Written by Tara Sweeney
What are Makerspaces, FabLabs, and Hackerspaces?
Dale Dougherty, CEO of Make Community describes the Maker Community as “people with creative and technical expertise that have ideas they’d like to make and ideas they want to share.” Even the Maker Community structure is highly adaptable—it is a global network of localized makerspaces. The venue of a makerspace can vary from schools and colleges, to community non-profits, to internal corporate sponsored groups—as long as they provide
the tools, materials, and environment to make andinnovate. Makerspaces developed in the early 2000s on the wave of the DYI movement. Since then, it has become a way for technologists to code and build sophisticated electronics, as explained by the World Economic Forum.
Some makerspaces are informal shared workspaces, whereas others provide informal courses on subjects such as electronics (both hardware and software,) 3D printing, additive or subtractive manufacturing, textiles, biotechnical, auto mechanical, and vacuuforming to name a few. Different types of makerspaces include fablabs and hackerspaces. Downtown Fresno, California has examples of each of these types of makerspaces: Ideaworks which functions more as a general makerspace; the Pi-Shop which acts as a fablab as well as an entrepreneurial
incubator; and Root Hackerspace which—as its name suggests—is a more generalized hackerspace, though it has makerspace capabilities.
Ideaworks makerspace sits in a historical building that once housed an indoor pool; currently, they only utilize the first floor of the building, but as their community base and capabilities grow they plan to expand into the multiple floors. As you make your way through the H Street entrance, guided by the lightbulb gear logo, you will walk into a lobby where they have hints of their home building’s history and various projects on display. A long hallway directly in front of the entrance will lead you all the way to the back of their warehouse; on your right at the mouth of the hallway will be their breakroom that branches off to a textiles room and a small hackerspace. Through the hackerspace you would be able to go to their machining section. To your left is the Board President and Executive Director, Janelle Ozeran’s office. Then the next door to the left is the ceramics room. The door after houses their 3D printers, and at the end of the hall is their woodshop.
As a 501-3c non-profit, Ideaworks is one-hundred percent volunteer driven. “At Ideaworks, we think of ourselves as more of a community workshop,” stated Ozeran. “In addition to just having the shop spaces and the tools that our members can access, we have a community of people who can lend their expertise,” she explained.
They have themed creation days: Metal Mondays, Tech Tuesdays, 3D Thursdays, and Sawdust Sundays—open to the public to tour the facility and learn about the types of courses and equipment that they can offer. Ideaworks Academy offers Vocational Training in industries such as metalwork and welding. They also host a Coder Dojo, meant for seven to 17 year olds to learn simple coding projects—partnering with Kepler Neighborhood school to expose elementary students to coding—that they host in their hackerspace. You can join Ideaworks for their themed days open to the
public, or join the community and attend monthly member meetings. They will also be celebrating Pi Day, March 14th, 2020.
Though Ideaworks represents the more generalized makerspace possibilities—there are more specialized versions that expand on their specific tools—such as their 3D printers and their smaller-scale coding bootcamp; FabLabs and Hackerspaces are two such specialized makerspace types.
A Fab Labs or digital fabrication laboratories as defined by Fab Foundation are “places to play, create, learn, mentor, and invent by providing access to the environment, the skills, the materials and the advanced technology to allow anyone anywhere to make (almost) anything.”
The Pi Shop
On the opposite side of the industrial warehouse that holds Ideaworks, is The Pi Shop; and like the juxtaposed physical position the Pi Shop is the other side of the makerspace coin. Where Ideaworks is more informal and focused on the creative and educational opportunities of a makerspace, The Pi Shop offers these same opportunities towards entrepreneurial incubating for product ideation and prototyping.
“Our goal here [at The Pi Shop] is to serve the community: entrepreneurs, start-up businesses and really help them from the idea phase, to the prototype phase, to the launch to market phase and also with the funding and legal aspects. So, in every step of the entrepreneur’ s journey or the start-up business journey, we are there to assist them from start to finish”– -Kent Pelisari, Manager of Producteurs at The Pi Shop
In-line with its more entrepreneurial focus, The Pi Shop has co-work office spaces where they can host their courses and members can hold meetings. The internal hallway that houses these smaller rooms leads into their large warehouse that holds their larger equipment: CNC, 3D printing, milling, and laser cutting equipment along with gated lockers that members can use to store their projects.
“We are trying to bring manufacturing incubators here in Fresno and having them start their business here, have a hub here, have a headquarter office here, because it’s a great place to start a business. We have a vast network of Manufacturers we work with and one of the things is when you create a product here, we want to get you in contact with manufacturers in the Central Valley or help you build that manufacturing facility. So we have both of those arms to help with that.”-Kent Pelisari, Manager of Producteurs at The Pi Shop
They offer free workshops monthly—how to pitch, how to network, how to crowdfund, and more.
They are partnering with Merced and Fresno State Universities on capstone projects and work closely with the human powered vehicle club at Fresno State. They are looking to expand by offering workshops targeting high schools for entrepreneurship training. They will be hosting Entrepreneurship A to Z workshops running until April 2020, and business networking events to be announced.
The first Hackerspace, C-Base a non-profit association in Berlin, Germany was established in 1995 to increase knowledge and skills pertaining to computer software, hardware, and data networks.
Root Access Hackerspace
“Root Access Hackerspace is a community workspace, we are an intersection of three different styles of DYI spaces.” explained former Chief Operations Officer Andrew Runner. They offer woodworking, a hackerspace component—where they do electronic recycling, lock picking, and programming microcontrollers like raspberry pi or arduino—and a fablab component with lasercutters or 3D printers.
The community offers monthly meetups (Raspberry Pi, Intro to Linux, Sip and Stitch) and participates in local events (Hackathon at Fresno State, DevFest, Google Developers Group of Fresno) and host themed meetups (Pumpkin hacking, Hacksgiving).
These three makerspaces discussed outline examples of standalone operations as structures for makerspaces. However, there are also structures that work with or within classrooms and colleges, or even corporate and manufacturing facilities.
How do these makerspaces benefit manufacturing? According to CMTC California Manufacturers Network, “Makerspaces allow anyone—students, workers, and executives—to turn ideas into products.” However most, due to their lack of structured courses, do not train students entering the workforce—an especially key need that the industry faces according to Gene Sherman, the founder of Vocademy.
How Makerspaces Benefit Manufacturing
Vocademy offers hands-on training, which is the next logical step for someone who gets a taste of manufacturing
through a makerspace and wants to start creating structure for workforce development.
Overall trade and tech school enrollment has been declining each year since 2011, as reported by Popular Mechanics. Manufacturing employs 8.9% of the workforce while paying 12% more than other occupations by the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ numbers. Despite this, a 2018 Deloitte Institute report notes that 89% of manufacturers can’t find qualified applicants and are leaving jobs unfilled.
In response, Sherman created Vocademy: a “Vocational Academy” meant to train on the key vocational fields. Vocademy offers 40-60 hour training courses in advanced manufacturing subjects: electronics and programming, machining shop fundamentals, welding and fabrication, sewing and textiles, and woodworking fundamentals. In the future they plan to offer CNC machining fundamentals, life skills, and manufacturing career skills. Or students can
combine all these courses into a six month program. Taking courses gives students access to three months of using a makerspace-type lab where they can practice and create. Vocademy currently partners with charter schools and manufacturers that look to it for trained hires.
Examples of U.S. companies experiencing a return on investment in makerspaces and the equipment needed are available in California, Michigan, and Kentucky.
The SFMade coalition consists of 400 manufacturing firms in San Francisco—an existing effort to boost the “community of makers” in San Francisco, as reported in The Atlantic. 102 of those firms founded during the economic distress of 2009-2012 increased their employment by 10.5% in 2011 and 12.5% by 2012; they had drawn from a local base of skilled workers—that now would need to be created in other areas of the U.S. through training courses such as Vocademy.
Ford launched a Makerspace facility in Dearborn, Michigan—which experienced a 200 percent increase in intellectual property development in the first year—as reported by the Association of Equipment Manufacturers.
The FirstBuild microfactory in Kentucky, backed by GE Appliances in partnership with Local Motors, is a co-creation community that invents new home appliances. They grew 1,000 percent—from 23 to over 23,000 employees—in only a few years.
As more manufacturers adopt makerspaces, more research and case studies can be done to more thoroughly analyze other potential benefits that they pose to the industry.