What is a Maker Space?

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Maybe there are still a lot of people that have not yet heard about the Maker Movement and don´t know much either about Maker or Hacker Spaces, the Maker Faires or anyone who is part of this DIY (Do it yourself) movement. I got a couple of people asking  what MakerBoat actually is, so I guess it´s better to give some background information and definition about Maker Spaces.

There is a wide variety and types of Maker Spaces around. In general a Maker Space is a place where people meet, work, collaborate, research, imagine, dream, play, experiment, learn, design anything from electronic circuits, robots, 3d printing, open source hardware, Arduino boards to cheese making or beer brewing. It´s basically a laboratory and playground for anyone and for anything creative. Some concepts that are common to most Maker Spaces are freedom, collaboration, creativity, hacking or learning and experimenting, breaking things apart and putting them together in different ways. Most Maker Spaces welcome members from all ages and backgrounds, from kids to elderly and people with technical and non technical backgrounds. Maker spaces serve as informal learning spaces, there are often free courses given by the members themselves (crowd teaching/learning). Maker spaces are very horizontal, self organized, collective, democratic entities, often started by friends who invite other friends and are open for anyone to join, paying their rent and equipment expenses thanks to donations, memberships, materials sales and crowdfunding, much like hobbyst computer clubs in the 70’s, but really open for many things not just the latest prototyping technologies.

For creative people who feel emptiness after graduating from school, Maker Spaces provide a community of creatives who are eager to learn, experiment and come up with cool projects, be it art, technology, science, food, crafts and a mix of all of these. There are even Maker Spaces focused on teaching kids, others more focused on programming, robotics, biology (check out Biocurious!) and open hardware. A Maker Space most of the times has a specific location, renting a warehouse or office space in downtown San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Shenzhen, London or Berlin, that is then converted into a lab/gallery/workshop/classroom/coworking space. Or it can be even a mobile space, like a school bus converted into a laboratory or a big truck or van touring around the country going from school to school like the SparkTruck project, teaching kids about citizen science projects or how to build an Arduino robot or LED lamps with sensors and evangelizing about the maker movement.

In the last few years there have been many Maker and Hacker Spaces poping up in different cities and countries.  There are about 500 Maker and Hacker spaces listed on Hackerspaces.org. Apparently creativity needs to organically raise from the ground all over the world and Maker spaces provide the tools, the people and the community for creativity and self reliance to flourish.

In this ecosystem of open spaces and open creativity and innovation, the MakerBoat idea came up initially to offer a mobile maker space (like SparkTruck) on a sailing boat to be docked at the port of Barcelona, one of Europe´s most cool and creative cities, offering a small maker space and also serving as a hosting/sleeping space for any makers visiting Barcelona to stay there freely specially if they were coming to collaborate on projects or give some talks or teach new skills to the maker community in Barcelona. Also, since there are a variety of types of Maker Spaces, we would initially focus on learning new skills and new technologies, while trying to launch our own collaborative projects, help, support and fund others. Right now we will try out some raw ideas that will hopefully evolve into more solid projects. Juliet is an architect and designer with lots of experience and my background is more on the entrepreneurship side, which hopefully will complement the projects.

This initial idea will still remain valid, even though we have been delaying the boat plan for a few months, but we are sure it would help create a nice community and would make it easy to host visitors, organize talks, and add a creative space to the growing community in Europe. We also plan to either rent or share an office or warehouse with other creative people to have a permanent place, but for the meantime and the next few months that we will be travelling from Europe to San Francisco to Hong Kong to China and Silicon Valley, to learn what is going on in these places. We will be going from city to city, visiting other hackerspaces and coworking from there. So right now this project will remain a travelling and virtual open lab until we find out our final home. This won´t stop us from launching new projects or collaborating with other people.

If all of this still sounds unfamiliar you can learn more about the Makers movement by reading some articles from Make: magazine, doing some DIY projects from Instructables.com, learning more about open hardware/Arduino or checking out some videos from the Maker Faire (the greatest show and tell on earth)!

 

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On June 4, 2014
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