From time to time I find that I’m discussing the Maker scene in NZ with someone and they inevitably ask me, “So is this the Wellington meetup, or the Makerspace.org.nz or something else?” In response to which I give a (probably overly elaborate) explanation of the various actors on the maker scene in Wellington, and also in the wider New Zealand scene as a whole.
This task has been made none the easier of late, with the arrival of the cunningly named “The Wellington MakerSpace” (which may be confusing if you are already aware of the existing Makerspace in Wellington). But cases of mistaken identity aside and before I get into introductions and explaining why this new Makerspace is awesome, it might make sense to give a rough explanation of the terminology that often gets used interchangeably to describe various aspects of the maker scene.
A hackerspace or hackspace (also referred to as a hacklab, makerspace or creative space) is a location where people with common interests, usually in computers, technology, or digital or electronic art can meet, socialise and/or collaborate.
[Courtesy of wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Makerspace).]
A fab lab (fabrication laboratory) is a small-scale workshop offering (personal) digital fabrication. A fab lab is generally equipped with an array of flexible computer controlled tools that cover several different length scales and various materials, with the aim to make “almost anything”. This includes technology-enabled products generally perceived as limited to mass production.
TechShop is a membership-based workshop that provides members with access to tools and equipment, instruction, and a community of creative and supportive people so they can build the things they have always wanted to make. You can think of TechShop like a fitness club, but with tools and equipment instead of exercise equipment.
[This definition from the Techshop site (http://www.techshop.ws/)]
In NZ we have historically had a reasonable regional representation of makerspaces/hacker spaces. With groups in Auckland (tangleball), Christchurch(Space Craft, which is currently on hiatus as they look for a new location), Dunedin dspace and Wellington. Wellington being the best represented with multiple groups (LeagueOfMakers, Makerspace Wellington and Co-Lab(181) ) all of which have over the last 12 months have been meeting regularly through the meetups scheduled on the Wellington Makers Meetup site.
The meetup is pretty much a social event that connects each of the groups. It was set up with the intent of giving makers visibility of other projects and also as a social gathering where folk could meet and discuss projects, maker related services, products etc. The meetup historically moved around to different locations and had various different members present ongoing or future projects.
Outside of the meetup each of the spaces hold regular open days being more suitable for meet and greets specific to a given topic and to provide an opportunity to simply come along to check out the facilities and perhaps see what people have in progress in a less polished state.
The Wellington MakerSpace
With the arrival of The(note the THE) Wellington Makerspace we now have an additional (and important) piece of the maker ecosystem in place. This arrival is not only a beautifully set up makerspace, but also part Maker-Gym/Techshop, part product development unit, part fun-lab. What this means is that their space will be keen to help drive concepts to reality. Whilst conventional makerspaces can most certainly help you develop the skills to get you tinkering and hacking, Lee and Nick are looking to target end products. I’m wary of speaking on behalf of the guys but encourage you to get in touch, drop in for one of their open evenings (Fridays) and chat with them a little. They have new tools coming all the time and are looking for members to help their space grow to it’s fullest potential, which from this vantage currently seems limitless! I’ve already got my membership sorted!
Three Maker spaces and a Maker gym do not an Eco system make!?
Very well, you might doubt the arrival of this new space and it’s significance. But if you look back over the last 18 months I think you’ll find good reason to believe that not only is the makerspace scene growing but it is also maturing in the types of services/facilities on offer. At present there are over 140 members of the Wellington makers meetup, there is an equivalent number of people showing their support for theWellingtonMakerSpace and that is just in the Wellington region. The purpose of this site was always to document the maker scene across NZ and on a daily basis we see more and more great projects coming from of various parts of NZ. Rumours of UAV mapping projects, whispers of recyclebots for producing 3d printer filament, ongoing maker workshops to help those interested continue to stretch their abilities.
However if all that isn’t enough we have the global FabLab conference FAB8 hitting NZ this August. This in itself is a huge deal, one that deserves a post all to itself! But suffice to say for now that when you have global participants in the Fablab scene descending on Wellington for a week of workshops, discussions, inspirational and cutting edge technological presentations then you can be pretty confident NZ is the place to be if you are a maker, wanna-be maker or someone who likes to be close to the cusp of change.
The following image is from a book called Open Design Now (which is a fantastic read and is certainly a book worthy of a blog post here). The diagram outlines the overlapping roles of the various elements in a Maker scene and also shows how they fit into the over all big picture. Ponoko is a longstanding feature of the global personal fabrication movement and taking it’s presence here in NZ into account along with the other factors mentioned above it’s hard not to see that NZ is a truly significant “maker” country. I often joke about the number-8 wire mentality, but in reality, not only is it alive and well – it’s leapfrogging into the next century while embracing all the amazing opportunities available along the way.