Why Makerspaces Are Democratizing IoT Development
As makerspaces pop up across the United States, they’re democratizing the equipment and skillsets people need to transform their ideas into physical objects. Increasingly, those objects are connected to the Internet, making them a breeding ground for IoT development.
“We have existed for so long in a virtual world — the Internet, software, apps, cloud — that the remarkable thing about the IoT is that there are things involved,” said Kim Brand, president of 1st Makerspace. “What demarcates the web from the world is that the world has things, and it’s difficult to deploy a device without the electronic circuitry, the enclosure, power supply, cable harnessing — things that occupy real 3D volumes — spaces.”
That’s where a makerspace comes in.
What Is a Makerspace?
“In general, I think of a makerspace as an open space that’s part classroom that attracts people who are creative, and who are a little pragmatic, and allows them to put their hands on tools and equipment and bring their ideas to life,” said Jason Pennington, executive director at Indiana IoT Lab. “A makerspace makes machinery, tools and software that in some cases could be cost prohibitive available to members and small businesses.”
Public makerspaces operate similar to a gym. For a monthly fee, members have access to equipment and classes. “Like golf courses, all makerspaces are different,” Brand explained. “They have different portfolios of tools. Some cater more to crafts and offer a kiln and ceramics, but they might also do electronics and have a few woodworking tools. It’s driven by the membership.” Other common tools include design software, coding hardware, laser cutters, 3D printers, welding equipment, test and measurement equipment, and metalworking.
Universities and libraries are increasingly offering makerspaces. “If you’re a student at Purdue, you have access to a $3 million makerspace, and it’s just awesome,” Brand said.
If college tuition is a bit beyond your means, not to worry. “A lot of libraries in the U.S. are starting to add makerspaces. For the price of a library card you can learn a new skill or fix something that’s broken,” Cruz said.
Education is a key component of makerspaces. “There’s a lot of skill involved in getting the tool to make the thing you want to make,” Brand said.
In addition to classes and training, makerspaces foster a sense of community. “Usually, experts are around to answer your questions. A makerspace is 50% tools and 50% community,” Brand said. “There’s always a member around that you can ask for help. That’s a byproduct of the makerspace.”
Who’s Using IoT Makerspaces and Why?
Makerspaces, in general, are used by students as well as adults. “Most kids come in with some curriculum that is aligned with standards. Bottom line, it has to be an educational experience. For adults, it’s about making something that they can show an investor or customer. Kids come in to learn something; adults come in to make something,” Brand said.