A MakerSpace is a workspace where people have access to technology, tools, electronics, machine shops, and maybe most importantly–each other. In development of the North Coast Regional Manufacturing Network two opportunities emerged–the potential for shared tools and advanced manufacturing equipment (i.e.3D printing for rapid prototyping) and the need to support a collaborative space for innovation and the development of the next generation of fabricators and inventors. The Redwood MakerSpace focuses on how to address those opportunities in a rural context.
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A MakerSpace is a workspace where people have access to technology, tools, electronics, machine shops, and maybe most importantly – each other. These membership organizations provide workshops, presentations, lectures, and planned activities. Manufacturers, entrepreneurs young and old, inventors, designers, and other creative people can meet for creative problem solving, low cost prototyping, and skill development.
More and more larger cities have MakerSpaces.TechShop, a for- profit example, has been spreading across America with three in the San Francisco area, Detroit, Los Angeles, and more. Independent or non-profit makerspaces, Art Design Portland (ADX) for example, are popping up in Portland. Libraries are starting to provide smaller versions of MakerSpaces with 3-D printers that make prototyping or replacement parts possible.
In addition, high schools are developing MakerSpaces as part of their STEAM, (science, technology, engineering, art and manufacturing), efforts leading the way with training students in advanced manufacturing equipment.
In discussions with manufacturers, integral to the development of the North Coast Regional Manufacturing Network, two opportunities emerged–the potential for shared tools and advanced manufacturing equipment (rapid prototyping for example) and the need to support a collaborative space for innovation and the development of the next generation of fabricators and inventors. The region is not without small, non-profit and privately held MakerSpaces, places where residents can learn new skills as a microenterprise or a hobby. These are presently in the arts and technical arts area but show that successful business models exist in the region.
It is within this environment that discussions about what is needed and how those needs might be met that the MakerSpace project took shape.
- Increase microenterprise development by mapping existing MakerSpaces and increasing visibility and utilization.
- Develop a white paper summarizing the opportunities and constraints to creating a MakerSpace that fills gaps for manufacturers and innovators in Humboldt County.
- Facilitate the discussion of expanding access to equipment we have in our area and to examine what we still need.
- Develop and understanding and description of what is important in developing a rural based MakerSpace.
- Promote the MakerSpaces in the North Coast Region.
Why is this important?
MakerSpaces bridge the old skills (fabrication, problem solving, motors) with the new technology (3-D printing, laser printing) and younger entrepreneurs. They provide space where existing skills are respected and new ideas are formed. In addition, many of our niche industries in region started as micro-enterprises and MakerSpaces can foster start-ups. This synergistic plan of blending the old with the new skills and the old with the new equipment, will enable this evolving economy to increase financial security for residents in the region.
Most MakerSpaces are in urban settings and those models will not succeed in places without the concentration of population. What is needed is the understanding of what is involved in a rural model and what it might look like. Linking needs identified by our manufacturing cluster and innovators for access to tools and equipment with elements of MakerSpaces in urban areas will help scale our potential model to our regional needs.
What are we doing about it?
- Facilitating meetings with civic, business, government, academic, non-profit stewards and interested residents discussing possibilities.
- Creation of a white paper analyzing the potential for a MakerSpace– documenting the needs of industry, micro-enterprises, and other commercial concerns and will provide the research for an organization, government, or business with preliminary information to pursue this project.
- Expand interest in MakerSpaces as a strategy for micro-enterprise development. (Including both the arts/technical arts that exist now, and in the advanced manufacturing/shops we are visualizing).
- Provide educational MakerSpace presentations to clubs, government committees, service organizations, economic development boards and government entities.
- Identifying collaborative possibilities and support their development.
- Continue quarterly meetings of the organizations and individuals who are interested in creating a MakerSpace that fills the needs of providing advanced manufacturing equipment, wood and metal shop, and other identified needs.
- Promote the MakerSpaces that do exist in the arts and technical arts. A directory of MakerSpaces with an interactive map will be added to the RCRA website.
- Help to promote a “Maker culture”.
Results So Far: Successes
Three well attended meetings took place in 2015/16.
Nearly 100 people and organizations are interested in attending or receiving the minutes from meetings.
A List of equipment for a MakerSpace has been gathered from those attending.
A local Power Point was developed on MakerSpaces in Humboldt showing our local examples (arts) and plan to develop a more expansive Power Point on the technical needs and benefits.
We have made presentations on MakerSpaces to a range of organizations and economic committees.
Inventory of existing MakerSpaces has been initiated with plans to have an interactive map on the website.
Primary Partners and Funding:
Redwood Coast Rural Action
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