Why a Makerspace Operations Bootcamp?

Before we opened the doors to our makerspace (Maker Works), my business partner Tom Root and I talked about how we could help other people create a makerspace in their community.  (We probably don’t have to convince you why we think they’re important for every community to have.)  And as anyone who runs a makerspace knows, we ended up spending a huge amount of time (and still do) on phone calls and tours with these folks.  We do think those tours are useful, and if you want to drop by, we’re happy to spend some time talking shop.  But as time went by, Tom and I talked more about presenting the systems we use with enough detail and within an organizing framework so that someone could hit the ground running, rather than having to re-invent the makerspace wheel over and over again.

Basically, we wanted to create the kind of course that we wished we could have taken before we opened our space.  So in 2014 we had our first Makerspace Operations Bootcamp, and have held a few each year since.  These are five often very full days and a bit overwhelming at times, for instructors and attendees both!

A big question is why two yahoos from Ann Arbor think they know anything about makerspace operations.  A factual, but uninspiring answer is that, well, we’ve been operating one for almost 6 years.  (By the way, we don’t claim special insight into starting a makerspace–we’ve only done that once.)  But the deeper answer has to do with the systems we use and how they align with the values of our makerspace and the larger Maker movement.

Briefly–trying to condense five days of content here–it’s our experience that if you start from some core Maker values, you end up wanting systems that

  • Promote safety
  • Value openness
  • Strive for continuous improvement
  • Welcome and support members with a wide range of experiences and knowledge
  • Provide access to and preservation of nice equipment
  • Organize of tools for quick retrieval
  • Provide great customer service
  • Encourage self-service, increase skills
  • Support the local community
  • Promote the larger makerspace and maker movements
  • Reduce impact on environment
  • Support and encourage member creativity
  • Promote an optimistic view of the future
  • Empower people to be more than just consumers
  • Reduce waste
  • and so on

And it turns out that there are systems drawn from Lean manufacturing and other practices that do just that, including:

  • Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)
  • 5S
  • Open Book Management
  • How to Instruct
  • Servant Leadership
  • Recipes for creating culture
  • Recipes for giving great customer service
  • 43 folders
  • Visual management systems
  • and so on

In the bootcamp, we begin by discussing the relationship between the organization’s mission, vision, guiding principles, systems, culture, experience, and bottom lines, and the need for consistency between them.  This framework organizes much of the content of the week.  With this in mind, we then delve into each of these elements and explore specific systems like SOPs, using an actual makerspace to see how they work in real life.

In the end, though, none of the systems, none of the tools, none of the organizing makes any sense without the context of a mission, a vision, guiding principles, and bottom lines.  Open book management takes effort.  Servant leadership takes effort.  Great customer service takes time.  We hope by the end of the week that we’ve made the case that these systems can all fit together and produce a sustainable makerspace consistent with its mission.

How did we end up with these systems?  Tom actually used these in running a local business with over $10M annual revenue and over 400 employees during the busy holiday season–employees who often come in without any experience and have to become almost immediately productive.  The many parallels suggested that a makerspace run using the same types of systems could help members become productive and keep them safe without requiring the constant attention of staff.  The values of the business were also something we wanted to follow–for example, having more than just profit as a bottom line.  (Our bottom lines are people, planet, and profit.)  We take a tour of this business, since it is another opportunity to see the concepts in action.

In the end, we want to have more makerspaces in the world.  We think these tools increase those odds, and encourage anyone who operates or is thinking of operating a makerspace to take a look at them.

Can’t make it to one of our bootcamps?

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Shocking redo of Electronics Lab! Jewelry Studio & Summer Camps coming soon!

Thank you!
Your thoughtful responses to last month’s survey on what you love about our shop (friendly members and staff! tools!) and how we can make it better are very helpful. Some of your suggestions have already been implemented and we’re working on the others. Two prize winners have been notified they won a $25 credit toward their next class and a Maker Works t-shirt.
Electronics: Moved & Improved!
Panorama of Electronics

Circuits moved into the Tool Crib, which dispersed into the shops. We’re still working on sorting the Tool Crib move, but the new Electronics room is beautifully organized according to 5S methodology, meaning that each tool has been sorted, organized, and given a location and a label of its uses. Finding the correct tool in electronics will be so much easier now!

Great Devices for Electronics Projects
(click the image to see more detailed specs)
One tool you likely won’t have at home is a Printed Circuit Board (PCB) engraver. This machine allows you to make prototype circuit boards while-you-wait, instead of waiting several days for a prototype from a board house.
PCB Engraver with new, quiet enclosure
PCB Engraver in action
PCB Engraver in action
Logic Analyzer
16-Channel Logic Analyzer – for testing Arduino, Raspberry Pi, and other projects
Digital Oscilloscope
Digital Oscilloscope – a powerful tool for visualizing electronic signals
DC Power Supply
Triple output DC power supply and more signal analyzers
Reflow oven
Reflow Oven – for soldering surface mount components on printed circuit boards
Coming Soon: Jewelry Studio!

Exciting things are happening! We’ve moved the electronics area and are ready to transform the space into a jewelry studio. We are shooting to have it up and running within 2 months, but in order to reach that goal, we’d like your help. Please let us know how we can make it work for you by answering a few questions on our survey.

Your responses will help us identify the tools, materials, and layout needed. Of course, we’ll also need to write SOPs to protect people and tools, develop checkout classes, and plan our skill development classes. We have some work to do yet, but can’t wait to see what our members create in this new space!
Ann Arbor has a wonderful jewelry resource with the Ann Arbor Art Center’s great studio and classes. Maker Works is eager to collaborate with them and to expand the jewelry-making options in Washtenaw County.
Summer Camps!
Registration will begin soon for our summer camps. Let us know you’d like to be notified when that happens by entering your contact info here.

Kinetic Camp

Ages 8-12
Jun 19 – 23  9:00am – 12:00pm

Flying! Rolling! Crashing! Join Maker Works for a series of kinetic-themed Make & Take classes. Students will be introduced to a variety of traditional kinetic projects and the tools to create them. Everything from rubber band planes and mousetrap-powered cars to stomp rockets will be covered in this week-long series of half-day workshops. Starting from kits, students will end the camp with their own custom creations and a new appreciation for designing from scratch!

Ages 10-14
Jun 26 – 30 & Aug 07 – 11

9:00am – 4:00pm (open build available from 4pm to 5pm in the Kids Space)

Students will be immersed in a week-long workshop of creative storytelling through the art of comics and manga. We will work on drawing skills, narration, and formatting a story to go wherever their imagination takes them. Pen and paper are combined with modern experimental tools like laser cutters, conductive ink and 3D printing to give students the means to meet their print deadline. Staff will guide students through the use of these devices to express their art in multiple media to create a single-issue zine featuring everyone’s work by the end of the week.

Metal Sculpture Camp

Ages 13-16
Jul 10 – 14 & Aug 14 – 18
9:00am – 4:00pm (open build available from 4pm to 5pm in the Kids Space)

Do you want to harness the power of the sun to cut metal? Shape that metal with your mind and hands? Join Maker Works for an exciting metal workshop for kids. Students will be introduced to a variety of metalworking methods including forging, casting pewter, plasma cutting, and using various other tools. Students will learn about design and tool skills, which will allow them to create their own custom sculptures.

Upcycled Fashion Camp
Ages 10-16

Jul 17-21 & Aug 21-25
9:00am – 4:00pm (open build available from 4pm to 5pm in the Kids Space)
Get your kids thinking outside the box when it comes to self-expression through everyday fashion. While we will use basic hand and machine sewing, students will be introduced to bigger tools like the laser cutter, vinyl cutter, and heat press to help achieve their creative visions. Students will be exploring T-shirt and denim reconstruction, plus the art of accessorizing. Transform “hand-me-downs” into runway-ready style for the new school year!   Students will create several garments and accessories.  All materials included.
Monthly Maker Group Meetings
Check out the following events and meetings at Maker Works.  These meetings are open to all, no membership required. 

Maker Works Fix-It Friday – Come in to help fix, learn to fix, or have your items fixed by MW staff and volunteer fixers.
Third Friday of the month from 4pm-6pm. (Next fix is Feb 17th @ 4-6pm)

GO Tech – Self-proclaimed “geek show-and-tell.” Makers present their creations!

Second Tuesday of the month at 7pm. (Next meeting is Mar 14th @ 7pm)

TOOOL – The Open Organization Of Lockpickers – A group advancing the general public knowledge about locks and lockpicking.
Second Wednesday of the month at 6:30pm. (Next meeting is Mar 8th @ 6:30pm)
Southeast Michigan Woodworkers – Presentations on various woodworking topics, as well as hands-on project builds and teaching sessions.

Second Thursday of the month at 7pm. (Next meeting is Mar 9th @ 7pm)

Kids Robotics Club – Join us for robotics and fun! All ages welcome, no experience needed!!
Third Wednesday of the month from 6-7pm. (Next meeting is Mar 15th @ 6-7pm)

Michigan Robot Club – A group for robotics enthusiasts of all skill levels.

Third Wednesday of the month at 7pm. (Next meeting is Mar 15th @ 7pm)

South East Michigan CNC (SEMICNC) – For folks who want to get started with CNC as well as veterans to share information.
First Wednesday of the month at 7pm. (Next meeting is Mar 1st @ 7pm)
Maker Works Quarterly Member Meetings – If you are or have ever been a member, stop by for discussion on announcements and updates around the shop. (Next meeting is April 20th @ 7pm)
Handy Links
Class Registration Calendar
Tool Reservation Calendar
Email us if you’d like to arrange one-on-one consulting ($30/hr) on your project. Please include as many details as possible, so we can connect you with the right person.
Maker Works 734-222-4911 frontdesk@maker-works.com
3765 Plaza Dr, Ann Arbor, MI 48108
Open 1pm-9pm M-Th, 9am-6pm F, 10am-4pm weekends
(Open to Pro-level members 9am-1pm M-Th as well)

Other places to find us:
Like us on FacebookView on InstagramFollow us on TwitterView our videos on YouTube

Would you like to see some neat panoramic photos inside Maker Works from the quiet “Pro hours” of the morning?




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A Maker’s Guide to the Holiday Season

Handmade gifts can be the best gifts. But if you’re anything like us, sometimes the stress of the holidays can be magnified by scrambling to finish handmade gifts at the last minute.

That’s why we’ve created this guide with tried-and-true tips and tricks to not only getting through this holiday season, but taking your making game to the next level.

1. Get Started Now

Sometimes makers can be procrastinators, too. (Who, us?) Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, unless it means more stress than there needs to be and the risk of running out of time. By planning out your gifts now, even if you don’t start working on them right away, you’ll have an idea of what you’ll need in order to get the job done. This includes purchasing or ordering materials, knowing what tools you’ll be using, brushing up on any necessary skills, and making initial preparations.

2. Sign Up for Any Check-Out Classes You May Need

As the holidays get closer, space in check-out classes can fill quickly. If there’s a check out class you’ll need to take in order to complete your project, take a look at the calendar and go ahead and sign up now.

3. Enroll in a Make-N-Take Class

Okay, this is one of the most straightforward and easiest ways to make an awesome gift. There’s a ton of positives to signing up for a Make-N-Take class and coming away from it with a gift. For one, there’s no guesswork. You’ll know exactly what you’ll be walking away from the class with. And secondly, you’ll have the support of the instructor and fellow classmates to guide you through every step of the process.

Here are some suggestions:

Birdhouses | November 19 | 12:30pm – 3:00pm

Forged Bracelets (Family) | November 26 | 11am – 1pm

Holiday Stockings (Family) | December 1 | 4pm – 5:30pm or 7pm – 8:30pm

Holiday Ornament (Drop-In) | December 3, 10, and 17 | Between 11am – 3pm

Forged Bracelets (Family) | December 10 | 11am – 1pm

Metal Tree (Family) | December 17 | 11am – 11:30am

Holiday Stockings (Family) | December 17 | 12pm – 1:30pm

Forged Bracelets (Family) | December 24 | 11am – 1pm

Click here to find out more and sign up for a Make-N-Take class.

4. Reserve Tool Time

If there are times you know you’ll be in the shop, why not go ahead and reserve your tool time now? Some tools will be in very high demand come December, so it’s a good idea to start thinking about when you’ll be working in the shop and when you’ll be needing which tools.

5. If You Hit a Rut, Consult with an Expert

We all experience unexpected challenges when working on projects. What’s important is to not let these challenges keep you from making the gift of your (or someone else’s) dreams. Sometimes even just half an hour of talking with an expert can give you just the boost you need to get through the challenge and make your project a reality. Plus, talking with someone who has just about seen or done it all can save you loads of time, which is perhaps the most valuable resource of all during the holiday season.

Maker Works staff members each have unique areas of expertise that they can offer consulting in. If you’d like to find out more about how you could connect with an expert and use consulting for your project, stop by the front desk, email us, or give us a call at (734) 222-4911. We’ll get an understanding of your needs and then connect you with the right person.

6. Celebrate with us at our Holiday Party

At the end of the day, the holiday season is all about friends and family. That’s why we want Maker Works members and their families to join us at our third-annual Nightmare Before Christmas Costume Potluck Extravaganza! Don your favorite costume and bring a dish to pass. We’ll be giving out prizes for best costume and best dish!

Saturday, December 10 | 6-11pm (Kids welcome until 9pm)

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The Shiny Seed at Grand Rapids ArtPrize

pnctreeIf you’ve been at Maker Works during the past few weeks, you’ve probably noticed anything from large, aluminum-wrapped branches, to shiny stainless steel leaves, to glass and copper “fruit” glowing bright with colorful LED lights scattered throughout the shop.

These are all pieces of an eighteen-foot-tall tree made by The Shiny Seed, a collaborative led by Maker Works staff member Kc Dixon and member Gene Foulk. The project has also been made possible by the work of many volunteers.

The various pieces of the tree were created at Maker Works, using tools like the PCB engraver, the ShopBot CNC router, the Bridgeport mill, soldering irons, metal lathes, and the laser cutter. The team then worked together to assemble all the pieces and make the tree come to life.

The tree is on display at the Grand Rapids ArtPrize competition from September 21 – October 9.

Stop by ArtPrize to see the tree at the corner of Pearl Street and Monroe Avenue, just outside the PNC Plaza, then cast your vote for your favorite exhibits!

To see more photos and updates of the project, click here to checkout The Shiny Seed Facebook page.

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Member Project: Steve’s Incredible Mechanical Calendar

Maker Works member Steve wanted to make a wooden clock.

But when he came across drawings online for a “perpetual calendar”–a mechanical calendar that would know the end of each month and advance itself forward, while also tracking the day of the week, the day of the month, astrological signs, and the moon’s phases–he knew it was too unique a project to pass up.

He purchased the drawings, and used the ShopBot, Epilog Laser, and metal lathes to cut the wood, etch the wooden pieces, and turn the metal parts, respectively.

While many small pieces with precise cutting specifications made the project a challenge, Steve ultimately created an incredible project that is both functional and artistically intriguing.

Check out a video with him showing how the calendar works here:

If you’re interested in learning how to use the tools that Steve used to make his mechanical calendar, click here to check out the Maker Works class schedule.

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See a Felt Plush Monster Come to Life Right Before Your Eyes

Will we see you at our Felt Plush Monster kids’ workshop on July 21?

You’ll get to use laser-cut felt parts, hand stitching, and machine sewing to create your own terrific tiny creature. At the end of this workshop, you’ll walk away with an awesome monster as well as basic stitching skills to carry your interests further. Ages: 8+.

This workshop is taught by innovative fiber artist and milliner Je’Tone Alexander and CNC Embroidery Enthusiast Eric Rudolph.

Thursday, July 21 | 9am-12pm

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Ann Arbor Health Hacks – June 24-26

Ann Arbor Health Hacks (http://a2healthhacks.org/) is a non-profit organization in Ann Arbor that is geared towards building the community and bringing together people from diverse backgrounds to develop new ideas in healthcare innovation through healthcare hackathons.

The topic for this year’s hack is Prototyping Disease Prevention. The hackathon reception and networking social will be the evening of Friday, June 24, and then Saturday, June 25-Sunday, June 26 will involve panel speakers, idea-pitching, and hacking/making. Registration for the weekend hackathon can be found here: (http://a2healthhacks.org/) or at http://tinyurl.com/A2H2-Register.

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Member Meetings are now Quarterly! The next one is July 21st at 7pm

Join us for our Quarterly Member Meeting, led by Maker Works co-founders Tom Root and Dale Grover. In it, they’ll cover:

– Maker Works Business Scoreboard and Profit & Loss
– Membership Options
– Announcements & Upcoming Changes

If you are or have ever been a member, we would love to see you there!

There will no longer be a June member meeting.

Other upcoming Member Meetings are scheduled for: October 20th, 2016 | January 19th, 2017 | April 20th, 2017.

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Join us for Summer Camps at Maker Works! July 18 – 22, 2016

Check out our fun, innovative summer camps that we just know you and your camper will love.

Each session is a half-day (three-hour) workshop that will be held in either the morning or afternoon. And, you can mix and match as many morning and afternoon workshops as you choose! You do not have to sign up for the whole week. The workshops will take place the week of July 18-22.

Check out a brief description of each workshop below! Space is limited, and the last day to register is July 12. Click here to sign up.

bikeshelfBuild Your Own Bike Shelf

Monday, July 18 | 1pm-4pm

Create a custom bike rack out of weather-resistant wood that can hang in your garage or house! We’ll use hand tools and power tools to cut the wood and assemble the pieces. At the end of the workshop, you’ll have your own bike rack to take home with you, along with some familiarity with basic wood shop tools. Ages: 10+.

This workshop is taught by woodworking wizard Al McWaters and jack of all trades Eric Rudolph.

fairydoorThe Magic Behind Fairy Doors

Tuesday, July 19 | 1pm-4pm

Learn the magic behind making your very own fairy door! You’ll use a variety of tools to cut, shape, and customize your fairy door, then decorate it with different finishes. Feel free to bring personal decorations to really make it your own! We’ll also go over how to install your fairy door once it’s home. Ages: 6+.

This workshop is taught by ambassadors to the fun and whimsical, Kc Dixon and Josh Williams.

costumeCreative Costume Props

Wednesday, July 20 | 1pm-4pm

Make your own custom props like swords, lasers, weapons, crowns, and more! First, we’ll create drawings of our props and plan them, and then we’ll use a variety of materials from the ScrapBox to make them come to life! Ages: 8+.

This workshop is taught by enthusiastic costume designers Josh Williams and Kc Dixon.


Sew a Felt Plush Monster

Thursday, July 21 | 9am-12pm

Use laser-cut felt parts, hand stitching, and machine sewing to create your own terrific tiny creature. At the end of this workshop, you’ll walk away with an awesome monster as well as basic stitching skills to carry your interests further. Ages: 8+.

This workshop is taught by innovative fiber artist and milliner Je’Tone Alexander and CNC Embroidery Enthusiast Eric Rudolph.

ForgedBraceletPromoImageForge Your Own Copper Bracelet

Thursday, July 21 | 1pm-4pm

Create your own forged bracelet out of copper wire and copper sheet! You’ll learn metalsmithing techniques like forming, forging, and finishing. Ages: 8+.

This workshop is taught by master metalworkers and jewelry designers Kc Dixon and Ben VanHouweling.

craneOrigami Robotics

Friday, July 22 | 9am-12pm

Learn how to fold a traditional Origami crane and augment it with shape-shifting electronics! We’ll explore the basics of paper folding, electronics, and how the combination allow our creatures to move. Starting with a piece of paper and a few electrical components, you’ll go home with your own animated origami creation! Ages: 8+.

This workshop is taught by origami artist Beth Johnson and electronics dabbler Josh Williams.

lawnMetal Lawn Ornaments

Friday, July 22 | 1pm-4pm

Create an incredible metal sculpture out of plasma-cut parts. We’ll be spot welding, bending, grinding, and shaping the metal to create the perfect sculpture. There will also be a plasma cutter demonstration. Ages: 8+.

This workshop is taught by ambassadors to the fun and whimsical, Kc Dixon and Josh Williams.

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Join us at the Ann Arbor Mini Maker Faire on Saturday, June 4

We’re gearing up for the 8th Annual

Ann Arbor Mini Maker Faire

Held at the Ann Arbor District Library – Downtown Branch

Saturday, June 4 | 10a – 4p

Maker Works is ecstatic to be an exhibitor at this year’s Ann Arbor Mini Maker Faire, where we’ll be putting on our Great Maker Race. Young makers will get to create miniature cars from start to finish. They’ll draw the shape they want the car to be, cut it out of foam, attach it to a base with wheels, decorate the car, and then race it down a one-of-a-kind, custom-built three-lane track.There will be many other exciting demos and hands-on activities, too. Here’s some of the exhibits that will be there:

  • A wind energy exhibit from the Hands On Museum
  • Robotics demonstrations by FIRST Robotics 
  • Minecraft programming from GameStart
  • Learn to solder from All Hands Active
… And much more!
The Faire will take place inside the building as well as outside in the library’s parking lot.
Find out more at a2makerfaire.com.
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