Anne Knapke/Multimedia Journalist

Tools in the workspace include smaller items such as sewing machines, a 3-D printer and vinyl cutter. Tools in the workshop, located in the next room of the space, are larger-scale and include the Computer Numerical Controlled Router, a SawStop, laser cutter and more.

Kelly Trom
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Evidence of the SLO MakerSpace mission is scattered across all crevices of the building. The desks are made out of repurposed Travel Inn doors. Custom-made stickers and decals hang on the wall. An original piece of wall art made with string and nails proudly proclaims the space’s name. And the best part is all of these projects were made with the tools and resources that can be found in the space.

SLO MakerSpace is a small part of a larger movement that has been active in all areas of the world. San Luis Obispo got a taste of it during the SLO Mini Maker Faire this past May, but SLO MakerSpace is a more permanent home to those interested in the maker movement.

“This whole upcycling, recycling, maker movement has definitely been at the forefront as far as technology and really getting people back involved in relearning all of these old skills that we lost,” SLO MakerSpace CEO Clint Slaughter said.

The company provides tools and resources for a monthly fee. Tools in the workspace include smaller items such as sewing machines, a 3-D printer and vinyl cutter. Tools in the workshop, located in the next room of the space, are larger-scale and include the Computer Numerical Controlled Router, a SawStop, laser cutter and more.

“If people have an idea, they can come and prototype it here,” Slaughter said. “You can also find people to help you, and learn the skills you need to achieve your goal and then take off with it and start your business. Our mission is far-reaching, but I think we will be able to do that here.”

They opened their doors to the public this past Saturday, kicking things off with initial safety classes every member has to take before they can gain access to the tools. It’s not just safety classes that will be taught, however. Anything from photography, painting, specific tools and even forging wedding rings will also be taught. These classes can be attended by anyone from the public for a fee, even if they are not a member.

“My favorite part is seeing things be built out of nothing and seeing people gain these skills and go through this process,” Slaughter said.

SLO MakerSpace Chief Explorations Officer Justin Bennett was intrigued by the vision of SLO MakerSpace and joined the team without making any project of his own beforehand. He made his first project in the space — the billboard listing all the ongoing projects, which every member can see when they walk through the door.

“He was so excited when he saw his concept come to fruition, and I think we are going to see a lot of that,” Slaughter said.

Slaughter is excited by all of the companies and groups located in San Luis Obispo.

“(The) SLO community is perfect for this kind of place,” he said. “We have got local engineering firms, Cal Poly, Cuesta. I keep finding new people that I am amazed live and work here. For example, Next Intent made the wheels for the Mars Rover and the drill that found water on Mars.”

SLO MakerSpace has ties to Cal Poly in various ways. The Cal Poly physics department bought a corporate membership, which means it will have a rotating ID badge that can be borrowed by students or faculty to prototype and work on different projects.

There are also specific individuals with relations to Cal Poly inside SLO MakerSpace: Physics associate professor Pete Schwartz is the chief sustainability officer, Ken Rothmuller is a past board member for SLO MakerSpace and a retired Cal Poly professor and recent alumnus Rory Aronson is shop manager.

Aronson will also be working with freshmen in one of SLO MakerSpace’s community partners, the Sustain SLO learning initiative at Cal Poly. The team of Cal Poly students will most likely be working with elementary and middle schools in the area to teach them how to work with different technologies.

“In recent years, the shop classes and hands-on learning has gotten kicked out of schools, and that is really important, for people to use their hands, work on a team and use equipment,” Aronson said.

Aronson got involved with SLO MakerSpace when he heard about Slaughter’s idea in a entrepreneurship class at the SLO HotHouse. He is especially excited about making projects and having a built-in community of creative, supportive makers available.

“It is going to be a really awesome community that you can’t find anywhere else,” Aronson said. “There are some clubs, but they are very specialized; it would be hard to come in and present your own project. This is a place where you could come in, get that support and learn how to make something that is just an idea originally.”

Other recent Cal Poly alumni are involved as work-trade members. They work a few shifts a week by checking members in, ensuring everyone is wearing safety equipment, and teaching them to work the different machines.

The week leading up to the opening consisted of all work-trade members getting acquainted with the machines. Cal Poly graduate Lauren Blomberg is currently a work-trade member.

“This is the week of learning to do that, so we are like, ‘The toys!’” Blomberg said. “We have to get proficient with them to teach people, which is kind of the fun of this. It is a lot of time to let loose and just place.”

Those working at SLO MakerSpace are there to improve their making skills and help others achieve their vision.

“I grew up doing woodworking and I am getting into more electronics, so it seems like a great place to learn more,” Blomberg said. “A lot of cities have spaces like this, and I am really excited to see what they do with it here.”

Mike Kim, a work-trade member, graduated with a degree in physics this past June. Kim believes this space is perfect for other Cal Poly and Cuesta students.

“I think that this community is very appropriate for a university-type setting,” Kim said. “It is fairly inexpensive compared to other maker spaces around the world. You are able to get access to all of these tools, and more importantly, all of these people who are interested in making things, and I think college is a very appropriate time to be engaging in your own creativity.”