To provide access to creative tools, stimulate creativity, encourage collaboration, teach maker skills and develop locally based production in Northwest Arkansas.
What is a Maker Space?
A maker space is a place with equipment and tools and machines which people can use to create their visions. It is also a philosophy of empowerment, a fearless attitude: the thought that “Yes, I can do this thing!” You may or may not know your goal but the journey is filled with twists, turns, and surprises awaiting. The maker space is inspiration: a place to get excited about the possibilities of the future.
When you first walk in our door, you will see things in various stages of creation. What exactly is being made will be different every time, but the process has certain stages that you can learn. It’s not magic…well, maybe it is a kind of magic, and the staff of the maker space are there to get you started on your journey.
The path of creation begins with an idea, a destination. There are lots of ways people get ideas! Sometimes it is just a simple need, like a sign for a business you are starting. Or say the knob for your toaster fell off and got lost because it was poorly made. You might think “I’ll make a better one!” Sometimes people see other makers doing something online and they think I could do something like that, only I might do it this way. Sometimes the idea is something you think people might buy “If only I could make a few prototypes to test the idea…” And sometimes, the idea is just something that you think would look really cool or make people laugh because it is oh so clever!
What’s My Next Step?
Then what?? You’ve got this idea, but how do you start? This is where some makers with experience can give you a few options on what strategy to take. Often, it may involve learning some new things, but the thing about a maker space is that a lot of thought has been put into finding efficient paths through the process so you can choose the method that is just right for you. Many projects start with a design from somewhere, in some format. It has to be cleaned up, modified, scaled, converted into something that will work with the particular machine and materials you want to use. Most likely, someone has done something similar before, and their experience will help you get started.
After your first design is starting to become real, you will start to understand the process and start to interact with it. You will get ideas for improvements. It might turn out your first thing was just the prototype, the beginning of a creative adventure.
When you have trouble coming up with an idea for a project, there will be things you can do to help improve the maker space while you learn, and we plan to have group projects going that you can get involved in. Creating with a group of makers can be an awesome experience. Collaboration is one of the things we hope becomes a strong part of the maker space.
I mentioned philosophy. It is a combination of the “can do” attitude, the joy of learning as you go, discovering new combinations and possibilities. We try to get you started right away with just what you need to get going. For example, if you just want to use some LEDs to light up a project, you don’t need a bunch of engineering terms and theory. You don’t need to know what an anode and a cathode are. You just need to know the basics of how to make a circuit that matches your power to the LEDs (and that they don’t work if you hook them up backwards). If you want to get more advanced and have animated LEDs making all kinds of rainbows, you don’t need to learn how to code, you just need to know how to hook them up and where to look to find some code that will work for your project. Of course, you might try it and get addicted to Arduino and learn to code for fun! While we are all about education, we won’t try to fill your head with a bunch of stuff you don’t need.
You might already be proficient in CAD and familiar with laser cutters and CNC routers. Maybe you just need access to some machines to make an item you think might sell. Great! What if the item starts to sell, and you need to produce a bunch of them? Policy is that you can reserve the machines for a certain amount of time. You can produce your items in that amount of time, but if that is not enough, then it sounds like your project has grown too big for the maker space. How cool! We will either move you to our micromanufacturing side, or we will help you find the next steps, whether it is farming the work out to industry in the area or setting up your own shop.