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Friday Forum: Ask an Editor (Makerspace Program Edition) Answered

Hey everybody! On Friday, June 13th (Friday the 13th AHHHHHH) from 1-4pm PST, I'll be answering your questions about the programs Instructables is running with makerspaces, hackerspaces, student groups, libraries, and fab labs around the world! 

Our main program is the Build Night program. Some past build nights include: Bare Conductive, Sugru, Lumi, Jameco, Cool Neon, Voltaic Systems, littleBits, and Dremel

In case you don't know me: my name is Carley :D  I am the Business Development and Partnership Manager at Instructables. Those are just some corporate-y words that mean:
  • I work with companies that want to introduce cool products to the Instructables community
  • I develop new programs for the community
  • I identify new groups to engage with in the maker community
(super boring job I know....)

Feel free to swing by this forum on Friday afternoon and ask me questions + submit ideas for new programs.



We are considering starting a Community MakerSpace for Kids in a neighborhood where the kids could use a break.

We would start this as a not for profit. I would like to find the right type of crowd funding for the project. Any Suggestions?

Do any of you on the forum have any stories to share?

We have been discussing using the space in a double duty mode. Adults during the school day and youth after school.

Hey ScottyatPMT!

Hmm I don't have much experience running a crowd funding campaign, but I would suggest looking into Kickstarter and indiegogo. One of our staff members, Bilal Ghalib, successfully funded a hackerspace in Baghdad using Kickstarter (see here).

A quick search of 'hackerspace' on indiegogo brings back this. And on kickstarter brings back this. Tampa Hackerspace is actually a very active participant in the Instructables Build Night program and was funded on Kickstarter. They could be a great outreach candidate.

I've asked some of the other editors at Instructables and will report back if they have any more suggestions.

I have some information that you may be interested in before you seemingly recommend a space based on what they APPEAR to be doing. A hackerspace MAY set up a 501c3 for purely self serving purposes, and in fact do little to educate anyone except their own paying members, while funneling money and publicity through with little understanding of their responsibility as a non-profit.Fabricating budgets, and expenses is easy for anyone with a computer, but if you're audited you need receipts. Everyone thinks they should be a non-profit so they'll get donations rolling in, but a properly run business should be able to get loans and grants on their merits. There are plenty of opportunities with Instructibles, Make, and others to put REAL programs in place, but proper planning and accountability should be a priority for a non-profit.

Do you mean, not-for-profit-YET...or will always be a non-profit? Because our space has this concept going on now...we just don't advertise it. (the adults for one time and kids for another, I mean. We are purely a 501c3

We plan to stay 501C3. From a crowd funding perspective we could issue donation receipts. Do you think that would be useful?

the donations will be a big boost to your infrastructure costs...just remember 3 things: 1- companies sometimes have a matching plan, so when you have supporters who are interested in donating- ask where they work first and check to see if you can enroll in their recognized plan; and 2- those donations through a monthly debit or cc transaction will always garner great yields when fundraising for donations and 3- try to establish a trust as early as possible. Membership is comes in highs and lows. By establishing a trust, eventually you'll be able to invest it and the capital gains from the trust will offset the shortcomings of membership dues when you hit the lulls.

(You might think, I'm just a little space...I'll never have enough use for a trust...trust me, these things grow faster than you might realize. Oh, and it is very useful to have 2 ppl assigned to each task, if they are volunteers.)

so long as you stay non-profit, the officers at Rivercitylabs.org (our hacker/makerspace) will be happy to help in any way we can. Go through our google+ page (linked to the .org site) for anything not instructables related. Clint LeClair, MD -President of River City Labs

I would strongly encourage when you structure your organization, that you consider a role for mentors and advisers. The mentors will be folks that run other hacker/makerspaces. They will not only feel your growing pains, but will collectively give you options that worked and didn't work for their situations. Lastly, and most importantly for a new space, other hackerspaces have resources and tools you don't. We have already loaned out a couple 3D printers we've made and a laser cutter to other spaces. They don't have anything to contribute in trade, but sustainability of groups, near and far alike, is one of the central benefits of the sharing mantra.

The advisers will hopefully include folks from your local education boards and from the city or county (I'm assuming you are in the US). The school folks will bring instant outreach of parents and children alike, and the local municipal administrators (think economic development manager or the like) will know about little-advertised grants to encourage you to apply for...as well as keeping you further forward of thoughts while working through city budgets and carving out resources for what these people (who are your advisers) consider important.

The area we are looking at has a charter school system. We are waiting a meeting with one of the principles that won a grant for a 3D printer. We are blessed with several universities in the city and hope to be able to get students as mentors for both youth and adults.

We are hoping to be able to get some assembly jobs from local industry to aid in providing jobs in the neighborhood.

I have interest in trying to find products needed by 3rd world children that we could make and ship to them. I think Kids helping Kids will make lifetime changes.

By the time this starts, I will be under canvas and offline for a couple of days, so I'll leave these here in advance:

1. By what criteria do you measure the worth and success of Build Nights?

2. In general, how successful have the Build Nights been?

3. So far, which Build Nights do you consider to have been the most and least successful, and why?

1. By what criteria do you measure the worth and success of Build Nights?

-> There are 3 parties involved with every build night: Instructables, makerspaces, and the sponsors. When evaluating the success of a build night I try to consider everyones experience. For Instructables, we're mostly looking at the number of Instructables we get in and the quality (feature rate, topic, pictures, etc…). We also look at the number of new authors and community involvement. We're beginning a series of featured makerspace interviews starting with The Rabbit Hole (similar to our featured author interviews). Makerspaces that are heavily involved on Instructables have their own group page.

The sponsors are looking for brand engagement and authentic examples of their products being used. Sugru was thrilled to see lots of people talking on Twitter and Facebook about their build night experience. Voltaic Systems wanted a lower number of high quality projects made with their solar panels. So we only accepted 15 spaces and made the acceptance process more difficult.

Its not always easy to know the success level for the makerspace because I can't attend the events. Thus, I've been sending out surveys and am planning a google hangout next week. From what I've gathered these are the goals of the makerspaces: connect with other makerspaces, learn new subjects, attract new members, free tools/materials, and create more opportunities for their members.

2. In general, how successful have the Build Nights been?

-> I'll answer this from Instructables perspective. Most build nights have a 50-60% project return rate. The feature rate has been all over the board. The sugru feature rate was around 20% (we received 250 Instructables) and the Voltaic Systems feature rate was around 90% (we received 9 Instructables). The more build nights we run the higher I hope to get the project return rate because I'm excluding spaces that don't have a good posting record. In every event announcement I say "Not posting these Instructables will affect your chances to participate in future build nights" and I'm serious about it. I have a very detailed spreadsheet where I keep track of who has and has not posted. When it comes time to selecting spaces to participate I cross check my spreadsheet. That being said, every build night I give spaces a chance to explain not posting in the past. I completely understand life happens and I like to give out second chances :D

3. So far, which Build Nights do you consider to have been the most and least successful, and why?

-> The least successful build night was the 123D build night. Honestly, I don't even refer to it when I list out the past build nights. It was our second build night (June 2013) and we gave away printing credits to Shapeways. I think there was only 1 project submitted (out of 15 or 20 participating spaces). I think it tanked because people really want to receive physical products. Also, most of the spaces didn't have a designated person that already knew how to use 123D so there was too much troubleshooting at the event.

I don't know that there is a most successful build night. I think every build gets better than the previous event. It's also hard to compare the Sugru and Lumi build nights that had between 50-100 participating spaces with the Voltaic Systems and Cool Neon build nights that had 10-15 participating spaces.

How do you get on the list to do a build night? Does Instructables sponsor it or does the company request to get on a list so that the company can show off new products and how to use them? Who gets invited?

I ask for a future reference for my husband's company. They will be coming out with new stamp products in the not-to-far-away future, and maybe I could convince his company to go show off their stuff....

Hi DeandrasCrafts! Great Qs!!!

You can sign up to get on our announcement list here.

The companies we are working with sponsors the event - that means they donate all the materials and tools. We usually find companies through our contest prize providers. My job is to build relationships with companies that make cool tools and materials - so I usually mention the build night program when talking to new companies. Our sales team also pitches the build nights to larger sponsors. That's how we got Dremel to sponsor a build night!

That would be great if your husband's company wants to sponsor an event. You can have him e-mail me at carley@instructables.com. Just as an FYI, we usually run the build nights along with a standard ad campaign for the sponsor (which is a paid opportunity).

I know you have build night with Nextfab in Philly in combination with Jameco. We are brethren in the maker movement. I would sincerely like to know more about bringing that my makerspace in combination with some great companies. I just added my name to the announcement list and would love to begin the process in other ways!

That's great! I would keep an eye out on upcoming events through the e-mail list. Also, start building and posting projects on Instructables (even if it's not part of an official build night). This will give your space an advantage when signing up for a build night because we know you are capable of posting an Instructable.

It sure does! When you apply for a build night include that link in your application so I know your space is posting projects.

Nope. When we announce a new build night we have you apply through a google form. One of the questions in the form asks you to share projects your space has posted on Instructables.

Hi, Carley,

Our makerspace is doing our first build night with the LED Summer Build Night. Can you tell me the basics of how a build night works?


Hi Melissa, thanks for joining!

Yes, each build night is a month long (except the LED build night is two months July-August). During that month you agree to host an event at your space where you invite members from your community. At the event you teach people how to use the materials and tools and you come up with the suggested number Instructables. You have until the end of the following month (in this case the end of September) to post your Instructables.

This is a great resource if you are hosting your first build night.

Let me know if you have any more questions.


Carleyy, towards your reply to Kiteman...I see two birds with a possible one stone...since several spaces will have the same project materials (and troubleshooting will be asked repeatedly in each space) would you be interested if we put together a neutral platform like a google hangout for participating spaces...and call it a X-country hackathon! You'll see in real time how things are going in real-time, and if someone in one space knows an answer to a question asked at another space, then all will hear the answer (maybe a realtime up/down vote for multiple answers)...leading to more effective instructable project design for more easily repeatable results...just a thought

Hey 1tri2god! This is a great suggestion! The one issue is not all the spaces hold events at the same time. They have the entire month of the build night to host an event. Maybe I could post an Instructable forum topic where people post their questions or issues they experienced so groups hosting events at the end of the month would know what to look out for. We would have a hard time doing it in real time.

I think the idea of having people communicate because having the makerspaces interact has been one of the top suggestions from participants.

so an earlier group puts out an instructable on resources found most useful (ie, videos that explain the functionality or how to incorporate the sponsoring-product into another project) and pitfalls learned in hosting that particular build night (ie-have extra soldering irons on hand, but for kids, have crimping tools...and use this type of solder, not that type, etc.)...is this what you mean? (this wouldn't count for the requisite 2 instructables, I'd imagine...just karma points)

I mean we could have a forum post where 'makerspace A' could comment and say, "We just hosted the ____ build night and we had trouble explaining ____ to our beginner participants. If you are hosting a build night with ____ be sure to plan for this". And then build night organizers could check in on the forum post before their event to get feedback.

Something like that would count as karma points :D I created this forum post with lost of Build Night resources: https://www.instructables.com/community/Build-Night...

I think it's time I update it!

sorry, I mean community forum post...the thought of it being an instructable was just so it would be more easily searchable on the main page

I only suggest this because we're networking regional hacker/makerspaces and fablabs for this concept already...btw, this is Clint from RiverCityLabs.org In Peoria, IL

I would like to host the first hack-a-thon / build night event. This could be the perfect thing for that!

You're in the right place! Feel free to post a comment with any questions or suggestions you have about the programs Instructables is running with makerspaces. I'll be here from 1-4pm

Hello maker community! I am now taking any and all questions regarding Instructables makerspace outreach programs!!!

Hi Carleyy, my name is Lavon and I am the CEO of SoHa SMART (http://sohasmart.com/), a maker space in NJ. I would LOVE to know more about your programs Instructables is running with makerspaces! I am definitely tuning in tomorrow between 1-4pm. Will this be EST or PST? So I can set my reminder!


Where in NJ are you located? Your map on the website shows a location in Italy.

I'm from MakerBar up in Hoboken NJ, and we know of a few NJ spaces including FUBAR Labs and a lot of the rest are fledgeling or NYC/Brooklyn based. Would be great to connect with another NJ space.

Hey there Nerdius! I met some of you guys at last year's Maker faire in New York City. We are located Haddon Township New Jersey, 10 minutes from Philly. Thank you, a BIG thank you, for pointing out that my maps weren't loading correctly, it's all fixed now. That was a big help, good looking out.

If you're ever in the neighborhood you should stop by. We are always looking for teachers and mentors and it could be a great way for some of your makers to make an extra income. I would love to visit your spaces well!

Awesome! Thanks for the info. I'll be down that way the weekend of the 28th-- my recording engineer lives in Camden, so not too far away. Maybe I can wander over sometime then.

You're always welcome at MakerBar for a visit. We host two open nights every week on Wednesday and Friday night starting 7:30pm. If you PM me we can talk more about planning visits and trading more details about our spaces.

Cool beans. I will join your AMA tomorrow at 1:00 amd try to ask some good questions!