posts tagged with the keyword ‘hackerspaces’



I attended a session at ASTC 2015 titled Are Maker Spaces Killing the Traditional Science Center? Is That a Bad Thing? and while I’m new to the museum world, I’m not new to the makerspace world, but this whole idea of “makerspace in another space” is what the session was about. This post is really just going to be a stream of my own thoughts after the session.

Hooley McLaughlin from the Ontario Science Centre was the moderator and he was anti-makerspace in the context of a science center, where (he believes) the real spark of science can be ignited in young minds. I don’t know much about science centers or the people who work there, but Hooley seems to place “science” (or perhaps just the teaching of science) in this ivory tower, and separate “Science” from other forms of exploration and discovery. The things than happen in a “tinkering” space or a “maker” space are not real science, and there isn’t true learning.

I’ve been involved with Milwaukee Makerspace for nearly five years, and before that I was part of Bucketworks, which is/was a quasi-hackerspace, and I’ve had this idea that BAMspace at Betty Brinn Children’s Museum) Makerspaces tend to be open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with everything available to members at any time. 6am on Sunday morning? 3pm on a weekday? Saturday night from 10pm to 4am? Those are all valid times to be at a makerspace working on things. Spaces in an institution are typically limited by staffing, just having people available to be in charge of things. And people like to go home and sleep every now and then, and not work 24 hours a day… also, when people do work, they like to get paid. So the first big disconnect is “makerspace open all the time to members who are self-serving” versus “makerspace that is available during only specific times with staff to guide things.” I’m not saying the second option can’t work, it can, but for people who know what a makerspace is as it exists outside of an institution, reconciling how they operate inside an institution may difficult.

Perhaps it’s just a matter of managing expectations. If the first exposure to a makerspace is within an institution, that can set the stage for what one is, and how it works. (There’s the issue of the term “makerspace” being co-opted or misunderstood, but I won’t get into that now.) Limited access due to hours, staffing, etc. can definitely affect the reach of a space/program, but as most of the institutional makerspaces seem to focus on kids (or families) maybe it’s a non-issue.

Ultimately, my favorite comment during the session pretty much summed things up. “We shouldn’t care how kids get interested in science, as long as they get interested.” My own take on that is, I try things, and make things, and fail, and learn, and in the end, I share those things. I share them with others, and if they get inspired, even just a small bit, than it’s a success. If someone gets interested in robotics, or looks up what an Arduino is, or asks a question about 3D printers, then that’s good enough for me. It’s a spark, and a spark is the start of something. It may not be the spark that (certain) people at science centers are hoping for, but it’s a success in my book.


Baltimore Node

It’s been a while (two years) since I’ve been to Baltimore, and since I got to visit Baltimore Hackerspace last time, I really wanted to visit Baltimore Node, which I originally tried to visit in 2011! This time I succeeded.

Maze was kind enough to show up and give us a quick tour. He said that they have about 35 members now, and oddly enough Michael D. who was one of the original members of Milwaukee Makerspace is/was a member. I was hoping he could give me a tour but oddly enough he was back in Milwaukee when I was in Baltimore. Missed Maker Connection!

Han in Carbonite

In the front room is our old pal Han Solo… in carbonite! We’ve discussed making one of these at Milwaukee Makerspace but it hasn’t happened yet. Supposedly this one was made from a mold that was made for the film, but wasn’t the one that was used in the actual film. It still looks good, though! There’s also some fine furniture, a box fan, and an old-timey lamp on the wall.

OK, I’m just gonna get this out of the way. Baltimore Node has a blue box. It’s not a TARDIS. It’s a bathroom, which they affectionately call the “Baff-Frume”.


I didn’t get a photo of the inside, but it’s pretty much a toilet and a roll and not much else, surrounded by thin plywood walls. I mean, it works, and luckily, it’s small so it should be easy to clean!


And hey, how many spaces can claim then have a rocket almost as large as their bathroom? (It appears there is also a ventilation fan. Good call!)

German Scary Death

The side of the “Baff-Frume” features a wonderful poster showing all of the best ways to get electrocuted or otherwise killed in Germany. Dr. Prodoehl points out her favorite.

German Scary Death

As we all know, everything is more terrifying in German. Especially operating a forklift. Unheimlich!

3D Printing

3D printing, with a MakerBot Replicator (1st gen) and an old MakerBot Thing-O-Matic. There’s also an inkjet printer, but I think it just prints ink on paper in two dimensions. There’s also a video game cabinet in the back. We started talking about MAME cabinets, so I can’t remember if this was a MAME cabinet or a specific game.


Electronics area, soldering irons, components, oscilloscopes and all that jazz…


There was a big big LED thingy that was moved to the new space probably didn’t get installed and up and running yet. I asked Maze how many LEDs there were and he said “A lot!”


The shop area is in the back. The space was previously used by the current landlord who does wood working on another floor of the building. Having a maker as a landlord is probably an ideal situation.


Plenty of tools for making, and it’s even fairly organized… Screwdrivers, wrenches, hammers. Come on down to Cunningham’s Hardware!

Laser Cutter

Here’s the big-ass Chinese laser cutter. Also, someone likes trains, or is planning to maker a laser-cut train, or something. Say it with me “Motion card SoftDog no same!”


The craft area, where at least two people can get crafty at the same time. Maze said every now and then someone comes in and wants to do some sort of crafty thing.

(I always appreciate that spaces will have some small collection of things for a specific making discipline. I think it was i3Detroit that also had a really small craft area. The effort is worth recognizing.)

The Last Thread

I’m going to call this one “One Thread to Rule Them All” or maybe “The Last Thread” or something. It’s not even conductive thread! :)

Thanks again to Maze for the quick tour. I love seeing other spaces and checking out the equipment and projects, and just seeing how they are laid out and function.

Sadly, I did not get to Hive76 in Philadelphia during this trip, which was my second (failed) attempt. I’m hoping to visit other spaces this year if possible. I keep a list of spaces I’ve visited here.


The Meetupery

The Meetupery is a new co-working and makerspace in Sussex, Wisconsin. I was invited to talk about Milwaukee Makerspace for their Grand Opening.

Here’s my slides. They aren’t quite as exciting without my talk, but they may prove interesting.

It’s also on Speaker Deck.

If you’d like me to speak about makerspaces (or Milwaukee Makerspace in particular) get in touch with me.


Mothership Hacker Moms

I fully support Mothership HackerMoms (The first women’s hackerspace) and was happy to donate to their Kickstarter campaign. Their goal was/is to construct a workshop with tools and equipment, and create a kids program and business incubator for moms. I think it’s a great idea.

So who would be against this? Nobody, right? Well, actually, some people spoke out… see Anti-HackerMoms send hate mail, HackerMoms respond. Great responses from the women involved. Mothers are important to the world, and having a space where they can get their making fix should be viewed as a good thing. Here’s another blurb:

We are a new kind of playground and workspace for creative mothers. Fun to us is not mani-pedis, but making, breaking, learning and hacking our bright ideas. HackerMoms model active creative lives for our kids who learn, explore and create as mini-makers alongside us. We offer members daily childcare. We also welcome dads.

I don’t think they have any plan to be exclusionary, and they certainly aren’t out to stop anyone else from doing their own thing. You want to start a hackerspace geared towards women who have chosen not to have kids, or for single dads, or for people who view their pets as their babies? Go for it. I’m sure they won’t try to stop you.

And here’s the thing… we all have/had mothers. (Well, unless you were created in some other way, I know some people were.) Imagine being a kid and having your mom take you to a hackerspace, and growing up in that sort of community and culture. I can’t wait to see what the kids who frequent the Mothership HackerMoms space turn out like in 10 or 20 years.

If you believe in creative spaces like these, support them, and let others know how awesome it is.

One more thing… over at Milwaukee Makerspace we’ve talked about how to reach out to more people, men, women, robots, etc. We’re interested mainly in maker, and less about gender, but you can bet that if a bunch of women (or mothers, or men, or cats) came to us asking for advice on how to start their own space, we’d help them out. In fact, we’ve already done that a bit for Spring City Launchpad. We’re also hoping that our new space will be much more inviting to all kinds of people. I guess we’ll find out how that goes in 2013!


buy the button:

Buy The Button

top recent artists: