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MAKE 40: Makerspaces

This article appeared in Make: Vol. 40.

From TechShops to Fab Labs, makerspaces are popping up around the country and the world, helping makers gain experience, develop support networks, and build bigger and better than ever before. Volunteer-run or professional, membership- or employee-based, non- or for-profit, theyʼre offering tools, education, and space to makers who donʼt have a home shop or who want to go beyond it.

Part recreational shop, part product incubator, part R&D lab, part community center, they cater to — and help define — a growing, decentralized hub of the maker world. These are places where makers are safe, welcome, comfortable, and free to pursue their goals, where innovation and creativity is fostered, learning is encouraged, and community trumps just about everything.

In these pages youʼll see some makerspaces up close, as well as look at what they can do and how theyʼre growing. Youʼll see some of their tools and their builds, and maybe youʼll be inspired to check one out in your area. Welcome to the Geek Club.


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  • Lisa Palmieri, Ph.D.

    Check out our new initiative “tinker squads” kicking off this summer. HS girls mentoring MS girls:

  • Susan McRorie

    There are more women in technology than there used to be but there’s still a gap. I’m a SysAdmin and have been in the IT field for nearly 20 years. Years ago, there were two female programmers and I was the only female SysAdmin in the entire company. Being a girl and also having a “cute” Southern accent, I had to work extra hard to prove myself and I did. I finally earned respect from the guys. Why is there a stereotype that girls aren’t good at Math or Science? I’m a Math whiz and I can thank my supergenius Mom helping me with homework for that. If she had the opportunity, she could’ve been an electrical engineer. I was having a hard time understanding division and fractions and she explained it to me in a way that I finally got it. Math is the language of the universe.

    Doesn’t matter if you’re a boy or a girl, don’t let anyone discourage you and tell you that you can’t do something. With hard work and determination you can do anything you set your mind to. Having opportunities open up help as well.

    • Mathew

      I’m a male, yes, however I agree with you, I think the gap between men and women in the industry should be much, much, smaller. The stereo-type of men working with technology should be dropped as these aren’t tasks that women would necessarily be bad at, infact in most cases they are equally as capable if not more.

      These jobs aren’t made up of tasks that require masculinity, such as labour eg Heavy Lifting, in fact it is quite the opposite, working in the tech industry requires patience and precision which is not something men are too famous for :P; the mathematical and other mental requirements are not a limiting factor either, out of all the top scoring graduates in my area last year, about 40% were women. In fact, the top position in the area was a draw, between a male and female.

      I think what is still causing this gap is the mindset of the people. Girls feel it is a males area and leave it. I’d say the field of technology is targeting males more so than females, and this may be true in other places. However at the college I am workng at. The teacher of the software development course is female, there are a heap of scolarships for girls in this field (notably more than there is for boys) however, this class struggles to get any girls in the class, and if it does, it struggles to keep them.

      I feel over time this may change though, as I am seeing more and more women around this industry. Who knows, maybe one day men will be thinking technology is a girls thing and we will struggle to get more men.

  • SeanReynoldsCS

    Meyers Briggs can help identify Science Potential within a student in a gender neutral way.

    True happiness in one’s career comes from identifying 3 things: What you’re good at, What the world needs and What you enjoy.

    Meyers Briggs can help you understand what you enjoy.

    Counselors can help you understand what the world needs.

    You have to work to be good at anything, even if it comes naturally you still have to pursue and learn your field.

  • Sharon Wildwind

    Start early. Give girls and young women tools, materials, and classes for winter holidays, birthdays, and other special events. I’ve had my own tool box since I was nine.

  • Chris Smith

    My first reaction to this post was “where exactly are all the male makerspaces?” but on actually reading it there are some fantastic points.

    I don’t think anybody wants to see an all women makerspace but one thing we all want to see is gender, religion and ethnicity a non issue and our spaces be inclusive for all. That said, there are a few makerspace equivalents out there such as the “womens institute” or “mens sheds” that are specifically created with a gender focus in mind (not that they discriminate, both usually allow men/women to join) and these are a positive force.

    In my opinion the biggest thing we can simply do by promoting more women in makerspaces (or STEM in general) is simply don’t put them off coming to them.

  • terre

    One issue that seems obvious (to me!) is that there are few if any shop classes or even ‘home’ economics classes in regular high schools. Why is this? When I have proposed even a club after school, the principal, teachers and even some parents tell me that the barrier is ‘liability’. Really? We can’t teach teenagers to follow rules or don’t use equipment? The intersection of tech with manufacturing and economic development in a community is necessary if we are to keep job growth local, and healthy, by encouraging innovation, collaboration, and experimentation. Science, math and tech are being blurred in jobs such as food security, the arts, and healthcare, with education being the catalyst that drives interest in new opportunities. And while social media is prevalent, it’s still society that is central in new movements.