Friday, March 29, 2013

Makerspaces / Hackerspaces in the Tampa Bay Area

This past weekend was the second Tampa Bay Mini Maker Faire. There were some great conversations there about finally getting a makerspace or hackerspace in the Tampa Bay area. We had a lot of these same talks last year, but this year I think we might finally have the critical mass of people to get things started.

There are two efforts to start one that I'm aware of. The first is the LI4E Makerspace. They are focused on starting one or more makerspaces at Pasco County libraries. They have also recently signed an agreement to take over a South Tampa house and re-fit it for public creative use.

The second is Makerspace Tampa Bay. That group had stalled out in recent months, but has now been renewed with new leadership and is making a good push to build a solid core group and get a facility open. They have a website, but if you are on Facebook, there is a lot more active discussion on their Facebook group, Makerspace Tampa Bay.
[Update May 2013: I have joined the board of directors for this group and will hopefully have some good updates throughout the rest of the year.]

There are three four alternatives in the Tampa area that approach what a makerspace is:
    The biggest and closest to a makerspace is the MOSI IdeaZone. It's a fantastic space on the ground floor of MOSI and has a growing collection of equipment, including 3D printers and a laser cutter. They offer classes for both students and adults. 
    The USF X-Labs has built a number of cool science demonstrations, including this massive Tesla coil. I don't know much about their physical space, but it's worth checking out if you're a USF student (and maybe even if you aren't). 
    The Tampa Amateur Radio Club is a bit of a stretch to call a makerspace, but they do have a nice facility with a great ham radio shack. More importantly, 2-3 times a year they run TARCFest, a tailgate / flea market with a lot of radio and electronics equipment.
    The Roosevelt 2.0 is a "creative urban renewal project" in Ybor City. It's an interesting mix of a cafe, meeting space, market, art studio, garden, and more. 
A little further outside of Tampa, there are two good maker spaces:
    The FamiLab in Orlando has great family-friendly programs and has even hosted Eben Upton of Raspberry Pi fame. 
    The Fab Lab at GWiz in Sarasota has fantastic gear, including a big CNC machine and a mill. Unfortunately, I believe they are still closed as GWiz continues to struggle financially and remains closed after many months "for renovations".
Finally, if you missed it, check out the White House Hangout: The Maker Movement, a Google+ Hangout with a number of prominent makers and makerspace founders / users.

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