A maker is someone who has a house filled with gadgets they built themselves, someone who probably owns several Raspberry Pi’s, and someone who enjoys taking old calculators apart. Makers are often inventors, sometimes entrepreneurs, generally techies, and they are always an exciting crowd to be around. But of course, if you’re reading this then you know all that…
Unfortunately, becoming a maker requires a fairly large amount of hardware and equipment that many people just can’t afford… or that their partners won’t let them have in the house. Then there’s the steep learning curve involved with things like 3D CAD software, or the manufacturing process in general – again, all challenges you are no doubt familiar with.
This is where makerspaces come in, as communal areas designed to facilitate the hobby, provide networking opportunities, workbenches, hardware, tools, and classes. You’ll find tools ranging from laser cutters and 3D printers, to welding equipment and sewing machines, but more valuable still, you’ll find people who can help you learn to use them. If you have an idea for a product, and no idea where to start, your local makerspace can probably help.
And with that in mind, here are 10 great makerspaces worth checking out:
Mt. Elliot Makerspace
231 East Grand Blvd., Detroit, MI 48211.
This makerspace has tools to cover pretty much every type of project, from sewing, to 3D printing, to electronics, to metal working – even bike maintenance and electronic music production! The space is big on education and has a mission to uplift its local community. There are no fees either: the space is supported entirely by donations.
10 Tyler St., Somervill, MA 02143
Artisan’s Assylum is an exciting makerspace offering tools including a one-ton hexapod, 3D printer, and mini-velodrome. In other words, it’s well kitted out with more than just your basics, and also has a ton of classes on topics like mechanical design. Membership is $60-$150 a month, but includes storage space for your projects.
140 West Main St., Mesa, AZ 85201
This is a makerspace with no employees, which right away tells you that this place is ahead of the curve. The lab is instead run by volunteers, and has a heavy focus on its community. It also has a ton of tools, and the friendly members are happy to help instruct newbies on how to use them. Membership costs $25 to $100 per month, with more expensive membership earning you more storage.
Open Hardware Makerspace
890 Oval Drive, Raleigh, NX 27606.
As the open in the name might denote, this makerspace, which is affiliated with North Carolina State University, is free to attend and use. It aims to offer students from all disciplines a range of equipment they can use to create all manner of things.
1355 Bennett Drive, #129, Longwood, FL 32750
This makerspace has a great sense of community, and a great selection of tools and working space. It also runs a number of outreach programs, and hosted the MineCon 2013 Minecraft convention! (A game built for makers.) FamiLAB membership will set you back between $50-$100 per month.
All Hands Active (AHA)
525 E. Liberty St., Ann Arbor, MI 48103
Membership here costs $20-$50 but also requires one hour of service per month. Members together run a number of groups and activities for both children and adults. One popular one is ‘Wreck Lab’ which aims to create amazing gadgets from broken electronics. It has a hip, arty vibe, and a good selection of tools.
307a Kamani St., Honolulu, HI 96813
HICapacity started life as an active meetup, but soon found a home at The Box Jelly to become a fully-fledged makerspace. On top of the usual facilities and materials, they also have an Oculus Rift and some high end software. There’s a focus here on programming and electronics, and some exciting projects even involve brain-computer interfaces. That said, membership is $60-$75 a month.
9701 Dessau Road, Building 3, Suite 304, Austin, TX 78754
ATX is something of an incubator for start-ups, and has helped several get up and going. It also offers a wide range of classes and a good selection of tools. There are also some great events here too: like chiptune concerts. Membership is $60 per month, while storage space and workspaces cost extra.
4592 East Second St., Suite O&P, Benicia, CA 94510
Benicia Makerspace is an exciting new Makerspace in the Bay Area that opened at the site of an old
Radio Shack that is sadly no more. The space has welding equipment, cameras, 3D printers and a
number of experts on hand to help out. If you want to get involved you can sign up for a meetup group
and become a member for an introductory rate of $40.
15732 O St., Mojave, CA 93501.
Located in Mojave Junior & Senior High School, this makerspace provides the usual combination of classes and facilities to both adults and children (including homeschooled children). The space is supported by the Space Studies Institute, and classes cover the likes of 3D printing to computer building. Membership starts at $40 up to $80 per month.
So there you have it, whether you’re looking to build the next hit smartphone app, or you’re starting a line of fashion accessories, there are plenty of places where you can find all the facilities and help you need. So there are no excuses! It’s time to stop dreaming of starting the next big tech startup, and to start making that dream a reality.
For more information on maker spaces in the USA, consider reading this book.
Do you attend a local maker space that is worthy of a mention? Have you heard of any other great maker spaces in the USA which the community may like to check out? If so, please share the details as a comment.