Hoboken Maker Bar
38 Jackson St, Hoboken, NJ 07030
August 6, 2014
Classmate, Leonard Sheehy and I visited the Maker Bar during for open attendance/ Python Users evening on a Wednesday evening. The goals of this site visit were to see a fully functioning Makerspace and to learn more about Maker Movement in practice.
The following was taken from an interview with Andy Fundinger and Eric Abrahamsen, founders/members of the Hoboken Maker Bar. This text was reconstructed from notes and memory. The quotes are direct, the rest is my restatement.
The Hoboken Maker Bar was established in April 2012. Currently there are 13 members (only two of whom are women), each paying $100 per month to support the program. Each member has a key to the space and 24 hour access. There is a Board of Directors with monthly meetings, but all members have voting privileges, if they attend the board meeting. The board votes on purchases,
classes, and makes membership decisions. Andy described the Maker Bar as a "do-mocracy," adding that "those who do, decide." Associate members may donate any sum, but do not have any privileges.
The Maker Bar is a 1300 sq. ft. warehouse space that has been divided into three rooms: a lounge, large workroom, and a "members only" storage space. Ideally, they would recommend no less than 1500 sq. ft. for a Makerspace.
The lounge has a conference table with an assortment of about 8 chairs and a large monitor (~52 in.) on one end. The conference table appeared to be where members use their laptops and share their work on the monitor. This room has a small kitchen, with a refrigerator and an area with couches. The lounge is decorated with a variety technical and craft projects, including some small robots. A "for sale" shelf offers a small selection of materials. An Arduino controlled light display adds additional ambience.
The workroom, the largest of the three spaces, is divided into two main areas:
one for using power tools, like drills, saws, and a selection of hand tools, and
the other for building. The building area has an L-shaped table with about 12
feet of available space. Tools hang from every available wall space and projects
fill the corners and hang from the ceiling. Andy explained that the tools were
mostly donated, with their budget allocating only a few hundred dollars for
necessary parts or repairs each year.
At one end of the workroom, a curtained doorway is marked "members only."
This room is in effect a narrow passageway lined on one side with shelves and
cubbies. Each member has his or her own set of shelves. Tools and unfinished elec-
tronic projects were visible. I asked about the craft materials on one shelf. Andy
explained that his wife had tried to give a craft class, but it had not been as suc-
cessful as anticipated. Her class on concrete use was the more popular offering
for women, in particular. He noted that members freely share their tools.
(DN: Sharing is an important item in the Maker Movement Manifesto (Hatch, 2014).)
Andy described the Maker Bar in action as "controlled chaos." The majority of its users are working on technology based projects that are aligned with electrical/mechanical building. "People work according to their interests," he added, "or
they just come to try out tools."
The picture on the left shows the workspace. Although it is not well lit, the white board with illustrations is visible. This is also the classroom space in the Maker Bar. To the uninformed, this space does look like controlled chaos.
About a half hour into our tour, Eric Abramsen joined us. The five of us (including my husband) sat in the lounge, around the conference discussing the inner workings of a Makerspace. These are the points made by Andy and Eric regarding Makers:
The key is the community. Everyone here is self-selecting. They are here because they want to be.
The success of this community depends upon the commitment of its members. If it were financially possible, they would lower the membership fee in order to lower the bar for membership.
There are definitely selective levels of participation, with some people providing a dynamic core and others on the periphery.
There is no boss, no hierarchy within the space.
Although they are not elected leaders, the most committed members are always trying to grow the community, both for financial reasons and because they believe in the mission.
Everyone shares their expertise/knowledge freely, as well as their tools.
Although consultation is frequent, people do not, as a rule, work in teams.
Participants bring their own project materials. I asked if they repurposed materials. Andy replied: "No, I work on Wall Street, I can afford to buy new things."
The average Maker turns out to be someone in their late 20's/early 30's, established in work and with the resources to enjoy making.
Membership and participation are encouraged through "Meet-up", a social networking site that schedules meetings.
We ended the interview with a discussion of Maker Education. Both Andy and Eric felt that a school environment could not replicate a true Makerspace for the following reasons:
Schools are locked into curriculum and standards. Makerspaces offer unstructured exploration - learning autonomy.
Schools are hierarchical - the teacher is the boss. Makerspaces are democratic. Expertise sharing is 360°.
Schools limit student contact with outside resources and expertise. Makerspaces tap all available resources.
Schools don't allow students to tap into their intensity (E.g. to experience "flow" and work on a project until it is complete). Makerspaces offer a place where makers can focus on solving a problem until they are satisfied with the solution.
Eric expressed concern that students will not know what to do in a Makerspace if they don't know what is available. From this I gathered that he felt that there were some pre-requisites that would be needed for Maker Education. One of them, he said, would be programming.
The Maker Bar, they acknowledged, is also a venue for non-formal education.
Classes on tool use, technology, electronics, and more are frequently scheduled.
For the most part, they felt that informal learning would describe the Maker process.
As we ended our hour and a half conversation and prepared to leave,
Andy surprised us with a request. He pulled out a large pressboard wheel,
covered with Plexiglas that had been slotted into pie wedges. He asked
each of us to suggest an idea for a project that might be tackled by people
who came to the Maker Bar without any idea of what to do. I was honored to l
eave an "idea" contribution for his wheel. At this moment, I felt that I experi-
enced the inclusive nature of a Makerspace. I began to understand why they
refer to themselves as a "community of mind, heart, and hands" (Martinez &
Stager, September 24, 2014).
Hatch, M. (2014). The maker movement manifesto: Rules for innovation in the new world of crafters, hackers, and tinkerers. NY:
Martinez, S.L. & Stager, G.S. (September 24, 2013). Making the case for making in schools. [Video]. Retrieved from
Source: F. Nagler
Leonard standing next to a room divider made of tools.
Source: D. Nagler
Example of Maker Bar Meet-up Email
Source: D. Nagler
Source: D. Nagler
Poster advertising Maker Camp
Source: D. Nagler