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What actually is a Makerspace...

Slowly rising in numbers since their creation in 2006, makerspaces are popping up all over the place, showing just how popular they’re becoming. But what is a Makerspace? In simple terms a ‘makerspace’ is a place to work on projects, while also sharing ideas, equipment and knowledge. Every makerspace is unique and individual to itself coming in a range of shapes and sizes, as there is no specific set of rules to follow when creating your own.

Samantha Roslund’s book ‘Makerspaces’

Creativity - Makerspace

Samantha Roslund’s book ‘Makerspaces’ defines makerspace as “a general term for a place where people get together to make things. Makerspaces might focus on electronics, robotics, wood working, sewing, laser cutting, programming, or some combination of these skills”. However, they can be as high or low-tech as you’d like as there is no right or wrong way to begin. You could start with a repurposed book cart filled with arts and crafts supplies, a table set up with LEGO, or you may be lucky enough to have a full blown lab with 3D printers and lasers.

With no age limit, makerspaces are typically a space that will encourage play, exploration and participatory learning.

With no age limit, makerspaces are typically a space that will encourage play, exploration and participatory learning. These spaces are designed to allow you to learn through experimenting. For example, you could take apart old pieces of technology, learning about every piece you take apart before using those parts to build your own robot. Not only are you learning about the specifics of what makes a certain piece of technology work, you also have to use your design skills to make something new. These spaces also encourage collaborative learning, where educators and students pool their skills and knowledge and share in the task of teaching and learning, developing a culture of creating as opposed to consuming.

Space - Makerspace

Nesta published an open dataset of UK Makerspaces in 2015 that has some interesting information collected from the 97 UK makerspaces they identified in their research.

Makerspace - Tools

  • Nearly every city has at least one Makerspace while every UK region has at least two
  • Digital fabrication tools were the most commonly reported type of tool, followed by general hand tools, electronics, and woodwork tools
  • Half of the spaces also had computing tools
  • Over half of the spaces provide tool inductions, with 68% offering formal courses and 79% offering informal help
  • Approximately three quarters of makerspaces have some form of membership, although half do welcome the public during set hours
  • Some makerspaces offer additional services including school programmes, commercial consultancy, affiliated programmes and qualification opportunities

There have been some fantastic success stories for multiple makerspaces since their arrival in the UK. Build Brighton, for example, came runner-up in the Great Global Hackerspace Challenge in 2010, as well as producing a ‘phonics owl’ that taught children how to spell based on RFID cards and phonics ‘cubes’ placed into a holder. Both amazing achievements!

Setting up a Makerspace couldn’t be easier and is a massive investment in the community. With an abundance of advice and tips online, you’ll be surprised by the amount of support you’ll get if you do decide to set up your own Makerspace.