What is a Makerspace?

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One of the buzzwords in planning that has been popular for a while is “Makerspace”. A number of cities have successfully implemented Makerspaces. They’ve provided good learning experiences and entrepreneurial support in those communities. But can they work in rural areas?

What is a Makerspace?

But first, what is a makerspace? A makerspace is a workspace, typically in a school, library,  or another public/private facility. It typically contains a variety of tools that kids, adults, and entrepreneurs can learn how to use and utilize to create.

Schools have been turning to makerspaces to help in the building of skills in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Libraries have looked to these spaces to diversify the offerings that a community can provide to its citizens. As a learning facility, libraries work as a location if segregated from the main library spaces. There have even been some profitable businesses that have sprouted up to provide these spaces for entrepreneurs. Businesses like FabLabs and Makers Asylum have been successful in offering this service.


Im Maker space der SLUB Dresden, by Lukas Boxberger – Wikimedia CC-BY-SA-4.0

What to Expect in a Makerspace

Typically, the makerspace is manned by a volunteer that is knowledgeable about all the tools and is willing to teach those interested in using them. They manage the space and act as a resource to those who need it.

Some of the tools that you can typically find in a makerspace are:

  • Computers
  • 3D Printers
  • Laser cutters
  • CNC machines
  • Simple hand tools
  • Power tools
  • Solder guns and electrical test equipment
  • Variable Voltage Power Supplies
  • Sewing kits and sewing machines
  • Embroidery Machines
  • Leather punches

Successful Rural Makerspaces

Whiteclay, Nebraska – A community in the Pine Ridge Reservation, has gathered funding to create its own makerspace. As stated on their website, “The lack of safe work spaces, storage, and access to resources here have plagued our local artists for decades. An estimated 30 percent of all Native peoples are practicing or potential artists and most live below the poverty line.”

Peterborough, New Hampshire – Peterborough is a town of just over 6,400 in southern New Hampshire. The space, called MAxT, offers the necessary tools for sewing, screen printing, and weaving endeavors. They also have tools and space set aside for electronics, jewelry-making, and textiles.

Silma, Colorado and Middletown, Pennsylvania – This link leads to an article and a video about libraries in two small towns that have successfully started makerspaces.

Start Thinking About It

This nation is littered with success stories of businesses that have started up in garages. But many people don’t have garages, or the tools, or the know-how to make their business-related dreams a reality. This is where rural communities can nurture either at school level, or at the entrepreneurial level, a possible future business owner. Someone who might be a future employer in your community. So start thinking about makerspaces and how one can help your community.

Christopher Solberg

About Chris Solberg

Though Christopher Solberg (AICP) works in a suburb of a metropolitan area, his roots are in Red Oak, Iowa, a community of 5,500 persons southeast of Omaha. He has spent a significant amount of his career helping small towns. Through his time working for a regional planning association and for a private consultant Chris has helped numerous small towns throughout Iowa and Nebraska. Chris is also currently the President of the Nebraska Planning and Zoning Association (NPZA) and a member of the NE APA Nebraska Board.