My name is Greg Richardson and I am a partner in the telecommunications consulting firm Civitium. Here locally, we are the consulting and engineering firm for the federally-funded fiber optic project called AVFN.In addition, I operate a non-profit community workshop here in Rome called 7hills Makerspace. This is what I am here to speak with you about today.
So, what exactly is a Makerspace? There are many definitions, but I like this one. It is basically a self-organized, member-based workshop where geeks and artists can tinker and experiment.
You may also here Makerspaces referred to as Hackerspace, Hacklabs, Fab (or Fabrication) Labs and so on.
Currently, there are more than one hundred Makerspaces in the United Stated alone.
In Georgia, 7hills is one of only two Makerspaces, with the other being one called Freeside in downtown Atlanta.
The growth of Makerspaces are actually part of what is often referred more generally as a “Maker Movement.” While still nascent in many ways, we do have our own Magazine.
And beginning in about 2009, Maker Faire events have been held in Santa Clara, Detroit and New York. I had an opportunity to attend the New York one last month, and the energy of more than 50,000 attendees was pretty amazing. The first “Mini Maker Faire” was also held in the Atlanta area (in the parking lot of a facility at Georgia Tech) a couple of months ago.
As some of you may know, our Makerspace is located in the old Masonic Lodge at 4th and Broad Streets, which is just across the street from where we are now.
As you can see from this chart, the growth of Makerspaces has been explosive since 2009. and as I noted earlier, there are now more than 100 in the U.S. alone.
So, why have Makerspaces grown so quickly since 2009? I think there are two main reasons. First, their growth coincides with the explosion in social media/networking. Clearly, platforms like Facebook and Twitter have made is easier for like-minded people with common interests to find each other, and for those people to form virtual communities. Makerspaces are just a natural evolution of that trend, insofar as they represent local/physical communities of interest.
I believe the second reason this has happened is because of the recession that began (or became more apparent) in 2008-2009.To the extent that Makerspaces resemble a sort of counter-culture movement, we know that these often coincide with intense period of economic/social tension and hardship --- For example, the hippie culture that sprung up in the Vietnam era; or more recently, the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street movements.
Maybe Makerspace are just a new name for an old idea? In 1976, the Homebrew Computer Club was formed in the small town of Mountain View, CA, in what is now the heart of Silicon Valley.
As many of you know, the significance of that little club is that it incubated a friendship between two young geeks – Steve Wosniak and Steve Jobs… the co-founders of Apple Computer.
Of course the rest is history as they say. Even in an era when American manufacturing jobs were disappearing to places like China and India – places that have no minimum wage – a little American company created in a garage just 35 years ago rose to become the most valuable in the world…. I think that’s remarkable.And this gets to the heart of why Makerspaces hold such promise. They formalize a model for social interaction in geographic (not just virtual)communities, by encouraging friendships, experimentation, knowledge sharing, innovation. They take the cliché of the startup’s garage and scale it up, and make it real in any community, not just Silicon Valley.
With our Makerspace here in Rome, we can’t really predict where it will end up, nor are we inclined to even try. It has no business plan; no agenda; no top-down directive. Today, it is defined only by what its members are interested in, and motivated by. Here are a few examples of what we are ‘into” at the moment – mostly related to something we call “personal industry.” While this is more we have time to get into today, that basic idea is that, just as the personal computer democratized our ability to process information 40 years ago, and the Internet democratized our ability to communicate globally 20 years ago, there is a new collection of technologies that are about to democratize (and change forever) what we refer to as “industry.”
I have brought one item from this area for show-and-tell today – a 3D Printer. Here is a short video that explains the concept of 3D printing.
Thank you for your time. I welcome any questions you have. Here are several ways to contact me and to learn more about our Makerspace.
2. Makerspace..a place where people with commoninterests, -- often in technology and digital arts-- meet to learn, share and create.