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Most tinkerers’ garages won’t include things like a MakeHaven’s selection Bridgeport milling machines. (Photo by Pem McNerney/The Source | Buy This Photo)
Makerspaces aren’t just for hobbyists—Branford’s Erick Rios uses MakeHaven equipment and space to build prototypes for his design clients. (Photo by Pem McNerney/The Source | Buy This Photo)
(Photo by Pem McNerney/The Source | Buy This Photo)
MakeHaven Executive Director J.R. Logan has created a 5,000-square-foot facility that caters to adult inventors. (Photo by Pem McNerney/The Source | Buy This Photo)
From nuts and bolts to grains and hops: The beer brewing station at MakeHaven. (Photo by Pem McNerney/The Source | Buy This Photo)
East Haven High School’s makerspace has an extensive crafts section. Library Media Specialist Juliet Goraieb is currently on the lookout for donations of jewelry making kits, arts and craft supplies, Arduino and Raspberry Pi kits, a laser etcher/cutter, yarn and knitting/crocheting needles, and monetary donations. (Photo courtesy of Juliet Goraieb )
John Mills (on the camera), Lamont Crenshaw, Tarhan Pierce, and Mahmoud Hosney film a video on recycling at the East Haven High School makerspace. (Photo courtesy of Juliet Goraieb )
Not everything in a makerspace is cutting-edge. MakeHaven has a hand-operated printing press at the ready. )
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Sometimes, it’s something small that starts something big. For Juliet Goraieb, the library media specialist at East Haven High School, it started with a keychain.
Goraieb has worked on a variety of projects with numerous kids at the high school, including John Mills, Lamont Crenshaw, Tarhan Pierce, Mahmoud Hosney, Colleen Hanlon, Colin Hutchinson, Seth Proto, and Ryan Spano.
Some of her kids, it occurred to her one day, would easily be able to find their names at those little stands where you can buy keychains with your name on it.
Others would not.
No problem, she thought. It would be easy enough to create them in the high school’s makerspace.
The maker space is where students share tools, ranging from 3D printers to sewing machines, and tips while learning and having fun.
Goraieb’s students could design and make their own keychains, and keychains for their friends, and even keychains for friends of their friends, if they were so inclined. That got her to thinking.
“You know, maybe we could sell them for a couple of dollars, and the students would learn what a business model looks like, and how to keep track of money in and out, and how to take orders,” she says. “Recently, I was voted to the Chamber of Commerce as the high school liaison, so we want to try to let the students do their own outreach, and create their own businesses.”
A New Approach
While they might have some things in common with the woodshops and home economics classes of yore, makerspaces often also have a variety of high-tech options available and a more collaborative approach rather than just top-down instruction. Some liken the vibe to a neighborhood garage where people gather to tinker and build, while tackling problems and exploring opportunities.
In addition to East Haven High School, there are makerspaces, or the beginnings of a makerspace, in libraries across the shoreline. There is also MakeHaven in New Haven, which is open to anyone by subscription, and that recently opened a new, expanded space.
One thing most of the makerspaces have in common is that they attract a certain kind of person, people like Goraieb, creative thinkers who know how to start small and dream big.
“The maker movement is essentially about the version of the American Dream that says any tinkerer can become an inventor, develop a really innovative product, and even bring it to market,” says Elinor Slomba, the implementation manager of the Elm City Innovation Collaborative, which supports entrepreneurs and high-growth enterprises in the New Haven area.
The MakeHaven facility expansion is one of several programs it supports.
“Spaces like MakeHaven and its collaborative work with entrepreneurial groups keep that dream relevant in New Haven, a city whose inventions range from clocks to lollipops, as a local manufacturing exhibit puts it,” Slomba says.
She says that, world-wide, 3D-printing and other maker-related services comprise a $5 billion a year industry.
“When you look at how much of the growth in 3D printing is driven by the healthcare and aerospace industries, you can see how that ties into key areas of economic strength for Connecticut. We want to make sure Elm City residents can keep building up 21st century skills that contribute to a strong pipeline of talent and innovation,” she says.
MakeHaven and related spaces all play a role in achieving that goal. In the meantime, it’s also just fun.
Problem-Solving by Working Together
Several libraries along the shoreline are investigating the possibility of creating makerspaces, including the Henry Carter Hull Library in Clinton. Others have already invested in 3D printers and other equipment, such as the Guilford Free Library in Guilford. Some, like the James Blackstone Memorial Library in Branford, have jumped in with both feet.
Katy McNicol, an associate librarian at the Blackstone Memorial Library, says their makerspace was started with the help of a grant from the Friends of the Library a few years ago.
With that initial grant, they invested in a 3D printer, a sewing machine, electronics equipment, laptops, and supplies. From there, they applied for and received a grant from the state that allowed them to expand and buy more equipment, including microprocessing kits so that participants could learn about programming and circuits.
With that equipment, they have sponsored a variety of programs, and they are hosting a Maker Monday for teens and tweens.
“It’s every other Monday after school. Kids come in and we usually have planned a main activity, but kids are also free to explore their own interests,” she says. “Many of them are into 3D printing, and we’ve taught them how to make their own 3D files. We’ve also done stop-motion videos.”
Some of the projects are just whimsical and for fun. For example, they made brush bot robots by clipping off the head of a toothbrush, and attaching a motor. They they had races. Then they built a Lego race course and raced the brush bots through that.
With the sewing machines, they’ve been able to offer introductory sewing classes for both teens and adults. They also circulate two of the sewing machines for those who want to sew at home.
“It’s all part of our mission to provide access to information and unique shared experiences,” she says. “We feel the maker equipment allows us to have interesting hands-on programs that fulfill the shared experiences part of our mission.”
McNicol says that over recent years, it’s become increasingly apparent among educators that hands-on learning is an important element of any education.
“So, while our traditional print materials are very useful for a certain kind of learning, hands-on learning speaks to so many people who may not be able to get what they need out of traditional print materials. It also promotes a social aspect and helps people of all ages get a chance to work on social skills, talk with strangers, and problem solve by working together.”
‘The Sky’s the Limit’
J.R. Logan, executive director of MakeHaven, at 770 Chapel Street, likes to think of his organizations new space, opened earlier this year, as a shared garage, where people with ideas big and small come to tinker and try new things and refine existing projects.
“It’s more than just tools, it’s the community that comes together in the evening,” he says.
Still, there is an astounding array of shared tools in the new space. For $50 a month, members have access to fine wood-working tools, hand tools, measuring tools, pneumatic tools, electronic workbenches, printmaking equipment, communications and radio equipment, castings and plastic tools, a craft area, a bike repair station, a 3D printer station, a laser cutter station, and computer stations. Then there’s the large equipment, which includes a drum sander, a Gerber CNC router, a high-temperature oven, a Grizzly band saw, a wood lathe, an injection molder, and more. There’s also a kitchen and an array of sewing machines, from antique to the latest and greatest.
Erick Rios of Branford, who works at design consulting firm Big Bang, was at MakeHaven on a recent weeknight, working on a prototype for a new piece of equipment for another Branford company, one of his clients. He often works on his own projects early in the evening and then makes himself available to help others as they tinker with their projects.
What he loves most about the space is that you can try to make whatever you can imagine.
“The sky’s the limit,” he says.
Logan says that while some who come to MakeHaven are, like Rios, in the advanced stages of development on a project, many others are early in the exploration phase.
“We’re about prototypes and product development, but also arts and crafts and food,” he says. “That’s the whole idea. Sometimes you have to experiment with something before you know if it’s viable.”
Logan says MakeHaven is a good fit with the other maker spaces in the area, in schools and libraries, in that they often cater to younger makers. MakeHaven is geared towards makers who are 18 years and up.
He says he sees maker spaces as a natural outgrowth of collaboration that’s occurring on the Internet, with open sourcing, and with how-to YouTube videos.
“This really is a communal space where people can come in and experiment with different technologies, including sewing, 3D printing, wood working, home brewing, laser cutting, prototyping, print making, and more,” he says. “All of these types of activities are available. For some people it’s just a joy to be able to express themselves. Other people are really serious about building a prototype and building a business, seeing the whole idea come to fruition. It’s a range of motivations—science, art, entrepreneurship.”
MakeHaven’s old space was about 2,000 square feet, and over about five years it grew to about 200 members. With support and funding, it grew to 5,000 square feet, and plans to expand to about 7,000 square feet in the next phase.
Logan says the recent grand opening of the space was incredible.
“We had a tremendous number of people coming through, more than we expected. We got great feedback, people were making connections, discovering other folks who had shared interests,” he says. “We know people are motivated by interacting with each other. That’s often what gets you to come in her and build something.”
He says maker spaces, while a relatively new phenomenon, are here to stay.
“We were definitely in the very early wave when we started,” he says. “We feel more like we have the wind at our back now.”
To find out more about MakeHaven, visit www.makehaven.org. MakeHaven has several events coming up including a molding and casting event on Thursday, April 12, a Burning Man and Playa App meetup on Tuesday, April 17, and an intro to the printing press on Wednesday, April 18. There also is a makerspace in New London called Spark Makerspace. For info, visit www.facebook.com/sparkmakerspace. To contribute to the East Haven High School makerspace, contact Juliet Goraieb at 203-468-3361.
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