Makerspace creates creative space for students

Tjefferson@vagazette.com

Xavier Neil wanted a place where his stepson, Ethan, could polish his programming and coding skills as he prepares for 7th grade.

They found the perfect place in Gizmoes along Richmond Road, which sells electronic equipment also offers the Williamsburg Makers Group class.

Makerspaces are collaborative work spaces featuring a variety of equipment including 3D printers, laser cutters and soldering irons. "Makers" can build a variety of items including robots and circuit boards.

"First this summer, what I wanted to do was build a computer, because I wasn't happy with how my computer was running. It was slow and it was messing up, and I heard people get better results if they build their own, and we ended up coming here," said Ethan, who one day hopes to be a computer engineer.

While the Neils ended up at Gizmoes, other makerspaces are cropping up throughout eastern Virginia, including 757 Makerspace, based in Norfolk and HackRVA, which is based in Richmond. The College of William and Mary also has the Small Hall Makerspace, which has makerspace hours on Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday during the school year.

The Small Hall Makerspace has a 3D printer, wood and other electronic components, according to the group's website.

For the past two years the Small Hall Makerspace has hosted weekly build events which have been open to the public. At other times the makerspace is closed to the public.

Students don't have to pay for the equipment or to use the makerspace.

Getting tinkerers together

"I was surprised with the class, and this is exactly what we were looking for," said Neil, a Williamsburg resident. "I hope this blows up and turns into something massive because, programming is the future."

The Williamsburg Makers Group is a team of volunteers dedicated to encouraging children's interest in science technology engineering and math (STEM) by introducing them to electronics and programming.

"Basically you make things in the makerspace," said organizer and Gizmoes owner, Craig Peck. "The idea is maybe you don't have a workshop at home, or maybe you just want to hang out with people that are like-minded."

Makerspace operates out of the back portion of Gizmoes and has a variety of equipment including a 3D printer, power tools and personal storage space.

Peck said about 30 people are part of the Williamsburg Makers Group class.

Steve Marciante and Ted Hale serve as volunteers for the Williamsburg Makers Group. They do it to see the satisfaction on students' faces when they accomplish their goals.

"I had a goal of trying to get tinkerers together to hang out and build stuff about three years ago. I approached Craig and asked if this would be something he was interested in and he turned me down at the time, but a year or so passed, Gizmoes moved to the new site. He then took me up on the offer," Marciante said.

The group holds soldering classes on Saturdays. The makerspace is available for woodworking use as well as electronics.

The volunteers now also teach basic electronics, microcontroller programming and 3D printing.

"Our big goal was to get kids away from video games because that rots their brains," Marciante said.

Patrons can also use the makerspace at anytime during the week that the store is open to work on personal projects, Peck said.

"We have a permanent makerspace, and you can come during anytime," Peck said. "If you want to test one of your projects you can come in and do that."

Marciante said the target goal is 100 students.

"I find that after talking to parents over the last two and a half years that they all have the same problem of their kids wanting to play video games and their parents just give up trying to stop them," Marciante said. "The makerspace is a weapon against that we will show the kids something more interesting and satisfying."

Jefferson can be reached by phone at 757-790-9313

For more information

Visit: bit.ly/2tN3YlA or call 229-4157.

Access to the Williamsburg Makers Group for a year is $240 for adults and $180 for children. Monthly the fee is $30 for adults and $15 for children. Membership dues goes to funding for additional equipment.

Gizmoes

Location: 2229 Richmond Road

Sunday: 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Monday- Friday: 9 a.m. - 7 p.m.

Saturday: 10 a.m.- 4 p.m.

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