Hackerspaces: Fab Labs and Makerspaces
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A do-It-Yourself revolution is bringing together likeminded craftspeople

By Kate Silver

Across the country, technologically savvy tinkerers are becoming part of a do-it-yourself revolution referred to as the Maker’s Movement. Once satisfied to work solo in basements and garages, crafty men and women are now joining forces in places called fab labs, makerspaces and hackerspaces, where they have access to top-of-the-line equipment, such as 3D printers, sewing machines, software, welding devices and the kinds of cutting-edge tools you might find in a manufacturing facility. They tackle projects, take classes and try new things, meeting likeminded people in the process. Much like the Chevrolet Spark—a small car with big technology and big attitude—these fab labs are built around innovation, excitement, individuality and unlocking the potential to make your mark.

The following are five notable hackerspaces.

Headquartered in Menlo Park, California, with various locations

TechShop is home to more than $1 million of professional equipment, including 3D printers, sewing machines, laser cutters, wood routers, welders, computer software and even an auto bay. Safety and basic use classes introduce newbies to the tools, and advanced classes help guide projects. Classes are open to the public (access to the facility’s equipment requires a membership), and topics include machining, metal work, electronics, computers, wood, welding and textiles. In addition to Menlo Park, TechShop has two other California locations in San Francisco and San Jose. It also has locations in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina; Detroit, Michigan; Austin, Texas and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and plans for openings in Chandler, Arizona; Washington, D.C. and New York, New York.

Hammerspace Hobby and Community Workshop
Kansas City, Missouri

Hackers of all ages are welcome at Hammerspace; there’s even a power tool-free room for the youngest visitors. This 7,000-square-foot workshop draws in artists, inventors, teachers and hobbyists to use the CNC room, wood shop, metal shop, kilns, 3D printer and more. In addition to classes on air rockets, silversmithing, animation, robotics and origami, community-minded fab lab enthusiasts also stop in for their regular game and movie nights.

Westport Public Library
Westport, Connecticut

Libraries, such as Westport Public Library, are energetically hopping on the makerspace craze. Here the public can learn how to design objects using a 3D printer, and participate in regular puppetry classes, sewing lessons and science demonstrations, among other things. The community-organized Westport Mini Maker Faire brings together DIYers from the area to showcase their crafts.

Milwaukee Makerspace
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

There’s room for everyone—from guitar builders to robot manufacturers—at Milwaukee Makerspace. The facility is open 24/7 to members, who pay $80 per month for unlimited access to welders, lasers, a 3D printer and other top-notch equipment.

The Wanger Family Fab Lab
Chicago, Illinois

This fab lab, located inside the Museum of Science + Industry, welcomes guests to design their dreams, using available tools and software. The lab is host to workshop sessions, in which participants can learn to use the 3D printer, design a keychain and create their own sticker. In addition, visitors can use the lab to design robots, furniture, T-shirts and more. Some of the available equipment includes CAD workstations, an electronics workshop, a CNC machine, a laser cutter and a desktop vinyl cutter.

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Kate Silver is an award-winning journalist and editor based in Chicago. Her work appears regularly in Spirit Magazine, Men’s Health, the Chicago Tribune and Midwest Living, as well as on Parents.com.


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