It’s entirely appropriate that Makers Square is a work in progress.
The grounds surrounding the brick-red building are covered with projects under construction, including large aquaponic planters built from pallets for herbs and fruit trees. Nine shipping containers are being repurposed as classrooms, a pottery studio, a photography studio and rentable individual workspaces. Also in the plans: The roofs of those containers will be covered with gardens.
Inside the building and around the back, there is a woodworking shop, a blacksmith shop, welding areas, an electronics lab, sewing studio, communal meeting spaces, a kitchen and more, all packed with industrial-strength tools of the trades.
Makers Square, tucked inside a neighborhood behind the Home Depot store off Sunrise Boulevard and U.S. 1, is part workspace, part hangout for “makers” or local inventors, tinkerers, techies, entrepreneurs and artisans who get together to make stuff.
“What we found is there a large creative class, but no one knows one another. People are really excited to have a creative hub in Fort Lauderdale,” said Brian Weiner, who opened the space with two partners earlier this month. And more are on the way: A network of warehouse-size spaces for makers is forming from Miami to northern Palm Beach County.
Often combining technology, the creative arts and entrepreneurship, these maker spaces are an outgrowth of a movement that has been spreading around the country and, recently, to South Florida. “Open hack” and “maker nights” are making regular appearances on event calendars. Maker camps, coding dojos and museum events draw tinkerers of all ages. A local filmmaking group from Jump Art Media hopes to make a documentary called Think Build Believe about the maker movement.
And to showcase all the activity, a Miami Mini Maker Faire, a one-day extravaganza for all things handmade, is coming to three locations in Wynwood next month. There, about 60 makers will exhibit their creations — including a school bus converted into a micro-theater, a high-tech, high-def pinball machine and, possibly, Weiner’s 16-foot biplane made from bamboo. There also will be presentations, workshops and activities for all ages at the Mini Maker Faire, which is expected to draw about 1,000. “It’s a great place to bring your kids,” said organizer Rick Herrero.
Some maker events and spaces are focused on the tech, where groups of technologists come together to build their projects — from apps to robots to virtual reality games — or to hack away at a civic project, for instance. Other events are focused on industrial projects involving woodworking, metalworking or sewing. Some events are a combination of the two, like the upcoming Mini Maker Faire.
Those in the movement like to point out that that there is nothing new about makers. For centuries, people have been tinkering in their garages, the incubator of many of the world’s greatest inventions. But rather than being solitary, many of them like to create with other like-minded makers. Think your grandmother’s canning parties or that woodworking project that brought out the whole neighborhood of advisers and assistants.
But now, with the tools of tech becoming more accessible and affordable, particularly the 3D printer, the maker movement is moving to a whole new level. It’s now possible to design your project with software and to make a model of it or parts for it with a 3D printer, take the plans into the wood shop, metal shop or sewing shop and bring the idea to life with your own hands.