Step by Step Guide to Creating a Makerspace
Are you trying to give back to your community in a positive and productive way? Are you struggling with the perfect project that can be both beneficial and long-term? One of the most fulfilling options is to create a makerspace.
Step By Step Guide To Creating A Makerspace
Why Create a Makerspace?
If you’re not familiar with makerspaces, they are specific areas where people (usually students) can come together to work on all kinds of projects. While the main focus is typically related to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), makerspaces are not defined by a particular subject.
Makerspaces are a fantastic way to engage both kids and adults with projects that help them learn and develop their skills. These places encourage positive energy and productivity that can help students and individuals achieve their goals.
So who can create a makerspace? Simply put, anyone! As long as you have the drive and dedication to make it work, you can start with nothing and wind up with a revolutionary breeding ground of the future.
We love the idea of makerspaces and all that they represent. Thus, we want to provide you with a blueprint for developing your own. While we can’t promise that the process will be easy, the experience will be worth it.
Formulating a Makerspace Idea
While the concept of a makerspace is to generate ideas and create collaboration among everyone involved, you should still begin with a theme or goal that you want to achieve. Are you trying to build a makerspace for students of a particular area to help with their education? Or, are you hoping to create a community-led space that allows open admission to anyone who wants to get involved?
In some cases, makerspaces can be dedicated to a particular field (i.e., engineering), or they can be designed to produce certain results, such as mechanical prototypes. However, your space doesn’t have to be limited by anything; it can be an open space where people of all backgrounds and disciplines can come together to build on their ideas.
So, before you worry about the technical aspects of your makerspace, you should have a guiding principle in mind first. Try to craft a mission statement for your space so that you can be sure that you’re staying on target throughout this process.
Finding a Location
Once you have a mission statement in mind, this will help you figure out the right kind of space you will need to achieve your goals. If you are trying to help students, for example, then the logical starting point would be a particular school.
For the most part, schools are happy to get makerspaces off the ground as long as they don’t have to fund it (since their funding is so limited). You can talk to teachers and principals about potential spaces, such as the library, classrooms that aren’t being used, or other areas around campus.
If you want to make your space more accessible to the general public, then you have to search elsewhere. Public libraries are always a great place to start because most of them have meeting rooms in which to work.
Although this checklist doesn’t cover every potential item you’ll have to consider, it should serve as a decent starting point for finding the right location.
Access: who will be accessing this makerspace? Will you have permission to use the space whenever and however you want, or do you have to follow guidelines set by the property owner?
Hours of Operation: if you plan on starting in a public library, you will likely have to share the space with other people. Hours can vary depending on availability. If it’s a dedicated space, you have more control.
Size and Dimensions: how many people are you planning on hosting in the space? What if you want to expand into something bigger down the road?
Furnishings: does the space come with things like desks and chairs, or will you have to supply those yourself?
Power Requirements: if you plan on using a lot of devices or gadgets, will you have sufficient power to do so? Who will be paying the utility bills? Will they mind?
Overall, you have to decide how much control you want to have over the operations of the makerspace. For the most part, creating a makerspace on a budget means that you will have less control, but if you can secure sufficient funding, you may be able to rent and furnish a place just the way you want it.
Also, remember that you can change locations in the future. It may be a good idea to start small and then expand once word gets out about your success.
Getting People to Manage Your Space
Even if you plan on running your space full-time, you won’t be able to handle all of the various duties involved. For example, if you want to host classes on different subjects, are you knowledgeable enough to teach those in attendance?
When picking your operations team, you want to find people who are as motivated as you to making the makerspace work. Since you probably won’t be able to pay them (much, if at all), you have to rely on their passion to get the results you want.
Another thing that you’ll have to remember is that makerspaces are all about collaboration. Just because it’s your idea doesn’t mean that you can have total control over all operations. In many cases, you will have to work with other people’s input and ideas to get your space off the ground.
When first starting out, you and a couple of other volunteers should be enough to make something happen. However, the more people you get involved, the higher chances of success, so feel free to expand your search to include anyone and everyone who can potentially benefit from using the space. Parents of students, teachers, faculty, or community volunteers can all chip in to make your project thrive.
For many people, they have a vision of a makerspace that has high-tech equipment for everyone to use. While a bank of computers and a 3D printer sound nice, they can be prohibitively expensive. As such, you have to make do with what you can get. We’ll talk about securing funding next, but it’s better to assume that you will have to pay for everything out of your own pocket, or using donations by others involved.
When coming up with a list of resources, you want to start with the fundamentals. These items can include things like desks, paper, pens, and chairs. Without these things at your disposal, how can you work on anything?
From there, start thinking about the kinds of projects you want to start in your makerspace. Are you hoping to build prototypes, or do you want the space to serve as a fabrication lab where people can make functional pieces?
During this phase, it’s also helpful to get together with your core development team to discuss what resources you have access to. This is also the point when you can start coming up with project ideas and using them to determine what items are most necessary.
Overall, don’t think that you have to have a fully stocked makerspace to get started. You can begin with a few desks and a chalkboard and build from there. Once you get interest and involvement from the community, you can start to get the resources necessary to complete the projects you have in mind. It will take patience to succeed, so don’t get discouraged.
How to Get Funding for a Makerspace
There are a few ways to try and secure capital to develop your makerspace. Use your creativity and make a sales pitch that you can sell to potential investors. Whether it’s a company sponsorship or local donations, you want to make your space sound exciting and engaging. If you have a great idea, then this part should be easy.
Here are a few ways to secure funds.
Host Fundraisers: once you get people interested in your makerspace, do a variety of events that can help raise money. Bake sales, talent shows, anything you can imagine can help you get closer to your goal.
Talk to Makerspace-Friendly Companies: many corporations are happy to provide funding to makerspaces, so it never hurts to ask. Go online and reach out to different businesses and offer your pitch.
Try to Secure a Government Grant: local, state, and federal governments usually can provide grants to educational resources. Search for any potential sources of capital online and apply. In some case, you may have to meet certain requirements, so be sure that you qualify before filling out any paperwork.
Can You Make Money From a Makerspace?
Once you get off the ground, another way to ensure that you have sufficient funding for your makerspace is to earn money through your various projects. Here are a few ideas that can get money coming in on a regular basis.
Charge Membership Fees: typically, this option only works if you have complete control over your space (i.e., you’re not using the library). Also, you may have to file as a non-profit organization or a business to make this happen, so do some research to find out what’s legally acceptable.
Charge for Classes: if you are offering high-quality education for people coming to your makerspace, then you might be able to charge them. Since this transaction is based on services and not access to the space, it’s easier to do this without a lot of paperwork.
Rent the Space to Others: if you own and manage the location without oversight from someone else, you can sometimes charge people to use your venue. Again, you may have to set yourself up as a business or nonprofit to make this work.
Adding Value to Your Community
In the end, building a makerspace is all about creating a culture of leadership and innovation. You shouldn’t be focused on earning big bucks from your space. Instead, you want to foster projects and learning that can benefit everyone who comes and uses your makerspace. Whether it’s helping students with their homework or spearheading community development projects, your ultimate goal should be giving back to the people who support you and make your space a success.