The Milwaukee Makerspace in Bayview (2555 S. Lenox St. Milwaukee, WI, 53207) represents an eclectic collection of material and equipment for tinkerers, craftsmen and engineers in nearly every domain. It represents a community for just about any tradesman or building enthusiast to come and talk shop – literally. Most of the Makerspace consists of large open rooms dedicated to holding the machinery and the elbow room for getting things done: Welding, Blacksmithing, Machining, and Computing, in addition to a large space dedicated to the softer crafts.
The building is not without its quirks. Once in the data storage business, little data-closets for storing magnetic tape now serve the members as locations for private storage and even tiny hovels for getting things done in seclusion. But by and large, the movement behind Makerspace is social – toward individuals doing hands-on, physical creations of some sophistication with modern tools in communities of fellow enthusiasts. And insofar as this promotes inquisitive and creative physical building, specifically to a younger generation the movement certainly has a place in the advancement of science.
Within “Science” there are two traditional categories of researcher. The first is the theoretician and mathematician, e.g. the Einstein et al. The other is the experimenter and engineer – e.g. the Michelson-Morely or Edison. The Maker Movement – if it is to be distinct from a general enthusiasm for information technology and the wide availability of computing resources – pertains most directly to the second group. For the lab, the need for work-around solutions, quick prototypes, and side experiments to verify this or that assumption makes the Maker Movement a boon, providing the availability of ‘Maker’ resources, as well as the people who know how to use them.
The movement has no doubt been made possible by the organizing power provided by information technology, but it is largely a counter-response to the information technology which has put so many manufacturing laborers in the “Rust Belt” behind a desk or out of work. Nevertheless, this love-hate is likely here to stay as long as the movement is to progress, as its future – Make Magazine itself acknowledges – seems to be in the information-physical hybrid technology represented by IoT (Internet of Things) devices like Raspberry Pi as well as 3D printers – which the Makerspace also makes available.
The hybrid technology also represents a boon for science education. It was not long ago that the neat-o instructional devices and gadgets were reserved for viewing while attending your local public science museum or center (e.g. Discovery World). Now schools are in a position to purchase such resources for instruction in the classroom, and have a community of enthusiasts, such as can be found at a Makerspace, to support them as both teachers and students get up to speed on what the technology can do.
The movement pushes professionals such as Pete Prodoehl to stay on the technology pulse. Pete, in addition to being a member of Milwaukee Makerspace, is a board member for Milwaukee Maker Faire, a free event, happening Sept 23 & 24, 2017, and also builds professional hands-on interactive exhibits for the Betty Brinn Museum. He and his Brinn Museum coworkers are in the process of designing displays for a special exhibit in science education coming next summer. Pete sometimes puts his Maker knowhow to great use in education. Other times, he and his Maker Milwaukee team create a Wienermobile.
There is fun to be had too. Read more about the success of Milwaukee Makerspace’s replica Oscar Meyer Wienermobile at the Kansas City Makersfaire
Written by Casey S. Schroeder for the Milwaukee Area Science Advocates. Casey is a regular contributor to MASA. More of his work can be found at atheoryof.me