Area515 Approaches 8 Years in DSM USA
"So what do you guys do over there?"
This is usually the first question I'm asked when I tell people I'm a member of Area515 Maker Space. My answer sounds glib, but it’s true: We make things! Seriously. We're a group of ordinary people — artists, programmers and stay-at-home parents for example — that share a library of tools and enjoy exchanging knowledge and ideas. Members come in and work on their own projects using the space's tools whenever they want, night or day.
The makerspace is largely divided into 8 tool areas: wood shop, automotive, metal working, 3D printing, laser cutting, CNC router, electronics and textiles. Each area has its own Stewards who are responsible for training members and maintaining the tools. Once you become a member you get 24/7 access to the space, and can arrange training for the tools you want to learn how to use. Prior knowledge of tools is helpful but not necessary. Once you're trained, you can use the tools any time you want.
The idea of makerspaces, sometimes called hackerspaces, are collaborative areas that originated in Germany in the 1990s. In 2005, the first issue of Make magazine was released. Make popularized the idea of a Maker Movement, which encourages people to create new inventions and works of art, with an increased emphasis on using and developing hi-tech tools like 3D printers, microcontrollers and CNC machines. 2007 saw the rise of some of the first US hackerspaces like NYC Resistor.
Area515 started in early June of 2011 when a group of guys met up at the Cup O'Kryptonite. They had all heard about makerspaces and were enthusiastic and eager to start one here in Des Moines. The Maker Space’s Google group was created and the first public meeting was held that same month at Smokey Row Coffee shop. A little over a year later Area515 moved into its first physical location at the Whittier building. Since then Area515 Maker Space has moved into a series of larger buildings in order to hold its growing number of members and tools. Currently the space resides at 108 Jefferson Ave.
An Evolving Organization
Area515 is an all-volunteer organization and constantly growing. For instance, the wood shop just finished installing an extensive dust collection system. When not at the space, members mainly communicate using the same Google group set up in 2011. The organization is also self-funded and keen on maintaining its independence. While grants received have helped to expand and improve, but Area515 maintains day-to-day operations through our dues from individual, family and corporate members. This allows for freedom to shape Area515 as members see fit.
Classes for adults and children are offered at Area515. Find info on an upcoming Painting with Acrylics class on Saturday, May 25 or the Making Things Fly summer camp for 4th – 8th graders June 3-7.
Boards made by Area515 member using the woodshop and CNC router.
Riding the hovercraft at the winter Making Things Fly camp.
If you're interested in learning more about Area515, non-members can visit during our Open House events, held from 7-9 p.m. every Tuesday night. It's a great opportunity to meet members, get a tour and learn if the space is a good fit for you.
Discover more about The Partnership’s tools to help Greater Des Moines (DSM) entrepreneurs and startups develop and grow their ventures on The Partnership’s Startups & Entrepreneurs page.
Bailey Steinfadt is the education director at Area515 in Greater Des Moines (DSM).