Goodbye TechShop…

TechShop has closed its doors. If you never heard of TechShop, it was a creative space, similar to Milwaukee Makerspace, but it was a for-profit venture with all the best equipment, paid instructors, and fell under the “commercial” category in regards to makerspaces. There were TechShops in various cities across the US, including Detroit and Pittsburgh.

TechShop never made it to Milwaukee (and it won’t now) but if you are interested in starting a space, we here at Milwaukee Makerspace are willing to help. We’ll share what we’ve learned in the last 8 years. (A great deal about how we operate can be found on our wiki.)

We’ve got close to 300 members, and it’s still amazing that a city the size of Milwaukee really only has one community makerspace. People ask if we’re afraid of new competition, but we aren’t. We believe everyone should have access to a makerspace. In the past year or so we’ve seen many of the local universities launch spaces for use by students and faculty, and we’ve seen some amazing maker programs happening in high schools. This is all great, and as makers, it makes us pleased to see more makers.

Outside of Milwaukee, we’ve got some great friends at Sector67 and The Bodgery in Madison, and up north at the Appleton Makerspace. There’s a few other spaces around the state (some of which have failed or failed to gain traction) but Southeastern Wisconsin could certainly support another. (There’s also been an idea floated that Milwaukee Makerspace should open a second location a bit west, like in the Brookfield/Waukesha area. Hmmmmm…)

We consider ourselves fortunate that Milwaukee Makerspace has been as successful as we have been. We don’t do everything right, and we probably aren’t a good fit for everyone, but with 290 members, we’re keeping a good number of makers in the Milwaukee area happy enough to keep coming back. :)

Feed Your Soul

On November 3rd, 2017 Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin held an event called Feed Your Soul where artists and makers presented object to be auctioned off for charity. Each object began as a plain wooden bowl, and was transformed into amazing art.

(Check out some of the coverage from Fox6 and CBS58.)

We really enjoyed being part of the event, and we’ve got members who are already planning for next year. :)

Ahoy, LOY!

The photo above was taken in March of 2013, just two months after we moved into the building that is now home to Milwaukee Makerspace. Before January of 2013 we were located in the Chase Commerce Center, and Royce was the President, and Willie came to Royce with the idea of using the space to build a boat.

On the left side of the photo is the frame that Willie would build his boat upon. For the next (nearly) five years, anyone who came through the space for a tour, or showed up for an event, would at some point be told “And this where Willie is building a boat.”

Every week, or month, you’d see some progress. Willie would be working diligently on the boat. He thought it would be done in 2015, and then he thought it would be done in 2016, and finally, In August of 2017 the boat (named “LOY”) was ready…

And on September 2nd, 2017 Willie, along with his family, and friends, and members of the space, celebrated, and launched the boat into Lake Michigan. It was a beautiful day, and I’m not just talking about the weather. It was the culmination of years of work, and a testament to what Milwaukee Makerspace can be.

Royce, one of the Founders of Milwaukee Makerspace, said a few words about Willie, LOY, and the space. Royce doesn’t get to the space as often as he used to (kids, life, etc.) but it was great to see him talk about Willie and the boat, and how it all came together to happen at the space.

Willie pours champagne on the wreath at the bow of the boat. Much better than smashing a bottle against the hull!

It’s nearly in the water! Wolfgang mans the lines and keeps things steady for the moment LOY touches the waters of Lake Michigan for the first time.

It floats! Willie made a joke that most boats only sink one time. He then got to work doing all the rigging necessary for a sailboat. There’s a lot of setup involved for the masts, sails, rudder, etc.

Captain Willie in command! Ready for the maiden voyage of LOY.

And they’re off! Seeing LOY sail away was an emotional experience. Many of our members know what it’s like to build large and complex projects, and some members know what it’s like to work on a project for years, but seeing that beautiful boat, and knowing all of the hours Willie put into it… it was something to behold.

Also, check out Carl’s video of the launch. It does a great job of compressing the morning into a few minutes, and hopefully you get a feel for the excitement of the day.

Finally, if you want to see LOY in person (and you should!) Willie will have his breathtaking creation at Maker Faire Milwaukee on September 23 & 24, 2017.

Wienermobile and Wienermobile

If you joined us at Maker Faire Kansas City maybe you got to see the debut of the little Wienermobile we built for the Power Racing Series. Besides being well received from the crowd, it did pretty good in the race! Due to Moxie points (which get awarded for being awesome) we won the overall race weekend. We came home, wrote a blog post about it, and started getting ready for Maker Faire Detroit…

Detroit was a blast, and well, a few things broke, but meanwhile the folks at Oscar Mayer noticed what we did, and sent us an email asking if the BIG Wienermobile could come visit the LITTLE Wienermobile. We responded with an enthusiastic “YES!!!”

And that’s how the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile came to visit Milwaukee Makerspace on September 1st, 2017. You may notice the two Wienermobiles look quite a bit different. Well, there have been many different Wienermobiles over the years. Due to some confusion about which model we based ours on, we looked at the fact that the vehicle was designed by Carl G. Mayer in Madison, Wisconsin, in 1952 and received its patent in 1954. So we split the difference and chose number 1953. Good Enough!

Honey Mustard and Sammie Jo (yes, the “Hotdoggers” get cool nicknames) loved our little version of the Wienermobile, and we gave them a quick tour of the space, explaining what a makerspace is, and how it works, and showing off Willie’s boat for the very last time.

Since the Wienermobile was there at 9am on a Friday, a lot of our members were at work, or sleeping, or building Daleks. We had a good group of members though, many who helped with the construction of the Wienermobile in some way. (Not picture: Kathy and Kyle, the primary builders! Unfortunately they were out at Burning Man showing off some of their other crazy projects!)

Mat (pictured sitting on the Wiener) served as our driver, providing a demo of the capabilities of the Wienermobile at full throttle. (Reminder: we really need to fix the brakes before driving it again at full throttle!)

Besides all the awesome members who showed up to meet the giant Wiener, we should have a shout-out for Rick, who was busy grilling up Oscar Mayer wieners for us! We all had an early lunch that day, and everybody got to grab a wiener.

Oh yeah, when the Wienermobile is parked outside your makerspace, there’s a good chance the neighbors will notice. A bunch of people who live near the space stopped by, got whistles and stickers, and then got to go inside the Wienermobile. I heard at least three different kids describe it as “COOL!!” and “AWESOME!!”

What can we say? We like big buns and we cannot lie! If you haven’t seen the little Wienermobile in action yet, make sure you visit us at Maker Faire Milwaukee on September 23rd & 24th, 2017 at the Expo Center at State Fair Park. We’ll be racing it against 15 other similarly weird and wild vehicles in the Power Racing Series.

And who knows? Maybe the big Wienermobile will show up again!

Launching LOY

The time has come, my friends! If you’ve been to Milwaukee Makerspace since we moved into our current location in January 2013, you probably saw a boat being built. It’s been a project of the space, actually longer than we’ve been in the building! (It was started at our old space and moved to the current building.) Well, it’s time to launch… LOY will be put into the waters of Lake Michigan this coming weekend!

Willie has been working on LOY for years, and it shows. It’s a beautiful thing, and if you haven’t see it lately, or can’t make it to the launch, you’ll have a chance to see it at Maker Faire Milwaukee, September 23 & 24, 2017 at the Expo Center at State Faire Park.

I don’t know if Willie plans to smash a bottle of champagne when LOY launches, but he deserves a congratulatory drink when it sets sail. Great job, Willie!