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!