Maker Space? What's That?

I'm so glad you asked.  I just happen to have an example.

A friend and I designed a tabletop game and reached a distinct milestone -- the game mechanics had been tested and re-tested (and re-tested and re-tested), the rules were solid, and all the card content was created.  Before sending the digital files to a printer for a production quality prototype we had one remaining step: work with a Real Artist to finalize the color scheme, graphics, and layout for the physical elements of the game.  We really wanted a physical copy of our concept board to examine with the artist.

Challenge: how do you print a 30" x 24" board at home?  We could print on standard 8.5" by 11" paper and piece it together, but the pieced-together look is distracting when you're trying to look at design quality, or sharing the board with people at a game design event. 

Welcome to the North Richland Hills Maker Spot.  This Maker space is hosted at the public library and made possible by a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services, as well as other organizations.  The best short description is "community workshop."  Most Maker spaces I've seen focus on two concepts: make available equipment that might be too expensive or otherwise prohibitive to have individually, and to facilitate the propagation of knowledge.

Case in point, our Maker Spot has an HP large format printer.  It prints on 36" rolls of paper, exactly what we needed for the game board.  It's connected to a Mac that has the full Adobe suite, and current price is $1 per linear foot of printing.  That's it -- copies of the game board for $3.  Considering that our next best offer was $40 with a half-day turnaround at a local print shop, this is more than a bargain.  Of course, I'm also unlikely to have a 36" printer at home -- the best deal I see on one on Amazon is $8,500.

Similar situation with other technologies.  The Maker Spot has 3D printers, a long arm quilting machine, an audio/visual production lab, electronics and woodworking equipment, and all manner of learning kits.  And there are classes.  Sharing of knowledge is a staple activity of all Maker spaces, and ours has a fantastic array of free classes -- you can learn sewing, 3D modeling, Arduino, Adobe, Raspberry Pi...not to mention Internet safety, small business start up, electronic privacy, and more.  My daughter and I have taught a few classes there on building devices in both Minecraft redstone and physical electronics. 

Different Maker spaces offer different equipment and classes, depending on the local need, interest, and availability.  I've seen some with full-scale auto garages, others with more electronics than a Radio Shack warehouse, and some offering pottery and crocheting classes.  Ours is definitely an invaluable community resource, especially if you're printing board game prototypes.