According to Lindsay Levkoff, Ph.D., a makerspace, also referred to as a hackspace or hacklab, is “a community-operated workspace where people with common interests, often in computers, machining, technology, science, digital art or electronic art, can meet, socialize and collaborate.” Basically, all the stuff you couldn’t do at school before with people you probably shouldn’t have shared a class with.
While makerspaces have always existed, especially during the .com era, there is a much larger community of hobbyists and enthusiasts of technology, visual arts and design today. In the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex alone there are places like Dallas Makerspace and Fort Works where people can meet and share ideas and tools to create unique works that are innovative, fashionable and plain fun.
Joining them are libraries and schools of all levels that have realized the creativity that lies in creating something that is your own. Not only are tools like 3D printers and solder irons available at these spaces, but needle and thread, lasers and the less physical computer software.
From the novice interested in tinkering around with DIY technology to those more advanced and capable of more complex projects, there is a group for you. Makerspaces and the maker movement is not just a few friends meeting in a basement to take apart dad’s old radio; there are networks, fairs, workshops and legal advice dedicated to fostering the movement.
“The rise of the Maker Movement represents a huge opportunity for the United States. Nationwide, new tools for democratized production are boosting innovation and entrepreneurship in manufacturing, creating the foundation for new products and processes that can help to revitalize American manufacturing,” according to a White House blog post. Even the president and White House staff understand the importance of these spaces.
It’s not just makerspaces that make the possibility of the next technological advancement a near reality, but also the technologies and software that are more affordable for the average consumer and hobbyist. Wearables and computers can be made for more or less $100 with Raspberry Pi and Arduino. Games can be created and functions can be carried out using Python, which is free!
Dallas Makerspace hosts a plethora of classes, and Launch DFW has a list of events around DFW related to makerspaces and the maker community. If you prefer to go the solitary route, there are many websites that have free coding lessons, such as code.org, edX and Khan Academy and places like Micro Center in North Dallas and Adafruit online that sell all you need to get your next project off the ground.
So go forth, future creator, and find a space, some supplies and group of others who love to build and tinker as much as you do!