A Makerspace for Cape Cod

Mary and Jim Sullivan were first inspired to start a Cape Makerspace when they attended an open house at Artisan’s Asylum in Somerville – which turned into both a goal and a stumbling block.

Cape Cod Makerspace is envisioned as a place where people can make things happen. Examples of potential projects are 3-D printing, beer brewing, food hacking, photography, rocketry, welding, woodworking, arduino and raspberry pi, electronics, metalworking, robotics, unmanned aerial vehicles, and whitehat hacking.

The stumbling block they’re facing is the dispersed population on the Cape. There’s not a dense group of interested people like in Somerville. There’s interest from across the Cape, but they need to find a critical mass that is willing to pay a certain amount each month. They also need to settle on a place to house it.

The Sullivans think a great initial site would be Cape Cod Community College (where Mary is in the math department). There is a space that used to be a copy room they feel would be a great Fab Lab. It would be open to students and faculty but also to members of the community. They’re considering starting there and moving to a large space when demand requires it.

Their target demographic is anybody who is interested in learning. For a Makerspace there has to be some level of commitment financially (some operate like a gym membership, others charge by the hour), but experience is not required. There are people in the community who are interested in learning, and people who are interested in teaching. It’s a way to create a learning community for technical skills. Makerspace would also provide people who are working alone to have interaction with other people.

“We’re hoping to attract people who are interested in technology and also people who are interested in the arts,” Jim said. “That synergy can be very powerful. We’re bringing the technology and arts together and seeing what common ground we find.”

Mary added that “from an educators standpoint, we always talk about getting people into science, technology and math and a lot of young people don’t think of themselves as that type of person.”
The arts bridge that gap, introducing students to science through the technological aspects of art.

The group recently had a meeting to get legal and form a non-profit. They’ve also been offering classes, including a recent introduction to Python and an upcoming introduction to Arduino. These are taught by people who have come to meetings and have expressed an interest in teaching classes. “The man that taught the Python class just wanted to help other people learn a programming language that’s very useful,” Mary said.

“I think the college could take advantage of that. If we offer workshops on workforce related subject and there’s interest in that, we could test courses and see what people are interested in.”

These courses allow people to learn new skills and to network with other makers, which they say brings them closer to our ultimate goal of having a physical space (or spaces) on the Cape.

What is their timeline? It’s evolving, but includes a few specifics as they forge the road to their own space. Mary’s list includes:

1. Workshops: We will continue to offer maker-type workshops STEM and the arts. We have had an excellent response to the workshops that we have offered so far: Creating with Electricity, Python: An Introduction to Programming, and Introduction to Microcontrollers.

There are many other community members who are experts in their field who have expressed interest in teaching workshops for us. Topics in the pipeline include underwater ROVs, 3-D printer design, and iOS App Development.

We have held these workshops at the college’s Hyannis center, but we are open to offering workshops in different locations across the Cape (e.g. libraries and community centers).

2. Cape Cod Mini Maker Faire: A maker faire is a celebration of the DIY movement where makers can showcase projects that they’ve created and also teach people maker skills. It is a event that truly promotes a culture of engagement, experimentation, and innovation. Next spring we plan to hold the first annual Cape Cod Maker Faire, and we will be looking for volunteers and sponsors to help make this happen.

There are Maker Faires being held throughout the country and around the world. http://makerfaire.com We are planning a trip to the New York Maker Faire on September 21 and 22, and we will invite other Cape Cod Makers to join us.

4. Makerspace/Fab Lab: We have been looking into various locations, and we believe that the College would be an excellent initial location. We have submitted a proposal to the President of the college.. This space will give students and community members the opportunity to learn new skills and to engage with their creative side in a tech-centered context. We will be looking for community partners in this endeavor.

Ideally, we’d love to see this in place by the spring so that a cohort of students will be able to participate in the Fab Academy International Fab Lab training with MIT.
We are also interested in the idea of setting up mini makerspaces in other locations, such as libraries and schools.

“We think that this is a idea that can truly make a difference in the quality of life on the Cape by supporting a culture of innovation,” Mary said. “If you can imagine it, you can make it.”

Meetings and classes are posted on their website: capecodmakers.org

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