Downtown’s DIY Factory

Makerspace Lands at the Library on Mondays

Tacy Kennedy and a model of the <em>Homo naledi</em> jawbone she made at the downtown library's Makerspace.

The downtown library is so much more than books anymore. Hong Lieu, the Central Library’s “computer guy” and the testing lead on Call of Duty 3 back in the day, has opened a DIY factory on the main floor. Saddled up with laptops, a turntable, crates of 45s, and several 3-D printers, the do-it-yourself Tech Lab just needs people and their creativity to become Makerspace Santa Barbara on Mondays from 4-7 p.m., an offshoot of Santa Barbara Hackerspace.

Not long ago, Tacy Kennedy of S.B.’s Museum of Natural History brought in a downloaded model file for the lower jaw of Homo naledi, a new type of human ancestor found in South Africa’s Rising Star cave system in 2013. The Homo naledi paper was published in eLifeSciences in September, and Kennedy decided to try out the library’s new 3-D printer — donated by the Orfalea Foundation — to see how close it might come to a casting of the jaw, which would cost much more. “It’s usable,” she said of the 3-D model, for researchers or a class to compare to other hominid jawbones, though it lacks the fine detail of a cast.

But that “just try it out” ethic dominates Makerspace. At the library, kids fool around with the software program Tinkercad, often building things like “creepers” from the video game Minecraft to produce on the 3-D printers. Many had never seen, much less operated, a record player before, Lieu said. They reveled in learning how the scritching noise was made. The 45s from the 1950s through 1980s are introducing the kids to music new to them while they play around with beatmatching.

SB Hackerspace member Nick Winter has volunteered to keep the older of the Anapamu Street library’s three printers going, and Mack Fixler shows up to help the kids most afternoons. He said one of the coolest things he saw a kid design was something that would let her friend, who uses a walker, grab her walker more easily. “She drew it out, designed it, took spheres, put it together, generated the negative space [on Tinkercad], and the library printed it out,” he said.

A lot of kids and some adults show up to the Minecraft and deejay sessions that Lieu runs, letting things get a little noisy at the library on Monday afternoons. “It’s about creation,” said Lieu enthusiastically. “It’s about pushing ideas as far as they’ll go.”

Mostly adults and some kids go to Santa Barbara Hackerspace, which is located out on Thornwood in Goleta’s Old Town. The group donated the library’s first 3-D printer to help get their new branch in town off the ground. The Goleta location contains a big shop area with tools and machinery for metalworking and woodworking in their “noisy” room, as well as spaces for their knitters and sewers, soft circuiters (who embed electronics in fabric), and performance artists, said organizer-in-chief Mike “Swiss” Bales. The group has been around since 2010.

They’ll start sponsoring Take-It-Apart Tuesdays at the library next month.


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