship – not that those things are necessarily mutually exclusive.

And while emphasis usually goes to the tools and toys, community is what makes a makerspace.

Why are we interested in makerspaces?
As TEDx event producers, we have heard and asked the question “what next?” after each of our events. When we were researching what Maine needed to facilitate regular access to opportunities for cross pollination and collaborative creativty, makerspaces were on the top of our list.

I spoke with Emeka Okafor at the conference, who directed TEDGlobal in 2007 and runs Maker Faire Africa. When I asked him about what was driving him to create a makerspace in Africa, he said it was the answer to the question “what next?” for him too.

We believe that makerspaces can contribute to regular cross pollination of people from diverse backgrounds. They create the “adjacent” space that is so often a primary condition necessary for innovation to occur.

So what would a makerspace in Maine look like?
We’ve been evaluating opportunities over the last few months and testing a few business plans. Our model includes shared workshops – wood, metal, and rapid prototyping, for example – membership options, class offerings, and more. Depending on the final location, there might be studio and coworking space as well. There would be a fee to access the space.

Some existing models we have spent considerable time researching include: MIT Media Lab, Fringe, 3rd Ward, Columbus Idea Foundry, The Mill, Artisan’s Asylum, Collab, AS220,  and even the emerging work of Kanye West.

Portland, Maine to begin.

We’re not sure yet. While at the conference we met others from the Portland area investigating starting a makerspace. We’re going to meet up as a small group and have a discussion to share visions, goals, and skillsets. Then decide what the best course of action forward is to make a makerspace happen. Our hope is that collaboration will occur, so that our diverse talents and networks can converge in one effort and not compete for capital. In the end, we think that having makerspaces in Maine are important and we want to support them however we can.

Where can I learn more?
Sign up for the Treehouse newsletter, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Check out MAKE.

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