10 cool makerspaces to explore now

Got an itch to get your hands on a welding machine, laser cutter or 3D printer? We highlight intriguing public spaces around the country where you can tinker to your heart's content.

10 cool makerspaces

Ready, set, DIY!

Makerspaces have recently exploded in popularity as artisans, techies and the just plain curious seek out communal access to materials and tools they're unlikely to have at home -- anything from a laser cutter to an industrial sewing machine.

Makerspaces are the product of several social and tech movements -- including STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) education, skunk works, new media art and a resurgent interest in handcrafts.

Read on for our take on some of the U.S.'s coolest makerspaces. If your locale didn't make our list, check out Makerspace.com's worldwide directory. Then pick your media and start creating.

Artisan's Asylum
Ronny Preciado

Artisan's Asylum

10 Tyler St., Somerville, MA 02143
Fees: Day pass 5-pack: $85; memberships: $60 - $150 per month; fees vary for classes, storage space and work space

Artisan's Asylum, which attracts everyone from jewelers to members of a bicycle gang, offers classes such as mechanical design and lampworking, and sponsors activities like mini-hovercraft races. Creations include a one-ton hexapod, a handheld 3D printer and a mini-velodrome.

"If you're new to making things, it's like drinking from a fire hose," says member Jeremiah Hill, a teacher at Newton South High School in Newton, Mass. "And that's a good thing."

HeatSync Labs
Paul Hickey

HeatSync Labs

140 West Main St., Mesa, AZ 85201
Fees: $25 - $100 monthly, depending upon storage space

This makerspace has no employees -- every aspect of HeatSync Labs is volunteer-run and community-focused. "We are all about working on projects of any kind," says HeatSync volunteer Chad Stearns. "We've got a lot of tools. We let the public use them, and if they don't know how to use them, we offer a way for them to learn." 

Member Joey Hudy helped inspire the White House Maker Faire and was honored with a seat in the First Lady's box at the 2014 State of the Union.

FamiLAB
Willa Riggins

FamiLAB

1355 Bennett Drive, #129, Longwood, FL 32750
Fees: Memberships $50 - $100 per month

"Our mission is to foster learning and creativity through hands-on projects, collaboration and the sharing of skills and tools to improve ourselves and enrich the world around us," says Willa Riggins, FamiLAB president. "We do that by sharing our sense of community with Central Florida through our projects, classes and events."

Outreach activities include workshops at the Orlando Science Center and the Orlando Public Library's new Melrose Center for Technology, Innovation and Creativity as well as an Orlando Mini Maker Faire and a Maker Village for the MineCon 2013 Minecraft convention.

Mt. Elliott Makerspace
Jeff Sturges

Mt. Elliott Makerspace

Church of the Messiah
231 East Grand Blvd., Detroit, MI 48211
Fees: Donor-supported

With facilities for sewing, silkscreening, 3D printing, electronics, metalworking, woodworking, electronic music production, jewelry-making and bicycle maintenance, Mt. Elliott serves members of all ages in a racially diverse neighborhood where resident incomes and educational outcomes are below the state average. 

"While building hands-on skills is fun and useful," says founder Jeff Sturges, "our core purpose is to strengthen relationships with each other and improve our ability to shape our world."

Here, 11-year-old Tamia Washington teaches adults about soldering.

All Hands Active (AHA)
Josh Williams

All Hands Active (AHA)

525 E. Liberty St., Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Fees: Memberships $20 - $50 monthly (requires one hour of service per month)

AHA members host area groups like The Game Makers; run classes for adults and kids, including a Wreck Lab that aims to find usable parts in broken electronics; and visit area schools as part of the Bright Futures program, partially supported by Eastern Michigan University. 

"We take our world and play with it," says Josh Williams, education coordinator. "It's a dash of electronics, a pinch of art, a scoop of biology and a monster amount of awesome."

Harold Washington Library Center - Maker Lab
Mark Andersen

ChiPubLib Maker Lab

Harold Washington Library Center
400 S. State St., Chicago, IL 60605
Fees: Classes and associated materials are free. There is a materials fee during open shop time.

Chicago is the first large city to include a makerspace as part of its library system, though a number of smaller municipalities have done so. "We launched the Maker Lab in 2013 to provide an access point for Chicagoans to learn about and use the latest design and manufacturing tools," says library division chief Mark Andersen. "It's a free on-ramp to explore STEM concepts in a fun and collaborative setting." 


Facilities include 3D printers, a vinyl cutter and a laser cutter.

ATX Hackerspace
Yama Ploskonka

ATX Hackerspace

9701 Dessau Road, Building 3, Suite 304, Austin, TX 78754
Fees: Memberships start at $60 per month; storage space and workspace costs vary

ATX hosts a wide range of classes, from auto repair to hydroponics, and sponsors activities like chiptune concerts and a Global Game Jam

In addition, the hackerspace has become an incubator for small businesses, according to entrepreneur Yama Ploskonka, who sells construction kits for wireframe structures through his website. "Mine is one of maybe 20 or more micro-businesses that started here, of which at least three are turning six digits by now. One has two employees; the other has four," he reports.

Open Hardware Makerspace (OHM)
John Turner

Open Hardware Makerspace (OHM)

B015 Engineering Building II
890 Oval Drive, Raleigh, NC 27606
Fees: Cost of materials

Open Hardware Makerspace, which is affiliated with North Carolina State University, strives to provide students from all disciplines with the equipment to build anything, says OHM president Aaron Arthur.

"We maintain a free, open lab space on campus with an ever-growing tool library to meet these needs," Arthur explains. "We also reach out to students who are new to making through hands-on technology workshops and group build days."

Members at OHM are active in developing STEM education activities for K-12 students, so much so that a group was given a university service award for their volunteerism.

Mojave Makers
Douglas Messier

Mojave Makers

15732 O St., Mojave, CA 93501
Fees: Free to kids. Adult memberships $40 - $80 per month

Co-located in and hosted by the Mojave Junior & Senior High School, Mojave Makers offers classes to adults and homeschooled kids in addition to serving public school students. Amenities include an electronics lab and metal/woodworking shop.

Mojave Makers benefits from an active local aerospace industry and is supported in part by the Space Studies Institute. "We teach classes and host projects ranging from 3D printing to computer building and programming," says Ethan Chew, a spacesuit engineer with startup Luna Desic and president of Mojave Makers. Arduino and Raspberry Pi projects are also offered, he says.

HICapacity
HICapacity

HICapacity

307a Kamani St., Honolulu, HI 96813
Fees: Memberships $60 - $75 per month

In fall 2013, this active meetup got a physical home of its own at The Box Jelly, a Honolulu coworking space.

"Whether it's through building worlds with the Oculus Rift, 3D printing or Firefox's latest release, HICapacity's purpose is to get those that are passionate about a topic in front of those that want to learn," says HICapacity board member Edward Kim.

Members are particularly interested in computer programming and electronics-related topics such as virtual reality, brain-computer interfaces and mobile apps, but users have also explored conductive paint, silkscreening, night photography, knitting, paper filigree and homebrewing.

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Val Grimm is a computer art, science fiction and cycling enthusiast who works in academia, with sidelines in copyediting and technical writing.

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