I recently toured a few hackerspaces and coworking spaces in the Southwest area to find out what they offer.
A hackerspace, also known as a makerspace, is a place where people can come together to make things, work on projects, get inspired, get help, and help others. There are tools, workbenches, people, and resources available. Most hackerspaces rely on donations. Some are 100% free. Others have a monthly membership fee but offer nights and events that are open to the community.
You'll find a community of people passionate about DIY, tinkering, inventing, entrepreneurship, and more. Everyone can collaborate and share, making it a rich environment for creativity. As I toured these hackerspaces I found personal inspiration as I surveyed the displays, people overcoming challenges together, and people in the community working together in a unique way that I've never previously witnessed.
Find a Hackerspace
Chances are there is a hackerspace near you. The Hackerspaces.org wiki is a great resource to locate the hackerspace closest to you.
Every hackerspace environment is different. I found that Heatsync Labs in Mesa, AZ has a smaller but closely-knit facility. There are some highly technical electronic and innovative projects happening, from soldering circuit boards to testing Linux and motion-control software. The members at Heatsync bring their advanced talents together for hands-on learning and innovation. It's a great place to learn some very impressive skills. Not only can you learn as you observe and work together with others, but they offer classes that you can join in for in-depth learning.
The coworking space in Chandler, AZ known as GangPlank offers similar resources but a different environment. The rooms and facilities here are much larger with the seating workspaces in the main room, conference rooms in the back, and wide openareas that promote more free discussion and is less sectioned off. Gangplank has more of a vast community with no membership, yet it breeds a welcoming environment for everyone that walks in. Entrepreneurs and innovators from all sectors can walk through this open-door environment and collaborate together. The projects in this space consist of more startups, non-profit organizations, and web pioneers. Gangplank's history has defined their mission and their manifesto which you can read about on their website.
As you stroll along downtown Mesa, you'll find Heatsync nestled in with restaurants and stores. They've put together a brilliant display of projects in the front window to show the creative talents of their members.
On many nights throughout the week, there are designated hours during which the facilities are open to non-members. For all other hours, members can access Heatsync with their member key.
After grabbing a slice of pizza across the street at Queens Pizza in downtown Mesa, I visited their hackerspace during their open hours to take a quick tour. I took a video tour of the facilities to give you a feel for what it's like walking through.
Heatsync Video Tour
Gangplank is at the heart of downtown Chandler, and stands as a hub for community growth and innovation.
Gangplank's history is very interesting, and has moved forward rapidly from where they started just over the last several years.
They were founded on the purpose of reaching out to the community outside of their walls and within to breed innovation, ideas, and businesses. They aim to foster an entrepreneur spirit, and it shows! Everyone is welcome, and you'll quickly discover yourself making friends to work with and bounce ideas off of. Part of Gangplank's manifesto is "friendship over formality." Gangplank is 100% free, and its forward motion is hinged upon the initiative by volunteers eagerly helping each other to learn and grow. It's amazing to see that when you give people an environment with this belief and attitude, it will drive itself forward to accomplishment. Reminds me of a movie quote that said "If you build it, they will come."
Gangplank Video Tour
Quelab is Albuquerque's Makerspace and Hackerspace. They just celebrated their grand opening in Spring 2014, for their new 7,000 square foot facility! Quelab is a place for projects and community collaboration. There are classes, events, and equipment available to use. Members can access Quelab at anytime. If you're new and want to check it out, they have hacknights on Sundays and Tuesdays for $5 (see their website for accurate & updated details). Newcomers are welcome on hacknight. Quelab's equipment includes 3-d printing, laser cutter, lathe, milling, serger, milling, sewing, electronics, woodworking, metalworking, and much more!
Quelab Video Tour
So what are you waiting for? Gather up your project and head on over to your local hackerspace to find out how a community working on their projects together can create amazing things!