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Establishing a Dallas Maker Space

January 2010, by Ed Paradis and Steve Rainwater


Sponsors and donations


Hackerspace startup goal: $6,000

DPRG contribution towards startup cost: $1000
Donations received to offset startup costs: $5003
May dues: $370
June dues: $490
July dues: $630

  • $25 - 2 Feb 2010
  • $50 - 3 Feb 2010
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  • $100 - 14 Feb 2010
  • $100 - 19 Feb 2010
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  • $10 - 21 Feb 2010
  • $1000 - 24 Feb 2010
  • $100 - 12 Mar 2010
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  • $40 - 17 Mar 2010
  • $100 - 20 Mar 2010
  • $100 - 21 Mar 2010
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  • $150 - 31 Mar 2010
  • $100 - 2 Apr 2010
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  • $100 - 9 Apr 2010
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  • $30 - 14 Jun 2010
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  • $3 - 19 Sep 2010
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  • $250 - 18 Nov 2010
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  • $50 - 28 Nov 2010
  • $100 - 29 Dec 2010
  • $10 - 10 Feb 2011
  • $100 - 10 Feb 2011
  • $10 - 30 Mar 2011

Introduction

The DPRG had access to a warehouse in Garland for seven years, from 2002 through 2009 thanks to Mike Dodson, who allowed us to use one of his warehouse buildings and patiently put up with all our geeky shenanigans for almost a decade. In 2009, Mike retired and the building we were in changed hands, so we lost our long time home. After looking at several options for finding a new and permanent space for working on projects, we settled on the hackerspace model (aka makerspace or a shared community workshop). This idea has been used by groups in the US and other parts of the world with great success so it seemed likely we should be able to do it too.

The theory is that you get a number of people together who are willing to pay a monthly membership fee in order to obtain 24/7 access to a shared workshop. The members also share in maintenance and renovation work. The membership fees are used to cover the costs of the space and to buy new tools and equipment. If you ever visited our old workspace in Garland, you have an idea already of what we're talking about. You can see some photos of our old space in the DPRG Warehouse photo gallery.

We created this page to serve as a record of our progress on "project maker space" and we'll update the page as there are new developments. If you're interested in joining us in the planning or just want to read more, we'll provide some links at the end of this page.

Most important of all, please take a look at "how you can help" section at the bottom of the page. For this idea to succeed and grow, we need everyone's help.

Getting Started

Ed started by looking at existing hackerspaces. Many have extensive documentation on their structure and funding schemes. He also contacted several of the hackerspaces, sending a list of questions concerning their membership structure, their business models, the problems they ran into and the solutions they found. So far, he has corresponded with these groups:

Other hackerspace groups were studied in less detail. Many of those can be found on the hackerspaces.org Hackerspace List

Steve began by collecting ideas for a list of desired qualities the new space should have. In part these were based on the DPRG's experience with the previous location and in part on suggestions provided by members and other hackerspaces. Like the classic "good - fast - cheap" triangle, it's unlikely any space could meet all these specifications, so we'll have to trade off for the best combination we can find. Some of the ideal qualities for a Dallas Hackerspace are:

  • In Dallas County
  • Area that's reasonable safe after dark
  • Near major North-South and East-West highways
  • Within walking distance of a DART rail station
  • Area where Verizon FIOS or other highspeed internet is available
  • Area zoned for use of noisy tools such as welding equipment and saws
  • Rooms suitable for meetings, lectures, and classes
  • Warehouse-like work area for larger power tools
  • Garage doors and area suitable for working on vehicle inside
  • Smaller, private meeting rooms
  • Two restrooms (men, women)
  • Kitchen and social areas
  • Heating and cooling
  • Sufficient parking
  • 220V and/or 480V power for large tools and welders

Resources We'd Like to Offer

The next step was thinking about what sort of things we'd like to have available in the ideal hackerspace. Like our list of ideal qualities, the list at this point is just a wish list of everything we think local hackers might possibly enjoy playing with. Ideas suggested so far include:

  • CNC Plasma cutter
  • CNC Laser cutter
  • CNC milling machine
  • CNC wood routing system
  • Drill press
  • Sheet metal brake
  • Metal lathe
  • Electronic test station (e.g., scopes, meters)
  • gas welding equipment
  • arc welding equipment
  • MIG welding equipment
  • TIG welding equipment
  • Highspeed Internet with dedicated hosting rack
  • Film processing/darkroom
  • Photography studio area
  • Hot air SMT rework station
  • Radio tower for Ham, repeater gear
  • Injection molding station
  • Vacuforming station
  • Audio/Video recording area
  • Kiln, ceramic working tools
  • Automotive bay with tools
  • Hydroponics experimentation room
  • Painting room, painting or powder coating hardware

Note: we're intentionally leaving out hardware related to crafts and fashion (e.g. industrial sewing equipment, fabric silkscreening equipment) since those are already covered by our friends at the Dallas Make Shop in the Bishop Arts District. We hope to work together with the Dallas Make Shop and other local community workshops to avoid unnecessary overlap and cooperate when possible on larger scale projects.

Funding Model

In general terms, the funding of hackerspaces is fairly well understood. The space itself has associated monthly expenses (e.g. rent, insurance, net access, expendables, utilities, etc.) and there are expenses associated with the acquisition of new tools and equipment. Income is generated from membership fees, grants, and donations. The size of the income determines the size and growth rate of the hackerspace. Within that general framework are lots of minor variations and an exact model hasn't been determined for the DPRG hackerspace yet.

The Search for Space

One of the first steps in our process is searching for space. See the section below, "How You Can Help" to find out how to help us find our space. So far, we are talking to everyone we know about the idea and asking them to talk to everyone they know. In additional general networking, we are also contacting local real estate professionals and representatives of the local Dallas non-profit community. Some of us are also engaging in manual search-by-looking-around activities in our spare time, driving through random parts of town, looking for likely clusters of unoccupied buildings and contacting building owners. We've also tried posting ads to local community forums.

We're also looking into the possibility of space offerings in parts of town that have revitalization initiatives with heavily discounted lease rates, tax abatements, or other incentives. If you know of any areas like this, please let us know.

Progress Updates

2 Feb 2010 - We're beginning to get some coverage of our plans in the news and blogosphere. Make gave us a mention in their blog and our project info is circulating on twitter and FB as well. The DPRG received the first donation (of hopefully many more) towards the hackerspace startup costs. We'll post a running tally of our total at the top of this page.

We've talked to a group who is interested in starting a hackerspace in Denton, TX, so if you're too far north for the DPRG hackerspace, you might get in touch with c0re1ndustries. Also, we heard from a group who would like to create a for-profit Techshop franchise in Dallas, calling themselves Neighborhood Workshop.

3 Feb 2010 - Suggestions for names are beginning to roll in. Variants of the word Reactor seem to be favored so far with DFW Reactor getting the most positive comments.. Several people pointed out that other groups have taken there names from the location selected. Names mentioned (in alphabetical order) include:

  • DFW Hackerspace
  • DFW Reactor
  • DPRG Hackerspace
  • Elexas (Electric + Texas)
  • Fort Reactor
  • Galoot Reactor
  • Metroplex Manifold
  • Metroplex Reactor
  • North Texas Toolspace
  • Nortex Reactor
  • Operation Lonestar
  • Slaunchways Reactor
  • Texas Reactor

4 Feb 2010 - To get a better idea of how many members we'll have to work with initially and how soon we can start, we'd like to get everyone who is willing to commit to a paying hackerspace membership now (now being Feb 2010) to take this survey about how much you'd be willing to pay per month, and how far you're willing to drive. Please do not take this survey unless you're actually ready to become a paying member of the hackerspace. Props to Scott Sumner for cranking out the php on short notice.

Hackerspace membership survey [thanks for participating, the survey is completed]

9 Feb 2010 - The first official meatspace gathering of potential Dallas hackerspace members was held at the DPRG's Tuesday night RBNO. A surprising number of people were there. We went around the room letting each person introduce themselves. Each person explained their interests and talked about what sort of resources a hackerspace could offer them.

We learned there are a lot of people in Dallas intrested in hydroponics, so we've added this to our hackerspace description. Another photographer turned up interested in a darkroom for film processing. We already have almost enough equipment to fully equip a darkroom.

There was a lot of talk about how the hackerspace would work, how it would interface with the DPRG, what sort of building we needed, and a lot of other topics. Many pizzas were consumed.

10 Feb 2010 - Several DPRG members attended a DC214 meeting in Deep Ellum. DC214 is a local computer security group. We gave a short presentation and found 4 or 5 more potential hackerspace members including yet another photographer looking for a darkroom.

18 Feb 2010 - Second meeting of potential members took place at XMAX Games in Lakewood. More details were worked out to move us toward a March startup. The plan is to ask every potential member for a $100 one-time donation to get enough cash to cover the start up costs. This will be added to the donations already received and a contribution from the DPRG's general fund. It was also decided to use the name makerspace in place of hackerspace to avoid the miconceptions the public often has about the word hacker.

19 Feb 2010 - Received the first membership donations today! Things are looking good.

23 Feb 2010 - Changed project title from hackerspace to makerspace to reflect the decision made at the last meeting to favor that term because of the general public's confusion of hacker (creative person) with hacker (evil computer criminal).

1 Mar 2010 - The Maker Space now has it's own websites and news feeds so, from this point on, you can get updates from one of these sources:

1 Mar 2011 - One year later and Dallas Makerspace is thriving. The group has physical space, more than 40 members, and is very close to becoming a fully autonomous, self-supporting group. The group should have IRS 501(c)(3) recognitiion soon as well. Mission accomplished!

If you'd like become a member of Dallas Makerspace or find out more about it, we encourage you to visit the Dallas Makerspace website.

RESOURCES

Article Copyright © 2010 by Dallas Personal Robotics Group, all rights reserved.