Each week, as we get to know our community and the broader IoT movement, we’re fortunate to connect with some remarkable individuals and organizations. In our “Makerspace Profile” series, we interview makerspace founders to learn more about the maker movement around the world.
In this profile, you’ll meet Melbourne Makerspace based in Melbourne, FL.
How did Melbourne Makerspace start?
To answer the first question here is a great explanation from one of the founding members, Brooks Zurn: What happened was, Brian McFadden sent a message to Familab’s message board around March of 2013 asking about starting a hacker space in Melbourne. I was a member of the family although I live in Cocoa Beach. We set up a meet up group. We had about nine people at the first meeting which was in April 2013. Some of the founding members of TrepHub were there and they offered that we could have subsequent meetings biweekly at TrepHub and do a combined speaker / show and tell on alternate weeks. Arlo made a logo, we had a brainstorming session and the group refined it. After a few months and some well-attended workshops, the group decided to get their own space where we could set up equipment. There were enough of us at that point did we determined it was financially feasible. Brian, Arlo and I set up a non-profit corporation, and along with Clayton and Brandon from trep hub, set up a board of directors. The whole group pitched in and donated equipment, supplies, & labor and the location was open to the public by november. By March we had enough members that expenses of the location were actually financially self-sustaining. Which is very unusual for a makerspace. This was because we have a really great dedicated community, most of the equipment was donated, and also because we were able to locate a place with a very good rent rate. What keeps the community going is the enthusiasm attracts new people. We are also fortunate to be located in the area with a very large technical population, so there are many people who are served by our group. And I think the biggest driver is again the concept of “be awesome to each other” promoted by Noisebridge. Members of this group are really awesome to each other. For the most part they are mature, considerate, and that creates a healthy, welcoming community that people want to be a part of.
What was the initial response to Melbourne Makerspace like?
There was always a fresh face on our public nights and microcontroller Mondays, and there still is. There’s plenty of people with lots of different interests that our makerspace works great at helping them with their projects. But the community is really the key and the sharing of skills and knowledge. I’m a software engineer so I would never have gotten interested in arduino and raspberry pi’s if it wasn’t for the other members and their willingness to share their projects and ideas for how to use them. This allowed me to come up with my own ideas like automatic garage door closers that detect if your bluetooth phone has left the house and the garage door is still open. We are now averaging one new paying member each month we are open. I can only assume as the word gets out and we attend even more events and even start having more events and classes of our own at the space we will quickly outgrow that location and will need to find another, larger one.
What kind of equipment and resources do you provide participants?
We have all of the basics for a great shop. A fully stocked electronics workbench with all the small tools and soldering equipment for building and repairing circuit boards, etc. Several woodworking equipment like band saw, table saw, drill press, and lathe. A MIG welder for metal working. A 12″x20″ 40 W CO2 laser cutter. Two Makerbot Replicator2 and a PrintrBot Jr 3D printers. An embedded lab with arduino and raspberry pi software already loaded as well as plenty of spare arduino and raspberry pi boards ready to play with. And three large work tables that can be arranged for classes that can all see the projector that shows on the wall.
What does “hacking” mean to you and your community?
We like to avoid that term if possible but we all understand it means taking something apart and putting it back together in a better way or in a way it was never meant to be. Or just simply adding a feature to an existing product.
What projects are people working on?
I’m currently finishing up a home made telepresence robot that uses an iRobot roomba and a netbook. I’ve also made a mini sumo bot that won its first competition in Huntsville, AL hackerspace, Makers Local 256, just a few months ago. Someone else just finished a 3D printed TRex skull with light up eyes and breathes smoke. We are also in the middle of a several week arduino class that is going great! There is a packed house each class with lots of hands on help and fun learning to make the arduino do whatever you can imagine! Another member is 3D printing a Hawkeye bow as part of a halloween costume.
What are your future plans?
Our future plans is to grow as big as we can so that we can help the entire community learn and grow and enable anyone to be able to do the things they love and to make things on their own. The DIY maker spirit is alive and well in and around the Space Coast in Florida. We just need everyone to learn and hear about it. A makerspace isn’t something that can be easily described to someone with words or even pictures, they have to be shown – much like the Matrix!