4 Middle Georgia Makerspaces to Boost Your Creativity

Real Impact 3d printing

Across the world, maker spaces have become hubs for creative technologists and artists to gather to share community, ideas, tools, and grassroots education.  In the years that I’ve blogged on InspiredToEducate.NET, it has been amazing to see the growth of the makers movement in Middle Georgia.   I still remember my road trip to Augusta, GA to visit a maker space for the first time.   In 2014, My friend Brent Lanford invited me and a team of people to visit ClubHou.se to explore the potential of growing the makers movement to Middle Georgia.  I became especially excited to learn about the ways you can blend project based learning, DIY, and student empowerment.  The idea of helping people to grow by connecting them to powerful ideas and tools was an amazing opportunity.

Thanks to the efforts of many organizations, hours of investment and many leaders, we can celebrate that Middle Georgia has four growing maker space communities.   As I’ve had the opportunity to chat with leaders of successful maker spaces, they always emphasize the importance of growing and connecting the community.   In this blog post, I want to raise awareness of the growing ecosystem of maker spaces.   I also challenge you to get involved, join the movement, and start turning your ideas into reality!

SparkMacon Maker Space:  SparkMacon is a community innovation space equipped with art and technology tools, equipment, and expertise for students, tinkerers and entrepreneurs.   Thanks to the generous support of our founding members and investments from the Georgia Technology Authority and the Middle Georgia Regional Commission, our team had the opportunity to grow Central Georgia’s first maker space community.   In our vision, we hope to be the catalyst for and physical manifestation of the local Maker Movement.   We have three core areas of focus: serving makers in helping them grow in STEM skills and art, serving start-ups in connecting them to local business resources and rapid prototyping, and (3) supporting the growth of our creative tinkerers.  Learn more at SparkMacon.com.

Firestarter Fab Lab:  For our makers near Warner Robins, GA, make sure to check out FireStarter Fab Lab.   Thanks to profound investments from Flint Energies, Houston County Career Academy and their partners, FireStarter offers an amazing range of industrial fabrication equipment and a growing community of makers.  Their educational programs include everything from a FIRST robotics club, fabrication workshops to classes on wood working.   The educational and project work spaces are generous.  Make sure to check out their impressive listing of industrial tools.    I especially admire their efforts to grow business leaders and making connections to local makers.    Make sure to visit http://firestarterfablab.com/ and their Facebook page to engage in their community, tools, and learning opportunities.

Firestarter community

5/4 music space: 5/4 music space is a music incubator with rehearsal space and a recording studio.   They desire to spark a new scene of music for Macon, GA.   The 5/4 team have worked really hard to create an engaging environment for music creatives and help grow opportunities for local bands.  They are currently hosting monthly “open mic” nights to encourage artists and fans to network.   Macon is a community that loves it’s music heritage.  5/4 will be the space to grow the next generation of Macon music legends.   To learn more and engage with 5/4, check out their Facebook page and their website www.fivefour.space.

5/4 music space

Ampersand Arts: Ampersand Arts has the mission “to encourage everyone to see their creative potential by thinking outside the box of standard arts education and institutions, helping them push past perceived barriers and learn that they can make unique contributions in the arts in Macon and beyond.”   This makerspace will focus on serving the needs of the arts community.  As a member of SparkMacon , I’m looking forward to working collaboratively with this community.   I believe we’ll find fun intersections in our combined technology and art communities.  To learn more about Ampersand makerspace, visit http://www.ampersandguild.com .

Ampersand arts

In addition to the official makerspaces described here, our team has started learning about efforts to grow educational makerspaces in schools around Macon.   I have wondered if it’s possible to turn cities or regions into collaborative creative communities.   Some of our friends from http://www.makervillage.org/ are working to grow these kinds of communities in Rome, GA . We have the seeds of building “maker cities” today in Middle, GA!  And it’s exciting!



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Giving Yourself Margin

Enjoying Nature

I’m in one of those seasons of life where my schedule feels three notches beyond packed.  We enjoy staying active in our church, our community, and family.  My wife and I believe in the concept of going above and beyond in our professional lives too.   We, however, recognize that packing our lives with more activities isn’t sustainable or healthy.  

As I’ve been reading about innovative teams and business culture, I’ve been smacked in the face by this very simple idea: margin.  It’s the idea of giving yourself or your team the gift of time.   Here are a few places where this idea shows up:

  • “Innovation time off”: The post-it note was invested at 3M when a leader gave his team 20% of their work time to develop new product concepts.  Innovators like Google have adopted this idea of “innovation time off” too.  Through this strategy, Googlers invented amazing products like Gmail, Google Cardboard, and many others.   
  • Create margin for your teams: In the world of engineering, there’s a temptation to plan monthly schedules down to the exact hour to make sure you’re getting 100% capacity from the team.   The best teams make time to plan regularly.   They, however, acknowledge that you can’t think and plan for everything.  In fact, that level of planning is wasteful.  It’s great to give your team margin to account for the unexpected stuff that ALWAYS happens and creates the opportunity for creative thought.  The extra time can be helpful to address process improvement or reduce technical debt.
  • Genius hour: It’s cool to see the idea of margin showing up in k-12 education too.   Many innovative educators have tried increasing student engagement in learning by empowering them to have time to learn a topic of interest to the student.   In most cases, the student present their work or new knowledge to the rest of the class.   To learn more about this practice, check out the following posts on Edutopia and Gallit Zvi’s blog.  

In the world of personal finance, it’s a common practice to make sure you have an emergency fund to cover the unexpected things of life.   I have to say that I’m guilty of not always creating margin for myself to have down time to recharge my mind, my heart, and soul.   This might be prayer, going fishing or having open time to relax.   This is a place of growth for me.   It’s an opportunity to learn to say “no” to some good things of life to make room for the best.

What are your favorite ways to create margin for your team?   How do you create margin for yourself?


Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/en/hiking-hiker-mountains-rocks-hills-691739/

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