SLO MakerSpace, a membership-based workshop where people can use tools and machinery, learn skills and collaborate on projects, has moved to a bigger location — and has extended its reach in the community through a recent collaboration with the San Luis Obispo County Library.
Its new 5,000-square-foot space at 81 Higuera St., Suite 160, in the Pacific Coast Center is also closer to downtown San Luis Obispo. And the space is laid out better; the noisier tools that create lots of dust are in a separate room from the craft area reserved for cleaner projects, according to SLO MakerSpace CEO Clint Slaughter, a local physician.
The move cost a few thousand dollars, he said.
Through its collaboration with the library, library card holders get free access to SLO MakerSpace 15 hours a week during set times. The collaboration is a natural connection, Slaughter said, allowing community members to move from book learning to hands-on learning.
SLO MakerSpace hopes to expand the library program and get more involved with local schools, he said. It is trying to obtain grant funding to open the facility to all students, teachers and administrators.
Slaughter also is interested in the possibility of the library buying the makerspace — an idea he said he’s discussed with the library. Although it isn’t a feasible option for county officials at the moment, Slaughter said, he was told it could be an intriguing prospect in the future.
SLO MakerSpace opened in 2014, the brainchild of Slaughter and several like-minded individuals.
“Makerspaces have been popping up all over the world ... locally wherever there is one, it’s a boon to the community, and it helps the economic vitality of the community — it’s where entrepreneurs go; it’s where people come to learn new skills. They’re really becoming important places, so we want to be that for the Central Coast, and be a real benefit to the community,” Slaughter said.
The facility offers electronic workbenches, high-end fabrication machines, full woodworking and metalworking machines, lampworking, a pottery studio, sewing equipment and rapid prototyping equipment such as 3-D printers, laser cutters and a computer numerical control router.
For a monthly fee of $45, members have 24/7 access to the space. SLO MakerSpace offers individual, family and corporate membership options.
“It’s challenging, and it’s a little bit daunting to come into a place like this — you see all these tools, all these different things, (and think) how am I going to learn all of this, and you don’t have to learn all of it — you just have to learn what you need for your project,” Slaughter said. “So we’ve tried to work on a few different ways to decrease the barriers to learning.”
SLO MakerSpace offers classes on how to use most of the equipment, along with “gurus” — volunteers familiar with a certain trade who can answer questions members may have. SLO MakerSpace has also created instructional videos on using the tools that the public can access online via Instructables.
SLO MakerSpace has about 50 members, though membership numbers fluctuate often, Slaughter said. Membership peaked last spring with nearly 100 members. The space needs about 150 members to meet costs.
The makerspace met its costs for a couple of months, Slaughter said, adding that he couldn’t disclose how much of a shortfall the facility has, because of cost and membership fluctuations.
“We want to make sure everybody understands that we’re not here to make a lot of money for ourselves — I’ve spent a lot of money and countless hours here and haven’t made a dime off this place, and that’s OK; we’re not here for that.”
The space is run by a team of about 20 volunteers. Although it has employed a couple of part-time managers, Slaughter said they decided to move to an all-volunteer model to save money.
Danielle Ames: 805-781-7902
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