I’m Laura James. I’m the co-founder and director of Makespace, a makerspace in Cambridge.
there’s the dry answer, that we’re a non profit organisation, but that doesn’t tell you much and it’s not strictly accurate
Makespace brings together the equipment and skills needed for innovation and learning in a space in the city centre
We have great kit like the techshops in America, but we aren’t an expanding commercial franchise; we have a community like hackspaces, but we’re a bit safer and more accessible than many hackerspaces; you can work at Makespace but we’re not just a 9-5 place like coworking spaces; and we love to share the excitement of engineering like FabLabs, but we’re not constrained by the no-secrecy clause of the fablab charter.
to recap, it’s a space
and a community. Members pay a monthly subscription for 24/7 access, which is used for operating costs to keep the space available, and capital equipment is donated or supported by local industry
and the specific bits of kit are actually less important than the people and the space in many ways - don’t get distracted by the 3d printers -
(especially because the laser cutter is way more accessible and exciting!)
but we do have a good selection of kit, including a CNC mill, a CNC router, a lathe, a range of hand and bench power tools, electronics equipment, small scale metal work, glass working, textiles kit and more. Plus chairs, tables, wifi and a kitchen!
We have a variety of goals all to do with manufacturing and engineering - these 3 aspects have been critical to how we’ve planned and designed Makespace. you have to know what you’re trying to do! So we have enterprise, outreach, and social goals. Plus the goal of creating a sustainable space that will stay open!
The makespace slogan is: meet, learn, build, play. And we do that in a fully shared environment - no one has their own corner, all kit and space is common to us all (although each member gets a standard storage box). The space is safe enough to be welcoming, but we’re not so paranoid that we can’t use power tools! And you can work on whatever you want in Makespace - including commercial products and services. That’s really important.
Let’s be clear. I might be here speaking, but the community made Makespace. We designed and built it together with our own hands - everyone feels ownership - and the community runs the space. The nonprofit organisation exists just to provide legal and financial infrastructure. No one has ever been paid to work at Makespace - we’re all volunteers. There’s no staff.
It’s what we think is right for Cambridge (town and gown) and the region. It’s important to realise that each area or city will have different needs and different makerspaces are going to suit them - so there’s a wide variety of business models and philosophies out there. We don’t claim Makespace is the right answer for other places!
we have training workshops, and maker nights where people can work on their own projects
we have talks on all kinds of science, engineering and making topics
we learn from people who’ve designed and built products (or who are still working on this!)
we share our enthusiasm for engineering with others
we pursue our hobbies - like this laser cut model railway piece
we build quadrocopter drones for fun from scratch
we work on art and craft projects - this pendant was made in makespace
we work on prototypes - the last few months we’ve hosted teams from the local Springboard startup incubator about the internet of things, who have built models and prototypes at makespace
we fix up things - this is a photo of a Myford7 lathe, we got one donated, we fixed it up. There’s a great story about the power of 3D printing to do with this
and also we just hang out and eat cake and talk about our ideas and projects
innovation needs people from different backgrounds to work together and not be afraid to take risks
manufacturing is vital for the UK - and new manufacturing ideas need more than a laptop, wifi and some coffee to make them happen. When I was head of engineering at AlertMe, making a consumer electronics system, we were super lucky that even in a 3 person company we had access to a workshop through the office (cupboard) we sublet. Others don’t have this.
STEM outreach - to raise awareness and show people that they can have careers in engineering and manufacturing - to improve the skills base - and of course to demonstrate that adults and kids can build things themselves, too
There’s also a sustainability angle. People can start to fix things rather than replace them - with help from others
start with the community - you may not need a space straight away
or you might be OK with a very rough, unpolished space
make it easier to get hold of high street type spaces - on flexible leases
or have popup makerspaces in awesome places that already exist, like libraries
The most common question we get asked is what we do when someone cuts their hand off. It would be super if we could make it less intimidating to figure out how to do insurance, health and safety etc. It’s actually not a big problem
- but figuring out what you need to do is really hard. A central place to look for information would really help here.. (and I’d love to have time to write up what we've learnt)
Ultimately, you need people willing to give time and energy and to share their expertise. And judging by the number of emails I get from around the UK and around the world from people who are working to set up makerspaces, there’s lots out there
I shouldn’t be here talking. Maker culture is about getting things done.
and despite the fact that we’re open with a sign outside, makespace is never finished. We’re always improving it.
RSA FutureMakers - makerspaces the community view - june 2013
a makerspace in Cambridge
a makerspace in Cambridge
19th June 2013
What does that mean?
it’s the best bits of
support existing businesses & enable the creation of new
share the wonders of engineering & show people that it’s a
career and that they can get involved themselves
to have a creative, friendly, practical space to hang out in
meet, learn, build, play
shared space - no land grabs
accessible, friendly, (sufficiently) safe
for work and play