It's Thursday afternoon. From my vantage point at the main communal work table that sits at the heart of our centre, I can see our three Ultimaker 3D printers glowing various colours at me through the glass panes that house them.
We have a glass walled room we fondly call "the printing room" which is in every way an unexceptional title but does a reasonable job of describing what goes on in there. 3D printing is a big element of the printing room, but it does also house some lovely Inventables CNC routers, a Glowforge laser cutter and many other fun toys and tools.
The glowing lights on 2 of the printers that are in my line of vision, however, are not behaving. They are an ominous red colour and I know that it isn't because they are happily chugging along. One reads "Er/14" while the other boasts an error of an even higher degree- good old Error 18.
This is a perfect example of a commonplace occurrence at the Centre. Like many other techie makerspaces before it as well as those to follow, it has incredible pieces of hardware which are also delicate and at times, downright fickle.
How do we cater to our tantrum-prone (but again, absolutely magical when functioning) technology?
We Google, Youtube, contact support, throw our hands up in the air and repeat. Eventually we get it going again and it feels like a grand success, which is funny because if you think about it, originally upon purchasing the equipment it was expected to be effective. We understand though, nothing is perfect. Especially with new technology that has recently emerged it is bound to require regular updating and tweaking, so after accepting that as reality, the glowing red lights lose some of their daunting shine, becoming just a slice of another day's work.
Fortunately in our case we do have a staff member who is not myself that knows much more about technology as a background than I do. I am passionate about the space and will always try, but our Tech Specialist can often come through and do the aforementioned process (googling, youtubing, contacting support etc.) and so I only bare witness to the struggle. Still, I always have at least two tabs open for troubleshooting something- it's a never ending road.
If you operate or are involved in using any of these machines and haven't yet discovered www.instructables.com I highly recommend it. It has specific tutorials for fixing your fickle printer/laser/cnc friends. It also has amazing ideas and inspiration for projects galore. The site offers online "workshops" which you enrol in for free and then go through step by step.
On another note, something really whimsical and wonderful that I experience in this space on a regular basis is that I'll leave for the day while members are still here creating, and when I come back and turn on the lights for the first time the next morning, there is often something new, quirky and exciting to see.
I really liked the one pictured above that I found yesterday morning. It was hanging with a sticky note that said "Lamp Prototype". It's awesome to see young people creating things, exploring different mediums and being generally inquisitive about life. At the end of the day that is what makes my job so meaningful to me.
It is a common happening that I come in and find something cute or funny, bright or meaningful, witty or wild or just downright clever has been crafted overnight. Our centre is open for members until 9pm currently, but they don't get locked out, so they are able to stay even later if they don't exit the main door. Luckily for those moments, there is a tidy little kitchen are as well as toilets in the Centre so they could easily stay up and work on projects.
For the younger of our members they don't stay late, but sometimes those in their 20's can be found here after hours. I know for myself that I am a night person and get a creative spur of energy or emotion to make art generally in the evening, or sometimes even late at night, so it's great to be able to accommodate those like myself as well as the early risers who like a good morning project. So far within the age group I haven't found any true early bird attendees, but if anyone comes to express that they wish they could come in at 6 AM, that will be the next adjustment to the centre hours. See future posts for updates on going 24 hours a day- the next big leap we are planning on taking, so that all members over 18 will have full time access. It will require some security measures which we are working out, but my hope is to roll it out during this NZ winter.
Tune in to the next post to hear about "Member Prize Season", a fun and really interestingly resulting initiative to spice up the chilly winter months.
Thank you for reading!
If you've gotten this far but haven't read the entire "about" section, you may be wondering what this is. Which is completely fair. I'll tell you. The entirety of this blog is dedicated to spillings about our not-for-profit youth makerspace known as the 4C Centre. It's a magical little dot on the map somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere in the heart of a city known as Christchurch, which you may or may not be familiar with. Our makerspace however you are likely not to be familiar with yet- but you soon will be, so don't worry.
The whole idea of this place started in the mind of Josie Ogden-Schroeder, YMCA Christchurch's CEO: a bright, bold and inspiring human being who dreamed and schemed this into existence over the course of a couple of years. She had help along the way in various moments but largely this was her brainchild, project, baby, initiative- standing closely by the mission statement that the YMCA boasts, "investing in the next generation".
The 4C Centre is a place where young people from all walks of life between the ages of 15-25- that vulnerable time of life that we all know can be severely challenging- can come join up and get an access card to the space all day every day (well, working on the full 24 hour bit but we will get to that in a later post!) and create all sorts of wonderful things.
We have: 3D Printers, CNC routers, Laser cutters, Virtual reality, so many computers, full adobe creative suite, flashy cameras and microphone for making movies, podcasts, youtube videos and so on. The list is immense and frankly I don't even have a full grasp on the potential of creation here. I try daily to understand but it's infinite and infinity is a difficult concept to grasp even if we think we get it. It wows us again and again. It's one of those weird things in life that feel just so much bigger than we (and it is just that).
The name of the 4C Centre comes from the 4 main qualities which are most relevant to the current job market: Communication, Curiosity, Critical Thinking and Creativity.
We aim to grow these qualities in all of the young people who walk through our door by giving them the best tools and resources, workshops, mentors and friendly smiles. Sometimes just a bit of a sit-down and chat about what's going on in their lives is the most helpful thing we can do.
So why am I blogging about this place?
Lots of crazy things happen here and they are so freaking cool that they deserve to be recorded in the database of the world. Also for those out there who are a. already involved in a makerspace, b. want to create or get involved with one or c. have any interest in them whatsoever (or d. are not interested per se but could use a bit of inspiration in their lives) THIS IS FOR YOU. I'm here to recount all of our failures as well as successes, what works, what doesn't, what makes this place have heart and soul and what seems to cause spells of silence in what should be a lively place.
So I really hope you enjoy this, or find your questions answered. If you have specific Q's though, I would love an email! If you send an email I will get back to you. If I get enough questions, I will make a blog post dedicated to answering them all, keeping them anonymous. If I keep getting questions, it will become a regular post.
Thank you for reading this and good luck with your inspiration. Don't give up, fail fast, and keep putting your soul into projects that fulfill you- it won't let you down at the end of it all.