Makersville: How to Make a Makerspace for Youth



Introduction: Makersville: How to Make a Makerspace for Youth

I made a Maker Space and I want to share it with you.

Many people are realizing that the Maker Movement and Maker Culture provide amazing learning environments. I've met elementary school teachers and parents who mused that they would like to have one at their school. I would like to share how it worked for Makersville, the Maker community I've been working to create, and the Maker Space I helped to get started at the Long Beach Sea Base in Long Beach, CA.

I hope it will help you to get your space started.

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Step 1: Gather Your Ingredients

A Maker Space needs:

  • Communication
  • Makers
  • Supporters
  • Space
  • Equipment
  • Materials
  • Other ingredients as you identify to make your Maker Space unique
  • The Maker Movement

When you are making a Maker Space, the gathering of the ingredients into a space is the recipe. You will be taking a concept and working with what you have available to you to implement it. All ingredients are important, and you will be gathering bits of one ingredient then the next. The final ingredient could certainly be placed first, but I have placed it last. You don't need to understand all of the goals and benefits of the Maker Movement to implement a Maker Space. That will come with time. It is sufficient to know that it is an empowering culture that encourages cross-disciplinary interaction, exploration and a supportive community.

There are other ingredients that I have not listed. Open Mindedness, Persistence, Inclusiveness, Time. Whether you use a sprinkle, a dash, a cup or ten is up to you, but these ingredients are all part of Making a Maker Space.

Each one of the ingredients I have listed will take a fair amount of work, and new ingredients will find their way into your version of the recipe.

As we progress through this Instructable, I will use my version of the recipe as an example. I will describe what went into the making of the Makersville community, the Maker Space at the Sea Base and the Maker Space for Scouts which we call the Scout/Maker Space (isn't that original?).

Each ingredient will be listed as a step, and I will share what I can. This Instructable is being written over several days, and I'm finding that as I research to provide you links, that there is continuity between what has passed and what's going on now. Where this happens, I will mention it, as they provide insight.

Step 2: Communication: Tell Others You Are Making a Maker Space

If you want people to help you build or participate in your Maker Space, you'll need to start getting the word out. Tell your friends. Tell your child's friends' parents. Tell your neighbor. Send a press release . Write a blog. Do a video. Visit a meeting of Makers and tell them. Still on the fence? Don't be. “I am starting a Maker Space.” If you say you are doing it, you are more likely to do it and folks are more likely to help you, and you are going to need a lot of help. Ask for help.

And keep telling them. You'll only want to stop sharing and talking about it when you're done with it. And when I say done... I don't mean when it's functional and equipped with lots of Maker patrons. I mean that you no longer want to involve yourself with it. And when you've spent so much energy on something, hopefully you'll always want to be a part of it, in some small or large way.

What I Did

I told everyone I wanted to be a Maker and I made a game I called The Community Lemonade Game. You can read about it here. I sure told people about it. I told people I knew. I told people I didn't know. I had a blog on the Belmont Shore Patch and I blogged about Makers and Maker Spaces. If I hadn't been blogging, I probably wouldn't have played the Community Lemonade game and I wouldn't be the enthusiastic Maker that I am today. I don't know who ever read that post, but I read it a lot. It reinforced me every time I neared giving up. But that's me. You may have your own community outreach mechanisms. Use them.

Step 3: Makers: Find Makers

You are a Maker

You are the first one, so make something. Be sure to tell someone about it. On Facebook, on the phone, your family, your friends. When you're done with that (or even if you aren't) make something else. It's fun being a Maker. Remember, you already are one. If what you're making doesn't come out quite right, you can still talk about it. Maybe someone will help you.

Use Making to extend your personal interests and hobbies – and find others with the same interests. You're participating because it's fun and you're interested. It's never work. If you're looking for some inspiration on what to make, poke around on Instructables, or do some internet searches.

I'm a Maker.

I didn't always think I was one. I spent a lot of time thinking about how I could become a Maker and told everyone about it. I already was, because everyone's a Maker. Everyone makes something. Once I said "I'm a Maker", I felt empowered. I belonged to the Maker Movement. It's a powerful thing, believing.

Today I made Spaghetti in Meatballs for 50 kids on my son's Momentum Robotics team. It's a team with non profit sponsor Shared Science, a group I helped to co-found. It's my second time making this sort of dish. The first time was after I received an email from Instructables. I wrote about it. Spaghetti in Meatballs.

I think it came out substantially better this time. I used a different recipe, one for a giant 3 lb meatball and a variant: three others with 2/3 lb each of meat. I had fingers crossed, but they came back for seconds! It wasn't terrible. Almost tasty. A few things went wrong. Something from which to learn. One day I'll write about that experience, and I have a few changes to make. A few things I've learned about feeding 50 people on an oddball (ha ha) dish that I've only made once. In the interest of time, that will wait.

One Maker is not Enough. Find More Makers

Maker Spaces are just spaces if they have no Makers in them. So you'll need to find yourself some Makers. Don't worry, everyone makes something, so everyone is naturally a Maker. Some Makers already have communities (artists, writers, actors) and some Makers just work on their own stuff. Some of those Makers will want to help you, especially if you want to help them. So help them. Find out what they like to do but can't, because of a lack of space, equipment, knowledge, confidence or an audience. Face to face meetings are the best, but emails and online connections sometimes will work.

No one will just jump in and dedicate their lives to building your makerspace. That's your thing. Folks want to help you, but they may only have a few minutes to listen, an hour a week to share for your ideas. Over time, if you make your purpose their purpose, respect them and treat them as equals, they will work to bring their goals to fruition, and it will be your goal. You may not be able to fully encompass their goals, but find the intersections and help them to help you. Anyway, I guess what I'm saying is... you have things you want to make (or do), they have things that you want to make (or do), what is it that you both want to make (or do)?

What I Did

If you read the post about the Community Lemonade Game, you'll know that I created a mission for myself, around the goal of making things, finding makers and making a maker space. I learned about MeetUp and got an account. I found a community group of artists called the Cultural Alliance of Long Beach (CALB). I played The Community Lemonade Game.

I met Walt Perko who had a concept for a Maker Space called L'robotorium. We planned a class together and held it at the Sea Base.I visited Crash Space, a hacker space in Culver City (and met Dale Dougherty, the founder of Make). I met him again when OC Mini Maker Faire Beth sent me something about him being at the Beall Center for Art and Technology at UCI. I went to the Comic Bug, an awesome comic book store in Manhattan Beach. I did some classes for homeschool students there for a while. I met Jean Kaneko, and visited the Exploratory in Culver City. I set up a class on the Arduino and one on Wearable Electronics when SparkFun was doing educational tours. I don't know if they do those any more. I visited the Bay Area Maker Faire. I found lots of Makers there. There were some very awesome cupcake makers there (the sheet-metal ride-in-it kind, not the baking kind)There's something for everyone at a Maker Faire. I'm a scout volunteer and scouts are natural makers. I met Long Beach artists Barry Rothstein (who is regularly at the Bay Area Maker Faire and did a cover for Make: magazine). I found a steel drum school at the Mount Ephraim Spiritual Baptist Church, right here in Long Beach (I'm from Trinidad, home of the Steel Drum). This makes me look up the Maker Movement and Trinidad and I found this article. I joined the Robotics Society of Southern California (RSSC) which meets at Cal-State University, Long Beach. It continues to inspire me. I met Gray and learned about the inMoov robot. I made friends with Walter, an avid robot maker and professor. I met another humanoid robot, made by Hanson robotics.

I found a person who became a friend and part of the community we now call Makersville. I forget when the name was first used. Perhaps at the time, it was just “Hey, have you heard about the Maker Movement?” Her name is Caprice Spencer Rothe and she happens to have instructed the puppeteers for one of the most famous puppets in the world. E.T. She also happens to be a movement artist, graphic artist, mask maker, game instructor, sewist. A Multi kind of Maker. We made things together, then we worked on making Makersville.

I found another person who also became a friend and integral part of the Makersville community. He's a techie. His name is Morio Murase. I met him at an Android development Meetup and we did an Epson hack a thon together with Caprice and others from the meetup. He's an inveterate geek and can spout random details about the pros and cons of obtuse programming languages – among other things. Oh yeah and he's a gamer. A perfect combination! Lately he's been learning to sew. We learned about Android development together, then we worked on making Makersville.

I got together with Friend Mary to make things. We made Pasta, .batted cat fibers and learned about the Thermofax.

Makersville continues to grow. We've met Linda who is taking over our Sewing program and Jesse who runs a community of artists called the US Art Alliance.

We all take pride in it's founding, and our part in the starting of Makersville. I hope that over time, we will all want to have some part in it's continued growth. We were strangers, we made things together. Then we made Makersville.

Step 4: Supporters: Gather Your Supporters

Not everyone will engage as a Maker in your group. Maybe your version of Making is a little too unstructured. Perhaps they have their own Maker group or they like making things at home. Still, they will help you by making donations of your essentials: space, materials, equipment and time. You just have to ask.

Talk to anyone and everyone you know about what you need. Start with your family, friends, organizations with which you already interact. But if you have to, go ahead and ask a not-so-random stranger. If you have to, ask a stranger.

Let them know your big picture, but be moderate in your request for support. Is there something they can provide that you specifically need or can use? Ask for it. Don't know what that person can provide that you need? Just talk about what you do and they will find some way to help you. You will be grateful, so share your gratitude.

Often your Makers will become your supporters or will help you find new ones.

What I did

I made a friend, Cindy, who runs a program for Homeschool students called Great Educational Experiences (GEE!). She helped me to find some students. I volunteer a lot for the scouts, and I told the Scout Executive about Maker Culture and he let me use the Scout Sea Base for classes. Cindy helped me to find a giant donation of fabric. A friend, Casey, helped me find equipment. My friend Mary made an awesome donation to our program. I spoke to an elementary school principal. We LOVE the school and run a program there now. A teacher asked us to bring our program to her school. We're doing a pilot there.

Supporters will help you more and more. Over time, if you make what you are doing meaningful to them, their support will become stronger. Find ways to help them, and to make your program work with theirs... They will help you help them.

Step 5: Space: Find Your Space

This is a hard one, but it's not impossible. Look around you. There are spaces that are not being used all the time. Ask about them. Churches have recreation halls and youth classrooms. A local business might have some room. Check out your community centers. Perhaps there is a space where you can rent for classes.

If you have to, meet at your house or garage. You can meet at a local park or the beach if you just have a few folks. It's harder, but it can work.

If you're planning a commercial, branded space, it's a different story. You'll need a pool of cash for financial insurance while you build your community. My preference is to test the waters and build the community first.

You'll want to be respectful of the fact that space has to be maintained. You may be bringing an amazing program, but if you want to establish a long term relationship with the group that manages the space, you'll need to pay for your space, make a donation. It may not cover the cost of you being there, but anything helps.

What I did

As I mentioned, I asked the Scout Executive if I could use some space at the Sea Base, a property run by the scouts. We tried it out for a class that we scheduled through GEE! With the help of supporter Cindy. Got a few students, not a lot, but enough to keep going.

Then we grew the number of classes, the range of the audience - older kids, different kinds of Making.

I always look for new spaces. At CALB, I can get some space if we need it. For Spring space, we got help from The Family Store and for summer from a business called Made in Long Beach (now Millworks). Last summer we took the plunge and rented a banquet room at a hotel that let us set up on Monday and break down on Friday. It was expensive, but awesome! I was having breakfast at a local restaurant, and had to walk through 3 empty rooms to get to the restroom. They said they'd be ok with an occasional class if it's scheduled at the right time of day. I thought about having breakfast and Making, and tucked it into the back of my mind. We did something at a Comic Book shop and two weeks at Bayshore Church.

Step 6: Equipment: Get Equipment

Now, you may want to run out and get a 3d printer and a laser cutter, but let's admit. A 3d printer will only serve one at a time, and take a while to make decent prints. A laser cutter is awesome, but pricey, and you're just getting started. Certainly, keep these in your sights, but if you ask around (and even look around your garage) you'll find lots of hand tools and even some power tools that folks are able to give away.

Now here's my biggest secret. Folks will buy things for their hobbies. They will try them out, then they may use them a lot, but sometimes, they're done after the first time. You can score some of these things if you are open to receiving them and figuring out what to do with them.

You, too, will buy things for your interests. You can add these things to the pool and share them with others.

You're going to find that receiving and storing all this stuff takes storage. That's a different ingredient that we'll get to later.

What I did

I'd bought a Silhouette Cameo. It's a 2d cutter with a blade. I'd seen it at a show... I think it was at the NBM show here in Long Beach . Now, I buy things that I don't always know how to use, and I find that I'm a social maker. I need to stand there with someone and tentatively try things out with folks. I asked Caprice if she wanted to try it out with me. She's a graphic artist and pretty soon we were doing all sorts of things with that. We use it for making Karakuri in card stock (creations with mechanical movements), cards, more stuff like that. Caprice has become the Cameo expert.

I checked in my garage for spare tools, and honestly, some of my husband's tools may have made it over to the Maker Space. I should remember to bring them home.

I talked to everyone, and a supporter, Casey, helped me to get donations of computers from IbuyPower and monitors from Sceptre. It's been a few years, but we're still using those computers and monitors.

I'd always wanted to try the Thermofax. I get these emails from a group called Cloth, Paper, Scissors, and they always mention the Thermofax. So I bought one from Welsh Products. They're old transparency makers, repurposed for making silk screens. It's used for making silkscreens at a snap. I asked my friend Mary to play with it with me. We had some trouble, so we tried 'fixing' it. Later we found we shouldn't have fixed it. But we figured it out together and she made an awesome tessellation skirt.

We used my friend Mary's donation to buy some sewing machines.

We finally bought a 3D printer. It's energizing the space. We should have bought one a long time ago.

We run a program for youth, and we decided the Epilog Zing 24” is what we needed. We need something that will work, is easy to use. I'd visited Steve at Cutting Edge Systems (Local Epilog dealer) enough to know. So in 2014 I asked Santa (on a post, of course). I wrote it into grants in 2015 and 2016. We didn't get them, but hey, we tried. Every time I tried, it reinforced to the sponsoring organization (in this case, the LBAC) that I really wanted a laser cutter.

I'd visited an artist/toy designer who made a project called Junktopia. Her name is Janet Schreiver and she's working on her own line of skincare products. She did some cool stuff with a laser cutter. I was in awe. When she was moving, she sold it to me. I bought it because I'd been wanting a laser cutter for some time, because I want to make wooden gears, and I've found that it's hard if you do it by hand. We had 2 days of fun calibrating it, then we had to move it.

More recently we ran and are rerunning an IndieGoGo campaign for one. Here's a link if you'd like to help. It includes some funding for program support.

I'm entering a contest for one on Instructables. Hey, you have to try all angles. Eventually something will work.

So... Since the Imprintable Sportswear Show (ISS) is on today, I decided to go to say hi to Steve. You know, the guy from Cutting Edge Systems? We chatted, and I shared about this Instructable, met a couple of Makers from TechShop in Arizona. They'd come to check out the Epilog Helix because they are inspired and may want their own to start a business. I'm still looking at that Epilog Zing 24”, but now, I find from the contest site that the 18” only costs $8.5K... We might be able to amortize that one, and with 3 makerspaces - well, one isn't enough. Steve is convincing me that the 24” is the way to go because I want the rotary attachment to make worm gears. He'll offer me a good price on it, training, whatever. I think it may be because he knows that we are building a Maker Space and folks will see it. Some will want to buy one for their space and business that they create from their experiences in our space. The Makers I met were doing just that.

Now I have to convince the core Makersville Makers and family that we can do this. I talked to Geneva Capital – they were also at the show. They provide funding for fabrication equipment for startups.

I should say at this time, that if I end up with two, or three or four Epilogs... I can put them to good use. My original plan in 2012 was to make multiple Maker Spaces in Long Beach, and I'm creating some good collaborations with schools and youth serving organizations (in this case the Long Beach BSA). One of those 3 Maker Spaces is sufficiently established to work on a second. I'm working with the ScoutReach program of the BSA to reach their 25 underserved schools and even a homeless community here in Long Beach. Those will need equipment so I 'd better start looking for it now.

Step 7: Materials: Get Materials

Materials for making are all around you. Toilet paper rolls famously come to mind. What can you make with a Toilet Paper Roll? Let's see. It just depends on what you want to make. If you're doing a Maker Space you'll need lots of stuff to inspire the Makers. Easy stuff like paper, card stock, cardboard, fabric, wire, old toys, gears, motors. I found several motors, sensors and a switch in an old toy I bought for $1 at the Salvation army. I asked Speedball for a donation.

My next secret. Folks around you have stuff that they don't want to throw away or can't sell it in a garage sale (it won't sell), but they will gladly give it to you if you ask for it for your program. They really just want to get rid of it. But they want it to go to someone who will use it. Makers make things with whatever is around them. In that you might find old wires, containers, hand tools, a power stapler.

What I did

I've been given a hand loom for weaving, picture frames, giant chunks of balsa wood (awesome!), crafting supplies, hand tools, lab tubes for storing stuff, unnamed broken electronics.

Our big score was 1000 cu feet of fabric, from a store that had closed 10 years earlier. We sold a lot of it, but are still using that fabric. A giant donation like that really makes an impact.

It let me reach out to Renaissance High School, which has a costume program, and we gave free fabric and sold some to the students. I was late getting to the fashion show (had a class), but I sure wanted to see some of the fabric put to good use. We got a couple of Makers to join our program from there, and some volunteers too!

Step 8: Get Storage

Making needs storage. If you're getting equipment and materials using the tips I provided... the first time someone delivers the contents of their garage into yours, you'll realize this. I'm laughing as I write this, but it's not far from the truth. You don't have to store everything they give you. Some of it you'll give away, some you'll use, some you'll keep for another time. But, you never know what might come in handy when you make things, so... get storage. Or at least keep it in your sights.

What we did.

I will admit that we'll never have enough storage. Luckily for us our support at the Sea Base grew stronger and they provided us with storage and then more storage. It'll never be enough, so I'm constantly on the lookout for new places to put things, and whenever I pitch to someone that I can help them build out their Maker Space, storage always comes up. We've got fabric squirreled away at homes, theaters (Long Beach is a big performing arts city) and at the Sea Base. We finally moved the stuff out of the hotel storage that we used over the summer. Or at least, I'll get the last box out of there today. They're going to put up a shopping center where the hotel is now.

We've got storage, we'll always need more.

Step 9: A Community of Makers and Maker Supporters

If you've been communicating, gathering Makers and Maker Supporters. You're probably going to find that the community is coming around you. Keep reaching out to your makers to find what they want to do, and then seeing how you can help them to do it. If you haven't already, you should give your community a name. This gives your community members something to rally around. You'll need a visual to put on your flyers, website and other communication. A logo, a graphic.

What we did

We did steps 1-6. The Makersville name happened because we feel as if we're a village. Doesn't the term makers bring up images of blacksmiths and candle makers? Someone undertook to do the flyers. Graphics evolved because of the flyers, and eventually the need for a logo presented itself.

And here we are, Makersville. We're not huge, but we're a community, and we have a system we're working out, and we have equipment, materials, supporters and collaborations with schools, teachers and especially one with the Long Beach Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America. And yes, we also have space and storage. We have a Maker Space.

Step 10: Youth Management and Protection

Let me just say, if you're working with youth, I've found it valuable to collaborate with the BSA. This sort of situation needs some guidance with regard to youth management and protection. There's an established infrastructure. Use it. What I've done could only have been established through the direct relationship with a council. Talk to someone at your local Council.

At this point, I would like to say that I'm not sure every Scout Executive will be as open minded as our local exec, John Fullerton. This thing I've done wouldn't be here if he didn't support, in what ways he could, our group. I had a long history of volunteering for the scouts, so that helped with credibility. But this was a different thing than Scouting. I'm just glad that there was a way.

Scouts are natural Makers. The words go naturally together. Maker and Scout. I used them once when

I wrote about a scout event.

I used it again when I talked about the local Pinewood Derby that was being held by Pack 007.

I've been trying to figure out how the two go together, Makers and Scouts. You might think it's easy, (because Scouts are naturally Makers) but it's not that easy. I'm a Maker and I'm a Scout.

I think I'm getting closer. I'm working with the Council's ScoutReach leader, who runs a program that serves 25 underserved schools in Long Beach. She wants to put the two together. We got a small grant and are running a pilot at Lincoln Elementary School (requested by a teacher at the school). We're writing up the program together and are very excited that maybe we'll find that awesome formula that puts the two words together in a meaningful way.

We're not the only ones. (The world is a big place). If you are a scout leader and want to connect. I'm here.

Step 11: The Maker Movement: Learn About It

Learn about the Maker Movement

I'm going to provide some links. The entire recipe is a learning opportunity, but the links will help.

Read the Makerspace Playbook. There's a school version. There's a youth version, I'm finding.

Visit a Maker Faire. This is the internet, and I don't know who'll be reading this, so I'll point you to the Maker Faire site. If you're on planet earth, there should be one in your general area. If you live in Trinidad, there's one in Puerto Rico or in Santo Domingo. You can make your own Maker Faire, but I haven't done that, so I won't write about it. After you visit one, perhaps you can make your own Mini Maker Faire and write about it.

What I did.

I went to a Maker Faire and wrote about it. I thought about making a mini Maker Faire, but read about Maker Spaces and this intrigued me more.

I held a Maker Camp. It may even have been the first ever.

I participated in the OC Mini Maker Faire with Caprice.

More recently, we participated in the Barnes and Noble Mini Maker Faire.

We have the internet. Read about makers, watch their videos and start learning.

I make videos. I use YouTube, and my channel is Squigglemom. I don't know who ever watches my videos,because they are fairly rambling. I'm sharing the trouble I'm having, and sometimes I'm documenting so that I can find the notes when I need them. The internet is my notebook, regardless of whether I have a good or bad result. There will be others who use the internet as theirs. It gives you stuff to read and watch. Sometimes you'll find what you need.

Step 12: Enjoy Your Maker Space

I've come to realize that the one most epic thing that I've made is the Makersville community. It implements an agile, responsive system of learning that takes elements of the Maker Movement and of the Scouting movement. I'm studying about Creativity and Creative problem solving. They naturally follow Making. Makersville will never be done. There will always be a new Maker to help and from whom we can learn.

There will always be something new to learn through Making.

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