Whitewater Makerspace provides advanced technology to members

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Samantha Jacquest
Sunday, October 27, 2013

WHITEWATER--For the recently opened Whitewater Makerspace, the expression “two heads are better than one” is more than an idea. It's a philosophy.

Makerspace is a nonprofit organization that allows community members to use  technology they may not otherwise be able to access, including 3D printers, looms, sewing machines, pottery kilns, greenhouses and more.

Brienne Diebolt-Brown, executive director for Whitewater Makerspace, said the goal is for people from different skill sets and backgrounds to come together and share their knowledge and ideas. She said the organization is trying to get people out of the Industrial Revolution model of learning, where people become experts at one skill but never learn other disciplines.

“When you start getting different people together, really cool ideas come up, and the result is really cool projects,” Diebolt-Brown said. “So that's the idea -- to get that cross-pollination of different disciplines.”

Whitewater Makerspace had its soft opening  Oct. 1, and President David Buggs said the program plans to have all technology and equipment up and running by the end of the year.

Community members can join Whitewater Makerspace for $40 a month or $70 for a family package. Students are able to join for $20 a month.

Makerspace started in Germany in the 1990s and has since moved all over the U.S., including a Milwaukee location. Makerspace is for people of all ages, backgrounds and skill sets: from people who tinker with devices but might not have the resources to take their ideas further, to experts in physics or engineering who want to share their knowledge, to people who just want to learn new skills.

After a person is approved on equipment, the monthly membership gives access to everything in the building.

“This is a place where we can hopefully get people to come together and share the little tricks of the trade, and maybe it will inspire someone to think of a method or object that nobody has thought of,” Buggs said.

Makerspace also plans to offer seminars, tutorials and lectures free to members and for a fee to non-members. Topics will include how to refurbish a laptop, fix household items and use a 3D printer with recycled plastic.

Whitewater Makerspace will regularly have experts in different industries around to help members execute their ideas.

“You don't have to know a darn thing about engineering. You don't have to know anything necessarily. What you need to know is that you think something needs to be done or changed, and you know there's a place to go to help you,” Diebolt-Brown said.

Bill Dougan, professor of management at UW-Whitewater, said Whitewater is an ideal location for a new Makerspace because of the university.

“Universities have individuals who are very good at exploring new ideas and are very good at teaching themselves new ensembles and skills to create solutions to problems that can help the world,” Dougan said. “Likewise, there are folks at the university who don't always have direct and specific practical knowledge in terms of creating particular devices, and so there may be people in the community to help people at the university.”

Megan Matthews is a professor in both the College of Arts & Communication and College of Business & Economics. She said Makerspace will be a place for creative minds to meet with business people and collaborate in ways they may never have envisioned.

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