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Makerspace conversation brings minds together

  • Advocates of maker spaces described the concept and answered questions at a forum in Peterborough on Tuesday.
  • Advocates of maker spaces described the concept and answered questions at a forum in Peterborough on Tuesday.
  • Advocates of maker spaces described the concept and answered questions at a forum in Peterborough on Tuesday.
  • Advocates of maker spaces described the concept and answered questions at a forum in Peterborough on Tuesday.

PETERBOROUGH — Regardless of whether they are intrigued by woodworking, auto mechanics, welding or 3D printing, many people lack access to the expensive equipment needed to pursue their interests. That’s an obstacle that the makerspace movement is working to overcome, by opening cooperative sites where people can not only use the best tools and technology, but also share ideas and learn from fellow innovative designers and artists.

Makerspace is an all-encompassing term, according to Adam Shrey of Makeit Labs in Nashua, who spoke to a group of about 60 area residents at a Community Conversation event on Tuesday at Bass Hall in Peterborough.

“It’s always evolving, and it’s a real community effort,” Shrey said, as he described how Makeit Labs is set up. “We’re all volunteers. No one is paid.”

Makeit Labs has a 6,000-square-foot workshop in an old foundry building in Nashua, Shrey said. Members of the group pay between $40 and $75 a month for access to the space and the equipment, which includes a lift for working on automobiles, a CNC plasma cutter, a laser cutter, welding equipment, a 3D printer and computers. About 1,000 square feet is designated as clean space, where the electronic equipment and benches can be used by members and where many classes are taught. The rest of the building contains the heavy duty machine tools, welders and automotive equipment.

“We call it the dirty space, although there’s a petition going around to just call it the ‘less-clean’ space,” Shrey said.

He said the social aspect of a makerspace is a big draw.

“People come to hang out and have a good time,” Shrey said. “It’s all about sharing information. If you don’t know how to do something, somebody else will be an expert.”

Bryan Field, who teaches science at Conant High School, said he has an afterschool program, mostly for middle schoolers, where students do amazing things with computers.

“It’s a place where they can come to do new stuff,” Field said. “I look at kids who don’t do school well and it’s interesting to see. They come in here and they do well.”

Erin Sweeney of Peterborough, who works in a shared artist space downtown with two other women, said the biggest challenge in Peterborough is to find a larger area where artists can collaborate.

During a question and answer session, Jim Burnside said any attempt to put a makerspace in Peterborough should focus first on education.

“Think of equipment second. Start cheap,” he said. “ Work on socialization and education first.”

When talk turned to where a makerspace could be located, Phil Rooney, who works for the R. J. Finley Company, said space is definitely available for rent in the downtown building that the company owns at 70 Main Street, just up the hill from the Town House.

“We’re wide open to ideas on what to do at our building,” Rooney said. He also mentioned that the company is offering to donate the equivalent of a year’s rent to the charitable organization of a tenant’s choice, if a tenant takes a five-year lease.

Other possible spaces mentioned were in the commercial buildings on Vose Farm Road, which are close to the high school, or at the former motel on the corner of Elm Street and Route 101.

Field said a makerspace could appeal to both students and older residents, as well as attracting young people who need a space to experiment with their ideas.

“What I have in mind is a huge warehouse space, with tools everywhere,” he said. “I’m not the only guy I see here who’s lost his hair. I don’t want to be old and not still have fun. I’ll still want to build. I’ll want to meet people and to teach them. I want a place that’s full of energy.”

As the Community Conversation event broke up, organizer Jeanne Dietsch said there appears to be significant support for exploring how to set up a makerspace in Peterborough. She urged participants to share email addresses and spread the word about makerspaces, especially among young people.

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