If you’re a serious hobbyist, you have probably heard about Makerspaces.

If you are just starting a hobby or want to learn how to do almost anything, a Makerspace is the place for you. With about 500 in North America alone, these spaces give their members access to not only a wide range of tools and equipment that few hobbyists can afford, but also a place to work and knowledgeable people to help you along if you get stuck.

Walsh’s Makerspace will not only be a place for learning or honing an existing hobby. It will be a place where neighbors meet and form friendships over common interests. Here, in the article titled “Creators Find Camaraderie – and Lifelong Learning – at the Dallas Makerspace”, The Dallas Morning News talks about how the Dallas Makerspace is doing just that.

You could easily miss the Dallas Makerspace, tucked away in an industrial park in Carrollton just off Interstate 35. Inside the Makerspace, however, it’s a different world.

There, members scramble back and forth, working on everything from making jewelry to fixing their cars. The space, at just over 16,500 square feet, is alive with people quenching a creative thirst that their day jobs don’t seem to satisfy.

Like the name suggests, the Dallas Makerspace is a place for people to make whatever they want — within reason. On any given day, you’ll see people building race cars, putting together trebuchets or doing something as simple as painting.

But more than that, it’s a place for people to continue learning long after their formal education is finished.

“As schools focused on standardized testing and stuff, shop class and things went away and this was kind of like coming back to that for me,” said Luke Olson, a former board member of the Dallas Makerspace.

It’s a bit difficult to pin down exactly when makerspaces started popping up. But there are about 500 in North America and 1,400 worldwide, according to Popular Science. Each space is different in its scope and its scale. But they’re all founded on the same basic idea of housing a place for people to create.

Members from the Dallas Personal Robotics Group founded the Dallas Makerspace six years ago when they decided to broaden out and get a physical location. The Makerspace moved from location to location as the space expanded until finally settling in Carrollton.

Now, the Dallas Makerspace has around 1,500 members, making it one of the largest, if not the largest, nonprofit, volunteer-run makerspaces in the country. Although the collective has board members who are voted in, nobody is paid.

Regular members pay a $50 membership fee each month. They can add household members over the age of 16 on to their membership for an additional $10 a month per person. There’s also a “Starving Hacker” rate that’s $35 a month for anyone who’s unemployed, retired or in college. There’s some funding from grants and donations from companies such as Dell, but roughly 90 percent of funds come from members, said current Makerspace president Kris Anderson.

The Makerspace also charges nominal fees for some of its classes to cover materials that add up to about $30,000 over the course of a year, said board member David Kessinger. Those fees go back into paying for materials for those classes.

Records show the Makerspace had $546,571 in total revenue in 2015, the latest year numbers were available. Most of that money goes toward paying rent for the building, tools, utilities and other expenses.
The space is filled with top-notch equipment that’s either difficult or too expensive to access almost anywhere else. Tools like the 3D printers at the space can vary anywhere from $400 to $2,500 a pop. The industrial-grade Computer Numerical Control router, which is used to cut out designs on wood or softer materials like acrylic and foam, retails for over $45,000.

There are no barriers to entry for newcomers besides the monthly membership fee, fees for some of the classes and usage fees for some of the equipment. The space is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. And if members don’t know how to use the tools, there’s almost always someone around to help.

The Makerspace is an escape for almost anyone who uses it. Matt Keim, who works in the medical imaging industry, comes almost every evening. He’s done woodworking his whole life, and the Makerspace has given him a place to continue that passion. On one recent night, he was making a teapot and crafting tiny boxes complete with lids.

“This is my creative outlet,” Keim said. “I’ve got a stressful day job. … This has always kind of been my side project for how I release my stress, how I find ways to be creative.”
Jayson Woods works in the IT department for the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children. But at the Makerspace, he repairs and restores old electronics like pinball machines. The inside of the machines are an intimidating tangle of wires and decades-old tech, but Woods makes sense of it all.

He points at the other members working on the machines and explains that if someone can’t figure out how something works, “We have this one, this one, this one and a select group of other people that go, ‘Well, I know how to do this. … This is how you do it.’”

One of the people who has learned from this diverse community is Anderson, the current president of the Dallas Makerspace. She’s a seamstress and artist by trade and started coming to the Makerspace because she needed somewhere to fix her sewing machine.

At the beginning, she said, she wandered around figuring out what she should do. Now, she describes the place as “a treasure.” She sits in one of the facility’s multi-purpose classrooms that’s beginning to fill up for a 3D modeling class. She’s been working on a mask of a character from the TV series Gargoyles and helping another member make a Wonder Woman costume. She struggles to list everything she’s learned during her time here, including how to change the fuel pump in her car and how to how to use a plasma cutter.

The generous spirit “of people who sit down and will take the time to show you how to do something and to teach you how to do it, that is really what, to me, makes this place amazing,” she said.

The organization is looking to expand. As equipped as the space is now, there’s still items on members’ wish lists: a vent for the science department, more tools for members, another waterline so the art department won’t have to lug buckets back and forth.

But that’s not slowing anyone down. The main work space hums with people working on everything from metalworking to tinkering with robots. It may look quiet on the outside, but the work inside never really stops.

The people of the Dallas Makerspace don’t want anyone to be confused; it’s not a replacement for college. But it is a space where creativity and education flourish in one form or another.
“School doesn’t stop. Or, I should say, your education doesn’t stop, even if your schooling stops,” said Olson, the former board member. “Like, if you’re 70 years old and you want to learn about microcontrollers or something, 10 years ago, 20 years ago, you would have had to go back to college for that. And now it’s like there are people who want to teach you that. You just have to show up and pay attention.”


The Dallas Makerspace is located at 1825 Monetary Lane, No. 104 in Carrollton. For more information, call 214-699-6537 or visit www.DallasMakerspace.org. The Makerspace is open to the public every Thursday at 7 p.m.

The Dallas Morning News by Esteban Bustillos | View Original Article Here