The "maker" movement that has spread across the country over the last decade has taken hold in State College. Makers are focused on building and creating, sometimes through technology and sometimes through more traditional arts and crafts. They often gather in shared “Maker Spaces” to do their work.
WPSU visited two “Maker Spaces” in State College in the run up to this week’s inaugural Maker Week, organized by Schlow Library.
The Make Space
The Make Space has been in downtown State College since 2011, but it’s no surprise if you’ve never have heard of it. It’s tucked down a tiny alley next to the Frasier Street parking garage. Inside, it’s just two long, narrow rooms crammed full of electronic equipment. Today, a couple of guys are testing a new laser engraver and a half dozen guys are gathered around a 3D printer. They're making Mine Craft key chains.
Eric Furjanic is a founding member of The Make Space. It’s their weekly open house, so both dues-paying members and visitors are watching the 3D printer lay down layer upon layer of plastic to create the plastic key chains.
“These are also great machines to make pieces of drones and toys and little robots, all the plastic widgets that make up your life as well," said Furjanic. "Or if you're an inventor you can make a prototype, see how it looks in real life. Modify it based on that and kind of develop your product.”
During Maker Week, there will be a number of 3D printers on display at Schlow Library, and community members can even make their own cookie cutters during one event.
The Make Space will host “after hours” events every evening, giving visitors a chance to check out what they do, from 3D printing and soldering and a couple of experiments that have to do with harnessing electricity and are the stuff of mad scientists… or at least science museums.
Joseph Sanchez hopes Maker Week will get a lot more people involved with The Make Space, which he says does a lot of cool things.
“Yeah, cool things, absolutely. Semi-dangerous, absolutely," said Sanchez. "I think we do some really cool stuff and I think we're kinda the best kept secret of State College right now. Because not a lot of people know about where we are, but if they knew what we're doing here everybody would want to get involved.”
Just around the corner, in a slightly larger alley, is a brand new and very different take on a maker space. It’s called The Makery. And right now it’s full of young girls taking part in Fashion Camp.
(By the way, neither of these spaces is intentionally sex-segregated.)
Amy Frank is leading one group of girls in a sewing project making headbands. She’s also the owner of The Makery. It’s the second to last day of camp and tomorrow the parents will come for a runway show to see what their daughters have made.
But Frank’s sewing classes aren’t all that happens in this space. Several other women share the space.
“And we also have a jewelry design instructor, a photography instructor, a knitting instructor, a youth painting and drawing instructor, art and wine instructor and all those artists share the space," said Frank. "So they pay a little bit to be able to teach and use the space for their own events and classes."
The group used to be in Boalsburg at The Studio at Contempo.
During Maker Week, The Makery will host a morning Maker Camp for kids. In the evenings, they’ll have sessions for adults at the library. And at the Saturday event they’ll have a kids’ arts and crafts table.
So what does a library -- like Schlow Library, which organized Maker Week -- have to do with sewing and 3D printers?
Nathaniel Rasmussen, the head of IT services at Schlow Library said a lot of people see libraries getting involved in emerging technology seems like a disconnect.
"But I think to those of us who work in libraries we see a very logical progression there," said Rasmussen. "Forever, libraries were the place you came to access a very important tool in your life -- information. Nowadays, information is readily available to just about anyone, but we're learning our community has different needs. They need access to other tools and they need a space where they can gather and do what they're doing together."
Maker Week runs all this week. State College’s maker spaces are there for you whenever you’re feeling the urge to create.