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  • Holger Dielenberg

University lock out – Makerspaces to the rescue

Studying art and design at university was exhilarating. The feeling that anything is possible would get me out of bed every morning. Marathon essays, two hours sleep; it didn’t matter. I’d slam a coffee and race across town on my pushy to continue working on my latest sculpture or painting.

The world was my oyster! I had open access to studios, wood workshop, machinery, laser cutting, bronze casting and fabrication space. What a ride, four years of nonstop Government funded exploration of materials and ideas.

Nobody told us that university is a bubble. We took workshop access for granted and never stopped to think about how difficult it might be to buy the same equipment ourselves. Graduation came with great excitement of coming independence and public exhibitions. But in reality, we had just gotten the keys to all of those valuable resources taken off us!

You almost don’t notice but when you wake up, the term barrier to entry shot forward out of the archives of our brains where it had been buried during a lecture. The reality of going it alone without equipment or studio access smacked us hard in the face.

My bubble burst. Everything was so hard to achieve. Even the simplest thing like finding a panel saw to use became a hurdle.

The problem is you need to maintain momentum and you need money… lots of it. How can you afford to rent a warehouse, let alone buy industry standard machinery and technology? It was sink or swim. There were no Makerspaces, no Fablabs, no product development incubators and no handouts.

I reached back into the womb to access the university workshop. But the doors were now shut to us recent graduates. Stranded on the harsh side of reality, we realized fast that less than ten percent of us would survive.

In awe, I watched companies control their entire supply chain and build smart factories that enter blue prints in one end and produce products out the other. Not long ago that was the stuff of cartoons! I was inspired. Makers needed a similar smart factory, but one that allowed for human chaos (otherwise understood as design creativity).

Problem when you’re emerging is, only the manufacturing elite can buy the dream machines.

I decided to build a Makerspace to address this problem. A tool gym that opens doors when universities and industry have theirs closed.

The coolest thing about Space Tank Studio is the variety of talented people who use the place and the range of projects that they work on. The variety is stunning.

Our philosophy is simple; provide the facility and get out of the way. Because we’re non-institutional, everyone feels free to let their guard down. The people who work at Space Tank share knowledge, experiment and fail fast on their way to success.

It’s such an inspiration. The most rewarding part for me is to be part of a solution. To help people reach their goals and provide a platform of support that can propel them forward. What a journey!

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