However, what they do know is that makerspaces are for at least three things. Innovating, collaborating, and learning. Perhaps an analogy can help make things clearer.
Growing plants is something anyone can do. Agriculture is a little more difficult, but with the right knowledge and tools, it is still something many people throughout society can participate in. Technology used to be a little different. It required a lot of money and lots of highly qualified people to make something that actually worked, and worked well. Today, with open source software and hardware, personal manufacturing including 3D printing and CNC, the ability to design, make, and use technology has never been easier.
While “agricultural extensions” serve as research, development, and educational services for farmers, think of a makerspace as the same thing for people interested in using technology to solve problems, start businesses, improve their home, office, or community around them.
Many people can relate to the concept of self-sufficiency, particularly in rural living and agriculture. In terms of technology, by using these new tools and growing body of collaborative, open knowledge, we can begin to become self-sufficient in the use and development of technology.
A makerspace hosts a large collection of tools that would be costly for any one individual to possess, especially if they are just starting out. Makerspaces are also home to a team of knowledgeable and experienced staff to help beginners learn how to use these tools. When someone has an idea, this team can help them through the process of realizing it as a tangible final product. Next time, this person will be able to work on their own projects, and even help others work on theirs.
For now, makerspaces are still getting started. Think of it as a prototype phase where social and business models are still being tested and perfected. In the near future, these makerspaces may serve as local institutions for empowering people through the use of technology in terms of education, innovation, and pragmatic problem solving. Beyond that, we may see whole networks of makerspaces, where each district and province in the country has a place for people to go. Instead of a single, centralized “ministry” to address education or commerce, this distributed network could serve as localized hubs where a multitude of areas can be addressed. They will become schools, research labs, a source of jobs and new businesses, and perhaps even from where local infrastructure is developed, improved, monitored, and maintained from.
The possibilities are as limitless as the variety of people already getting involved with makerspaces today. From designers, to educators, to engineers and artists, everyone has ideas they’d like to see become a reality, and a makerspace couldn't be a more perfect place for making that happen.