When you think of a maker space, your mind automatically goes to a physical space, tools, equipment, and what you can build there. The space and the tools are obviously very important, and provide a place, and a means for members to build their projects. This is especially true when you start looking at larger, messier or more expensive tools, like band saws, laser cutters, and CNC machines. Having these tools really expands the capability of the members, and lets them work without limiting their creativity.
However, there is something within a maker space that is even more valuable, the community.
The benefits of the community are many, and not always realised. People are often drawn into maker spaces by the tools, but their real benefit can often be from their fellow makers.
You get to work alongside other people who have similar interests to your own, you can share ideas, get feedback, and receive validation for your ideas. Having others there to demo your work to inspires you to keep working, a friendly sense of competition can promote you to work more on your project, or to make it better, something you may not have done if you were working on your own. Plus, celebrating a successful project is much more fun when it’s done with people that appreciate your accomplishment (and beer).
Collaborating on projects with other people is also a massive benefit, you can embark on a build that goes way further than your skill set, knowing that there others with complementary skills that will fill the gaps. Working with other people keeps you motivated, and gives a sense of accountability, improving your chances of finishing.
Some people find that a hackspace is a great place to meet and make friends with like minded people. Not everyone is lucky enough to live or work with people as the same hobbies and interests as them, so they rely on a community, or social events to meet them. A maker space for some can be purely social, and some great friends can be made.
There are usually a wide variety of events held at maker spaces, there can be interesting speakers, hackathons, parties, and evenings where members share the projects they are working on.
Education through the community should not be underestimated, in some maker spaces courses are run every week or evening covering topics from microprocessor programming, screen printing, welding, or training on one of the various tools. In other spaces people get together informally and share what they know with each other. Even if learning is not formally mentioned, whenever you talk to a fellow member, or come to an event, you are always learning.
There is always something to discover, to learn, and to try, and it’s the community within the maker space that connects it all together.