City of the Smarts: What is a Maker Studio, and What Happens at the ELPL Studio?

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Saturday, November 1, 2014, 6:02 am
By: 
Karley Warwick with Smitty Smith
Jacob Bungard, library employee, job title Technology Specialist

With the help of the East Lansing Public Library (ELPL), East Lansing is offering a hot spot for creative minds to channel their artistic desires to design, create, and produce, in a collaborative space known as a maker studio or makerspace. On October 1, the ELPL hosted the Grand Opening of the ELPL 2.0 Maker Studio – a pop-up makerspace located on the second floor of the East Lansing Marriott at University Place. In addition to the pop-up space, ELPL is also home to another new maker studio which contains technology such as 3D printers, a 3D scanner, music recording and production equipment, and more.

To those familiar with maker studios this is exciting news, but for many of you, the terms “maker studio” and “makerspace” seem to be part of a foreign language. It is possible that a maker studio may be just what you're looking for, but you don't know it yet.

A maker studio has many different identities. They have been referred to as “makerspaces”, “hackspaces”, and “hacklabs”. There is no true definition for what a maker studio is, because it is something different to everyone who uses it. Maker studios often provide electronic equipment, software, a woodshop and/or a machine shop, a crafting space, and additional areas for miscellaneous projects.

Often the equipment and tools provided at maker studios are the sort that an individual cannot easily purchase or own due to cost and facilities required. A maker studio usually begins with common tools that are popularly used for a variety of projects, and as funds grow, the studio is able to be filled with tools and supplies that are requested by members.

Maker studios are typically open to anyone and welcome community members of all ages. This, of course, depends on the type of tools and materials being used, as well as the level of supervision available for any children present. At the ELPL studios, supervisors are always present during regular operating hours, and are available upon request to guide participants and ensure safety.

While there are some maker studios that are able to operate solely on donations, waiving fees for members and lessons given at the space (as is the case at the ELPL maker spaces), there are also studios where community members must pay in order to use the space. Membership fees are generally set at a reasonable price, and are available month by month for people interested in using the space for a specific project, or yearly for full-time craftsmen. Discounts are often available for Senior citizens, children, and families (as is the case at the Lansing Makers Network).

The ELPL Maker Studio located in the library is funded exclusively by the library's 2014 Books, Bites, and Bids fund raiser, and the 2.0 Maker Studio located downtown is funded from October 1 through February 28 by a private, anonymous donor. The library is currently seeking new funding to build a permanent maker studio in downtown East Lansing.

Maker studios typically have regular hours of operation; plus additional open hours depending on many factors, including availability of a key holder to open and close the shop, supervision, need of users, etc. While the maker studio located inside the library is available by appointment only, the downtown location is open four days a week through February 28, 2015. Downtown maker studio open hours are Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays 4pm to 8pm and Saturdays 11am to 5 pm.

There is no skill-level or knowledge required to work at a maker studio. Maker studios attract people who hold a variety of skill-levels and skill sets, and those who are new to the creating world are welcome to come and observe, learn, ask questions, and get their hands dirty. Most maker studios will bring in experts from various local businesses to put on classes for members, or even have members host their own classes. If there aren't any classes that pertain to a member’s field of work, they can always make a request. To schedule a session in the ELPL maker studio, click HERE.

Loom in use at the ELPL Maker Studio - photo courtesy of ELPL

Kalil Olsen is a 14 year old freshman at East Lansing High School, a frequent user of the Maker Studio at the ELPL, and also a trainer at the studio. Olsen uses the studio to make useful household items, but is working on his own secret design that he expects to patent. “I like that I can have access to the newest in technology that I cannot afford, and without investing a lot of my own money.” says Olsen. In addition to the 3D printers, Olsen likes that the ELPL space has two iMacs fully loaded with the complete Adobe Suite, Final Cut Pro X for video editing, and a full audio set up including an MIDI keyboard, microphones, mic stands, etc. Olsen is a multi-instrumentalist, plans to major in music at MSU, and has his own business repairing computers and phones. He adds “I feel that since I consider myself an Entrepreneur, this studio will help me to make models of things I create and then sell them. I, as well as other entrepreneurs, will find a problem, then find the solution. Overall I would say that this space is a very good opportunity to use your imagination as well as use the latest technology.”

On October 23, the evening of the Great Pumpkin walk in downtown East Lansing, over 30 people stopped by to see the maker space, create their own Halloween tote bag, and try out the 3D printers. Classes and workshops will be offered on basic sewing, knitting and crocheting. A LEGO hackspace is going to kick into major development in November. LEGO fixtures will be applied on the walls and floor of the LEGO room (temporarily) and users will build horizontally and vertically to fill the space. Users are also invited to "hack" the concept of LEGO with robotics, Arduino (an electronics platform based on easy-to-use hardware and software), carpentry, etc. A web video editing class is planned for November 8. Bringing in music students to provide workshops in composing and creating is also in the works. The space will continue to provide instruction about and access to the 3D printers and 3D scanners, currently one of the most popular services.

In regarding future plans for the ELPL makerspaces, Director Kristen Shelley says, “We envision this Maker Studio growing into a multi-purpose space that everyone can enjoy, from crafters and builders, to programmers and hobbyists. We believe that everyone is a maker, and a space to design, experiment, and learn will allow for creation, experimentation and directed instruction – an integral part in fostering an inspired and innovative community presence.” Plans call for a nearly 4,000 square foot maker studio that will be made possible through donations.

Photo of Jacob Bungard, library employee, job title Technology Specialist, and photo of 3D printed objects, courtesy of ELi

Photo of ELPL maker space loom courtesy of ELPL

Karley Warwick is an intern at Ripple Public Relations, the agency on record representing the ELPL 2.0 Maker Studio.

 

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