Makerspace in Anchorage Alaska


#1

In an effort to win the “going the distance” award for makerspace tourism, I swung by open house night in ANCHORAGE ALASKA this evening to check out their makerspace! I spent time with their president Andreas, had a great tour and got some ideas. He was happy to spend a lot of time with me and super nice, I talked to several other members who were hanging out, they all remind me of us :slight_smile:

Space is separated into two sections - dust and non-dust! The dust side has the woodshop, welding machines, heavy stuff. Both halves have an open section and a two-story split section, sort of like a loft. In the woodshop half the loft upstairs is closed off to a rentable office/coworking kind of area. The other side’s loft is open with computers for gaming, they’ve had some neat virtual reality stuff setup and had some popular programs where people could experience VR for the first time. Front area is set up cafe style, for a cool coffee shop vibe. Under that loft is a laser cutter in its own room so it doesn’t make the coworking space noisy.

Andrea’s son is a rambunctious creative little maker who gets the run of the place, he proudly told me with a grin that he is president of the “Maker Kids” club, in charge of making sure all other kids follow the rules! He was mashing computer parts together or something, totally had a plan, awesome kid.

Interesting projects:
bio lab/hydroponic system in the early planning stations
a hackathon for ideas to re-use/reclaim fishing nets that wash up on Alaska beaches
They built a plastics shredder that reminded me a lot of Joel’s, but right next to it a manual injection molding machine
A member was there splicing together nerf guns, it looked like something one of us would do!
Lots of cosplay enthusiasts - Anchorage has an oddly giant comicon every spring
“make a spaceship” little kid parties where they throw small children at a pile of cardboard, the kids mark on it where they want cut and parents become the CNC machines armed with box cutters. It’s a blast and the results are hysterical.

Recent struggles:
Reclaimed a lot of space by getting rid of member storage, they had a cubby system but storage was being used by not in-work projects more than in-work projects and they needed the space.

Strengths:
Good at incubating entrepenuers. Their CAD workgroup is on break because the people who joined to learn CAD got design jobs!
They were originally going to be an aerospace-focused makerspace. Andreas said they’ve expanded their focus and that’s okay, his advice is to let your makerspace become what it is, celebrate it and don’t try to keep it in a box or try to steer it too hard. Let it happen! <3

Onboarding/membership:
About 40-50 members, membership is $100 per family so once you are in, your spouse is too. New members have a 30 day probation period before they get an entry code. During this time they have to attend at least one business/planning/committee meeting to better learn what it takes to run the space and jump in to getting involved (I LIKE THIS IDEA).

Pics or it didn’t happen!

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November Newsletter
#2

Did you get a handle on how many square feet they occupy? I’m with you on the probationary period. It would be nice to vet new members to make sure that they aren’t nuts in a bad way. The other kind are okay.


#3

Square feet… shooting from the hip I think 3500 or so? The longer I’m on the MakeICT board the better I get at square footage sense.

We used to have a probationary period but new members hated “throwing away” that first month dues. I now have my own unofficial rule that I will not sign someone’s key form if it’s the first time they’ve set foot in the space. This has been easy for me to enforce because they usually fail enough of my quiz questions it’s obvious to them that they’re not ready for a key - hard hitting questions like “what’s your plan to get tool authorization?”

The thing I like most is requiring everyone to go to one committee/lead/board meeting - so many members have no idea what it takes to run this place. Or I’ve noticed they have good ideas to improve MakeICT but they don’t know how to find the person to make those ideas happen. They feel isolated like there’s no communication, when there are so many ways we are trying to get folks involved and informed.


#4

Second the you have to attend a meeting notion.


#5

Certainly there’s a disconnect, at least with some people, between the idea of “being a part of a community” and “paying to rent tools”. Having a month in which to either instill the community ethic, or at least see that is has or hasn’t taken, could possibly avoid issues further down the road. There’s a huge difference in a member that sees himself as part of the makerspace and one that feels he’s doing business with the makerspace. I don’t relish the notion of being a volunteer customer service employee and all that that entails, and I suspect that most of our involved volunteers don’t, either. I’m choosy about where I like to get yelled at.


#6

Anchorage makerspace member here. I wanted to clarify the probationary period.

This time is both for the Makerspace to vet new members, and for the new members to vet the Makerspace. $100/mo is a real commitment! So if it doesn’t work out on either side, we refund the money. We explain this to new members when they sign up so that everyone is on the same page about what the probation period means.

Also, they still can access the space and use it as much as they want during the probation period, they just don’t get a keycode for 24/7 access. This means that whenever they’re at the shop, a current member is there too. Part of the reason we do this, other than for safety reasons, is to deal with the problem of new members showing up and getting frustrated because they can’t find some tool they need, don’t know how to run the laser cutter, etc. There will always be someone there who can answer questions until they get comfortable. We’re (purposefully) not structured enough to have a very formal orientation process so this works well for us to make sure everyone gets attention after they first join.


#7

Thanks for chiming in!


#8

I also think that requiring new members to attend a committee/lead/board meeting is a good idea. Super easy that way to introduce themselves and learn about the operation. We’re all volunteers so it’s not exactly like going and joining a gym. It takes a little effort from everyone imo.

Btw, the membership/onboarding committee is meeting at 4 this Sunday If anyone wants to join us.


#9

Thanks @Jaws!

Follow up question though - how do you schedule that other member who will be there with them? We frequently have new members who haven’t gotten through their key application yet but would like to use the space, and they can be here as a guest of another member, but sometimes it’s hard for them to find that other member who can meet on their schedule. Plus as Eric said we are all volunteers so if somebody told me “I don’t have a key yet, who can meet me at 2pm on a workday?” Most of us would have to pass.


#10

The new member can post on our message group (previously facebook messenger, now Slack) and ask if anyone is around. Typically someone is there or is close by. Obviously this wouldn’t work out at 3am on a Tuesday but mostly people want to come evenings and weekends so it has worked out. YMMV


#11

It seems that we have something similar. Frequently I see new members and existing members on the forum simply asking for help or looking for a keyed member to assist them in the ___ shop. It’s not a technical 30 day probationary period, but rather whatever amount of time it takes that person to get all 6 signatures for their own key.