One of the hot buzz words of late seems to be “Making” or “The Maker Movement.” In many ways this is nothing new, as I’m sure folks in the late 70s building homebrew computers from scratch would attest to. Thus said,
neardy creative types like doing things their own way even if it means a lot of extra work, sharing what they’ve done, and learning new skills.
If you consider that ‘people like creating stuff’ as a rule, you can also add to your rulebook that basically anything gets cheaper or better over time. Computers, TVs, toys way more detailed than I ever had as a kid… And tools such as CNC mills, laser cutters and 3D printers, which used to cost big bucks and have complex software have started to drop in price and are easier to use than ever. But, even if the price is a quarter as much as it used to be, a $8,000 laser cutter is still beyond most individual’s budgets.
Enter the makerspace (or hackerspace). Community workshops that are often open to the public, teach classes, host show-and-tells, provide tools for people to use, and most importantly, provide a venue for like-minded people to talk, hang out and learn from one another.
Nova Labs is a Makerspace in Reston, VA that started in 2011. I began attending in the late fall of 2013, drawn primarily to its 100 watt laser cutter named Mongo.
As a local non-profit, Nova Labs’ goal is to build a community of people who enjoy making. There are even programs I’ve seen that try to start this early, as NL hosts events for kids and teens such as take apart days (don’t get yelled at by your parents for disassembling the printer), providing practice space for local high school robotics teams, First Lego League, etc. Anyone can learn how to use an Arduino, solder, use a jointer and planer in the wood shop, or build a 3D printer.
Many of the projects I’ll talk about on this blog are the direct result of my going to Nova Labs. There are simply more tools there than I have access to at home, and there are people way smarter than me that I can ask questions of.
If you live near Washington DC, come check it out. Nova Labs is open most nights depending on what classes or groups are meeting there; an icon on the Nova Labs website shows the open/close status via an Internet-connected switch by the front door. The Nova Makers Meetup group is where you need to go to sign up for classes.
See you there!