If you've been following my campaign, you'll know I mention this word "makerspace" often. Makerspace, also known as hackerspaces, fab labs, or digital fabrication laboratories, is the umbrella term for a type of facility that allows everyday people (read: non-engineers) to use computing and technology to design, invent, and create tangible projects, often with other makers . Many of them come equipped with 3d Printers, cnc mills, sewing machines, laser cutters, and a myriad of hand tools. They often provide materials for creating like cardboard, plywood, metal sheeting, molding and casting supplies. Ideally, they are staffed by experienced maker volunteers in the lab that live to train and teach others about working in the makerspace or digital fabrication lab. Take a tour of a fab lab here. (This video is several years old but it's still a good tour)
Why are these so important? These labs are teaching people about new technology, electronics, 3d printing and modeling, computer programming/coding, carpentry, physics. A makerspace is basically STE(A)M education made flesh. The skills that you can learn in a makerspace are vital to people who plan to be alive in the coming decades. And, perhaps most importantly, it is a bunch of fun!
Makerspaces not only reinforce STE(A)M concepts, they promote a collaborative and entrepreneurial spirit. Neighbors are coming together to collaborate, teach each other, and combine forces to invent, launch startups, or simply create something their own. Each makerspace reflects the culture and traditions of the community it's in. I have seen this first hand for ten years as an administrator at MIT's Center for Bits and Atoms. CBA has deployed dozens of labs around the world, and the spinoff, Fab Foundation, has deployed many of its own. This movement has gone viral and it is estimated that over one thousand fab labs exist in the world now. Unfortunately, this viral movement seems to be more poplular in other countries. It is important that American communities do not fall behind.
The bar to entry to these makerspaces is not very high. A community could theoretically get a very decent lab off the ground with 100k in tools and materials, assuming a suitable site was setup, staffed, and maintained. I think it would be a wonderful community amenity if Quincy were to make a community makerspace. However, that is not the only way to bring a makerspace to Quincy. Private organizations and businesses are creating these spaces and running them as a small business. With Makerspaces from Boston to Worcester, makerspaces are not "Just for Cambridge". An argument can be made that makerspaces will become as ubiquitous as public libraries in the coming decades.
Even if we waited and did nothing, makerspaces will eventually come to us in Quincy. The momentum is undeniable. However, as Quincy prepares to welcome the expansion of the BIoTech corridor down from Cambridge, Boston, and into our community, wouldn't be nice if some of our citizens were able to gain the skills to gain employment in these incoming businesses? Sure, some of our citizens have the higher education to apply here, but ordinary citizens can learn to code, solder, wire sensors, and assemble a prototype in these labs. Let's not wait for the train to go by.
The users of makerspaces are not predominately one gender, or race, or age. The desire to express, create and invent spans the gamut of demographic categories. Makerspaces will enrich our community, reinforce education, provide creative and entreprenurial outlets, and promote collaboration among Quincy's residents. Let's get some!
Here I am working in a makerspace here at MIT to build this year's Troop 6 Adult Pinewood Derby Car. Enjoy!