Key learning and recommendations:
- Expertise is vital but we don’t all have to be experts.
There is a need for access to ‘hard knowledge’ especially around electronics and coding and knowing how to use the equipment. Without the partnership with Tech Resort the project wouldn’t have achieved nearly as much, or been up and running so quickly. For a future makerspace project, securing the expertise to support learning and training would be essential, but alongside this, the ability to play and tinker with ideas and equipment is just as vital, along with the ‘how hard can it be?’ ethos that Tech Resort employs. Being able to say that you don’t know the answer but you’re going to try and work it out gives people permission to be curious, to explore and to collaborate.
- Don’t be afraid - the quickest route to confidence in the language of digital technology is to use the tech yourself.
As a staff team we entered the project with some trepidation as we were very aware of our lack of knowledge, but as soon as we started using the equipment and engaging with the sessions these fears subsided. We saw this happen to others in the project through a number of ‘lightbulb’ moments, especially in the workshops with Tech Resort. One of our community participants said that although she didn’t become an expert in coding, the project gave her enough of the language and principles to be able to talk to someone who was, and to be able to collaborate with them in the future on the illuminated processional structures that she had in mind.
- We need to be open to all the different uses that people will have for the space.
We now have a clearer idea of what a makerspace at Colonnade House could look like in the future. Our potential users range from young people to retired people, from artists to inventors, from engineers to animators, from people with expertise to complete novices. We will need to think about maintaining an inclusive ethos that allows all the users to access the space, to achieve their aims, to share ideas with each other and to develop their skills.
We asked people which uses of a makerspace would be most important to them – the most popular were:
Hourly hire of specific piece of equipment; Individual learning and skills development; Opportunity to develop new projects through training and /or collaboration; Producing one-off items for repairs or customization; Prototyping new products; Short-run production of items.
Balancing the needs of all these users is something that will require more thought and planning.
- We have identified a gap in Worthing for access to digital tech
The enthusiasm with which people engaged with the project has shown that there is an appetite for digital technology and a lack of local access to it. We asked people who took part where they currently access digital tech and the answer was mainly ‘we don’t’. Those that did use facilities in Brighton thought they would save time and money if there was something available locally.
The equipment that project participants were most interested in was: 3D printer, 3D scanner, laser cutter, screen printing and large format printing. However, other features of a makerspace that were important to people were a community of people to collaborate with and learn from and an expert to help them learn how to use the equipment.
At one end of the scale, the more expensive pieces of equipment such as a laser cutter are relatively easy to learn how to use, whereas at the other end of the scale, electronics and microcontrollers can be bought cheaply, but require higher level of skills and knowledge to use.
The 3D printers were offered out to local projects after Space to Make was complete, and they have already been used by one of the project participants to print PPE for healthcare workers during the Covid crisis – this is just one example of how a community could make use of a makerspace in the future.