Matt Faris is a computer programmer who wants to learn welding so he can create an underwater robot.He might have found the place to make that happen in the new Duluth MakerSpace in Lincoln Park, a long-awaited collaborative space where people with an array of technical skills are gathering.
Faris admits he’s an introvert when it comes to his passions, but the shared space where he finds people with like interests has expanded his thinking.
“I’m pretty much a keep-to-myself person,” he said. “But it’s really cool to find like-minded people.”
Faris was bantering with MakerSpace coordinator Joe Durbin during a recent open house as they worked on an “Open” sign for the building.
Durbin said the sign is a good representation of what MakerSpace is all about. He checked out programmable lighted signs at stores costing a whole lot more than the $25 to $30 spent on a strand of LED lights, some wood and electronic parts.
“You learn something and get it done for a whole lot cheaper,” Durbin said.
In another part of the shop that night, six people stared at a 3-D printer warming up and making amusing sounds. It was programmed a few days earlier to make plastic ornaments featuring Duluth’s iconic Aerial Lift Bridge. In another area, work was being done on the laser cutter that can burn the MakerSpace logo onto virtually anything, including a leaf and piece of bread.
“We’ve got big dreams,” Durbin said as he showed the place off. It used to be home to an engine shop and the vast majority of the 10,000 square feet remains a work in progress. For now, Durbin hopes to gather enough memberships to at least pay the heat bills this winter.
The dreams for MakerSpace are highlighted in its descriptive literature: Shared space to use tools and work on electronics, woodworking, metals, crafts, auto repair and whatever skills or interests members bring.
“It’s like a gym membership for the brain,” Durbin said.
You could call MakerSpace a movement to get people out of their basements and garages to work on projects within a community. And the hope is that they will be able to come and use tools that the individual simply can’t afford to buy.
“It’s so much easier to get stuff done collaboratively,” Durbin said.
At the open house, the talk was convivial and techy. People learned about the space through social media after the official opening Nov. 16, when more than 50 people showed up.
The call for the MakerSpace model has been out for a few years, Faris and Durbin said, as more have popped up around the state and country. In Duluth, enthusiasts gathered people and talked about how feasible the idea was.
“Once we had the need, we’d go out and get the funds,” Faris said. “There’s a push to make the movement in Duluth.”
He said he was surprised that a space hadn’t already popped up when he moved to Duluth more than three years ago.
The former PDQ Engine & Machine building came relatively cheaply, Durbin said. The biggest project now is “to make the MakerSpace,” he said. “We have more toys than time right now.”
Creating the woodshop space is the priority right now, Durbin said. He knows the interest there is high. MakerSpace is continuing to build partnerships to gain tools and money.
Chris Broughton said he can’t wait to get on a large-scale planer to work on furniture. He’s a member of the Duluth Woodworkers Guild.
For now, he has a light-strip game stowed away in a cubbyhole that shows off some amazing small-scale electronics expertise.
Broughton has been volunteering with Durbin since September to get the place into shape.
“I was itching to get on this,” he said of MakerSpace. “People here figure stuff out.”
Find your place at MakerSpace
Duluth MakerSpace is funded by memberships and classes taught by experts in certain technical skills. Rates and policies are expected to change as the new group finds its footing at its facility at 3001 W. Superior St. in Lincoln Park.
Winter rates for this winter are $25 for adults and $35 for a couple. Those younger than 18 are welcome but must be accompanied by an adult. Once the woodshop is up and running, the rates are expected to be $50 and $70.
In the first few weeks, the shop gained 15 members and organizers talked with 110 people with interest in joining.
Open shop hours are 5-8 p.m. on weekdays, longer if there is a large group attending. The shop is open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekends. Coordinator Joe Durbin said he has plans for 24-access to the shop in the future using key cards. Wednesday nights are “open shop” nights when those interested in the space are encouraged to get a tour and check things out. Weekly membership meetings are 6-7 p.m. Sundays.
There are ongoing classes at the shop that run from $10 to $25 an hour. Early classes had five students learning about Arduino (micro-electronics), hand woodworking and 3-D printing.
The phone number is (218) 481-9200.
For information on memberships and classes, visit the MakerSpace site at duluthmakerspace.com. Its email address is info@DuluthMakerSpace.com