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Steamworks’ New “Thing Thursday”

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Steamworks’ New “Thing Thursday”

Kylee Henrie, Writer

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The Huntsville area is full of engineers and similarly inventive people, so it’s natural that places like makerspaces have come into existence.

Makerspaces are places where people can come and make whatever their heart desires. According to Makerspaces.com, “a makerspace is a collaborative work space inside a school, library or separate public/private facility for making, learning, exploring and sharing that uses high tech to no tech tools.  These spaces are open to kids, adults, and entrepreneurs and have a variety of maker equipment including 3D printers, laser cutters, cnc machines, soldering irons and even sewing machines.”

The Huntsville area is home to several makerspaces such as Makers Local 256 or Steamworks. Another one has been set up in the Madison Public Library called The Studio which hosts a 3D printer and a couple other machines.

In a recent survey of Bob Jones students, 69.2% of students didn’t know what makerspaces are; however, several students have expressed interest in learning how to use the equipment in makerspaces, especially 3D printers.

Jillian Matthews, a sophomore at Bob Jones, said that “3D printers are the technology of the future, I think it could be useful to know how to use them and how they work.” Some students specifically wanted to learn how to create and invent. Shelby West, another sophomore at Bob Jones, said that “3D printing is an effective way to make complex parts for engineering jobs and tangible models.”

Other students said they had no interest in learning how to use the equipment. Yunona Shkolinkov, a Bob Jones junior, commented that “the idea of 3D printing is interesting, but I just don’t see it as a hobby to me because it’s probably time consuming and just the repetition of making it perfect would be stressful. I’m just not a “hands-on” type of person.”

Recently, Steamworks has started a weekly event called “Thing Thursday” for members of the community. Jenn Johnson, the educational director, said that “Thing Thursdays [are] for both members and non-members […] The point of Thing Thursdays is to engage community makers here in Huntsville who are interested in learning what resources [Steamworks] has here, who want to join with other people, who want to learn how to make things, or who want to get together and play games.”

Each week of the month has a different activity. The first week will be orientation for the equipment or training, the second week will typically be a monthly build for members (non-members can pay a drop-in fee to participate depending on the event), the third week is a guest event with a member of the community, and on the fourth week a member of the staff will do a workshop teaching a specific skill or technology.

So far, we’ve had workshop orientations, our Toy Repair Cafe, a quilling workshop, mini trebuchet group build, and our first anniversary party!” Johnson stated. “I really enjoyed our Toy Repair Cafe. We were able to repair several toys for our guests, including a large Star Wars AT-AT, a stuffed puppy, and a truck.” They even helped a family troubleshoot their Xbox. “Cooperative learning and problem solving is what Huntsville [Steamworks] is all about!”

Steamworks has many events planned for the future. Johnson said that “Later this month we’re looking forward to having the Rocket City Radio Controllers visit to share their love of RC aircraft, and next month, we’re excited to be hosting Pi Day on Thursday, March 14th, in cooperation with Lowe Mill.” For those interested in learning what events are coming up, Johnson recommended following them on social media like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Makerspaces can hold a valuable place in our community. Nora Bahr, Makerspace Specialist at Madison Public Library, in an interview with Gregg Parker of the Madison Record said that “A makerspace is a place where people with shared interests can gather to create, build and make.” For those who want to create, Huntsville has all of the resources to invent and design for everyone’s inner engineer.

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Steamworks’ New “Thing Thursday”