Creators Find Camaraderie — and Lifelong Learning — at the Dallas Makerspace

You could easily miss the Dallas Makerspace, tucked away in an industrial park in Carrollton just off Interstate 35. Inside the Makerspace, however, it’s a different world.There, members scramble back and forth, working on everything from making jewelry to fixing their cars. The space, at just over 16,500 square feet, is alive with people quenching a creative thirst that their day jobs don't seem to satisfy.Like the name suggests, the Dallas Makerspace is a place for people to make whatever they want — within reason. On any given day, you’ll see people building race cars, putting together trebuchets or doing something as simple as painting. But more than that, it’s a place for people to continue learning long after their formal education is finished.“As schools focused on standardized testing and stuff, shop class and things went away and this was kind of like coming back to that for me,” said Luke Olson, a former board member of the Dallas Makerspace.It’s a bit difficult to pin down exactly when makerspaces started popping up. But there are about 500 in North America and 1,400 worldwide, according to Popular Science. Each space is different in its scope and its scale. But they’re all founded on the same basic idea of housing a place for people to create.Members from the Dallas Personal Robotics Group founded the Dallas Makerspace six years ago when they decided to broaden out and get a physical location. The Makerspace moved from location to location as the space expanded until finally settling in Carrollton.Now, the Dallas Makerspace has around 1,500 members, making it one of the largest, if not the largest, nonprofit, volunteer-run makerspaces in the country. Although the collective has board members who are voted in, nobody is paid. Regular members pay a $50 membership fee each month. They can add household members over the age of 16 on to their membership for an additional $10 a month per person. There's also a "Starving Hacker" rate that's $35 a month for anyone who's unemployed, retired or in college. There’s some funding from grants and donations from companies such as Dell, but roughly 90 percent of funds come from members, said current Makerspace president Kris Anderson. The Makerspace also charges nominal fees for some of its classes to cover materials that add up to about $30,000 over the course of a year, said board member David Kessinger. Those fees go back into paying for materials for those classes.Records show the Makerspace had $546,571 in total revenue in 2015, the latest year numbers were available. Most of that money goes toward paying rent for the building, tools, utilities and other expenses. The space is filled with top-notch equipment that’s either difficult or too expensive to access almost anywhere else. Tools like the 3D printers at the space can vary anywhere from $400 to $2,500 a pop. The industrial-grade Computer Numerical Control router, which is used to cut out designs on wood or softer materials like acrylic and foam, retails for over $45,000.There are no barriers to entry for newcomers besides the monthly membership fee, fees for some of the classes and usage fees for some of the equipment. The space is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. And if members don’t know how to use the tools, there’s almost always someone around to help.  Continue reading...

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