No matter how you slice it (table saw, laser cutter or sewing scissors), it’s been an amazing year for Decatur Makers. The state of our makerspace is solid (but there’s some liquid, gas, and plasma there too).
Our paid membership exploded like a faulty capacitor, bringing us 100 new members in 2017 and growing our community to over 250 amazing people. We are proud to have worked with so many partners, foundations, granting organizations, and our core founding members to take a significant step toward our goal of having a full time paid director on staff. We’re growing like bitcoin, but without all the risk!
In fact, this fall, we were happy to announce Irm Diorio as our new Executive Director. Irm has grown from her 50% part-time associate director role to a 67% Executive Director position, and all while we are able maintain a stable bank account. Irm has been working hard and her passion really showed up when she was named a finalist in the Center of Civic Innovation Fellowship competition.
If you haven’t been to Decatur Makers recently, you owe it to yourself to come visit us. Every Wednesday (except the first one each month) is an Open Build Night from 7-9 PM where anyone can come take a tour, work on a project using our facilities, and most importantly, interact with our community. The last Wednesday of every month is our Family Build Night which runs from 5-7 where we pull out all the stops and have creative make-and-take projects for younger makers age 6-10. These are both FREE events and we’d love to see you there.
Looking back over the year, we had hard time coming up with a short list of accomplishments to share. We could have easily written down a list of “83 amazing things that happened at Decatur Makers in 2017” but that sounded too much like a clickbait Buzzfeed article. So here are…
7 wonders of Decatur Makers for 2017
1. We have an incredibly broad base of support. This year we partnered with new friends such as the Atlanta Public School’s Hollis Innovation Academy (you may have seen the kid-built Nerdy Derby track which we helped them make for the Atlanta Science Festival), and we had several teams of innovators use our space to develop and pitch startup ideas (SMASH Academy from Morehouse College and the Startup Bus). We continued to work with established partners too. The Maker Scholar program at Drew Charter School has expanded, we built kites with kids supported by the Decatur Education Foundation opportunity partnership, and we did lots of other amazing work with the Decatur Arts Alliance, the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, the City of Decatur, the Decatur Housing Authority, The Children’s School, and the International Rescue Committee. 100% of our Board are financial supporters, and we encourage you to join them. If you want to really make a difference, please consider becoming one of our Cornerstone Members.
2. We’re helping many girls and women to be more involved in the maker movement. The first Society of Women Engineers high school chapter (SWEnext) in the state of Georgia is hosted you-know-where. This program is for girls in high school to learn more about engineering and work on fun projects. The recently formed Middle School Girls Maker Club has been a huge success by exposing girls to soldering, woodworking, crafting, and lots of other hands-on empowerment. Our partnership with the Society of Lady Makers has led to many great events and classes, too. #makergirlsrock!
3. Our facilities have really grown and developed. This year we completed the build of our large format CNC machine. It has been used pretty regularly now to make some incredible pieces like this 4 ft. Lego mini-fig lantern. Our CNC takes full advantage of the dust collection system we got with help from a Decatur Beer Festival grant. As mentioned above, our Glowforge laser cutter will be in the space by the time you read this, too! Did we mention that this year we also build out a DIY bio laboratory space? Science is happening in our community too! We’ve also seen enhancements to our existing tools like a new 3D printer, some incredible woodworking tool donations, and more use of our industrial sewing machine. In 2018, with your help, we’ll be developing an exterior plan to give our growing metal working community a new home.
4. We have expanded our class offerings and are increasingly being tapped as a valuable community resource. People from all around the Atlanta area and across the globe are reaching out to us for all things making and STEM related. We get contacted every week with interesting opportunities, unique questions, and requests from people who want to tap into the brilliant hive mind that is our community. For example, this year, we had visits from a makerspace leader and STEM educator from the Netherlands and a software engineer from Disney in California who reached out to teach some kids programming while he was here. Irm has been great at filling up our calendar with an eclectic and awesome selection of classes. People at Decatur Makers have shared classes on basic woodworking, 3D printing, stained glass, building a set of bookshelf speakers, sewing tote bags from old Tshirts, welding, making jewelry, and writing code.
5. Our members have outdone themselves this year producing incredible projects. There are gorgeous paintings about Decatur Makers hanging in the space. We added a Space Force game to our collection of oversized diversions. We rebooted our Arduino driven synchronized lanterns on the Beltline with new robot heads and an incredible 6 foot high giant robot leader. People made furniture, butterfly head bands, LED clouds, kites, and one of our members built an entire custom car from scratch. Yes, that actually happened, way to go Steve! There seems to be no end to the creative cool stuff that comes out of Decatur Makers.
6. In 2017, Decatur Makers is having a growing economic impact. Three of our members were finalists in, and one of our members won the Maker Faire Atlanta Innovation Fellowship sponsored by Georgia Department of Economic Development Innovation and Manufacturing, The $5K prize will help him develop hexapod robots which seems to be headed to a future toy of the year. We have members who are leveraging the makerspace to support the booming Atlanta based film industry (many of the props on a recent Discovery Channel show were made there). And several other members have been hired at schools and organizations around town thanks to their expertise in maker education which was nurtured by the Decatur Makers facility and community.
7. We continue to rock a lot of events around town. One of the things we love to do is get out in the world and share the story of our makerspace and the things that are made there. This year was no exception. In May, we held a Grand Opening Celebration. OK, it was a little late given that we officially opened in 2016 and had been operating more or less since 2015. But the event gave us an excuse to properly thank our founding members, invite the mayor of Decatur to kick off an amazing ribbon cutting Rube Goldberg machine (which, of course, failed in impressive ways), and pull out all kinds of projects and activities. Maker Faire Atlanta moved from Decatur to downtown Atlanta this year, but we still showed up with a 26 ft. truck full of amazing making. One of our highlights was a photo booth called “This May Hurt” which fired feather boas and scarves at people and caught their reactions with high speed photography. We also hit many other events, including Dragon*Con, where we converted our box of random poems to produce random quotes from Yoda. Fun it was. We were at many other places, too including the Decatur Book Festival, Decatur Arts Festival, and the Atlanta City Hall mini maker faire. We also hosted some special events at our space including a touching memorial service for a member who passed away, and the first Decatur Makers Maker and Artist Market.
Pretty cool stuff, right? But here’s the challenge. We need your help to keep going and growing. This is a very special and important moment for us. We want to bring our director to full time and create a metal shop to be proud of. If you think Decatur Makers should continue building, sharing and exploring, please help us out with a donation. You can also join our community as a member or give a membership as a gift. If you’re already a supporter, thank you, and please consider increasing your level of support. This is important because it helps us move toward our goals. After all, we know you’re the kind of person who supports this awesome work.
Wishing you all a safe and happy holiday and excellent new year!
Lew Lefton, Founding Director
Irm Diorio, Executive Director