I was invited to the Nation of Makers meeting at the White House August 24th. During the day I work as an Engineering Specialist at a local Defense/Aerospace Company. Evenings and weekends I volunteer my time helping to organize Melbourne MakerSpace as an Education Officer and a member of its board of directors. www.melbournemakerspace.org
What is a ‘MakerSpace’? It is a grass-roots movement of people coming together to share tools, knowledge and resources in order to teach and empower each other to gain new skills and make things. Our space is 1000 sqft on Wickham Road near Dustin’s BBQ; and we have several 3D printers, a 40W CO2 laser cutter, metal working milling machine and lathe, wood working materials and lots of Arduino and Raspberry Pis to encourage budding programmers. We have a monthly membership; but we also teach classes free of charge to the community on making, tool usage, programming and even SousVide cooking. The premise is that sharing these tools makes them accessible to many people. As great as having access to all of these tools is; the community of makers is the real gem here. Our little maker community has machinists, electrical engineers, programmers, web developers, a gemologist, a radio astronomer, carpenters, graphic artists and is inclusive across race, age and genders. Everyone is welcome!
On our outreach to the community we have taught 300 Boy Scouts 3D printing. We have also hosted Pine Wood Derbies for young people. Home school groups have come to us to learn to program the Arduino (a micro controller that is a favorite tool and toy of the tinkerer). We have 24 soldering stations and have helped rooms full of people learn to use them. On computer science, we have taught Arduino C/C++ programming, Python, Linux, and Web architecture. We have helped people cobble together computer systems to help close the digital divide. We are promoters of STEM and can help teachers find and make visual aids to make learning abstract concepts more tangible and engaging.
In regards to the DC trip, the Maker Space organizer conference left me with a lot to think about; there were over 200 other spaces represented. I think what makes us (Melbourne) unique is that the Space Coast has such a concentration of technical talent (we might take for granted; but many other areas of the country do not have this resource). We need to develop Web sites that share information, ideas, and how-to material on a much greater scale. The Federal government recognizes the value of our grass-roots movement, and how important we are to re-tooling our country, and rekindling manufacturing and the ‘you can do it’ (Yankee Ingenuity) mentality. We are change agents. Every community can benefit from Maker Space citizens getting involved. Education needs a reboot; we can make learning fun again; we can train the trainer. We can help displaced workers learn new skills and reinvent themselves. We can innovate in so many ways to improve people’s lives. We are a special breed of volunteer that comes with incredible skills and resources. Uncle Sam needs you to blossom where you are!
James Dinsmore / admin@MelbourneMakerspace.org