Local makerspace prepares to grow

Authored By chloe.morrison

A new Chattanooga makerspace is opening next month, and some community members already believe in the idea. 

“We are starting with 21 members who have agreed to pay $50 a month even before we had a space,” ChattLab co-founder Jeff Johnson said. “That tells you there’s a big demand for it.”

After the organization floundered a bit, there still seemed to be a need for a place where people could tinker, create, woodwork, code and socialize. 

So interested community members have committed to ChattLab, which officially opens next month in the Business Development Center in North Chattanooga. 

Here are six things to know about the new local organization. 

About ChattLab
It’s for anyone who wants to make something or hang out with like-minded people. 

From soldering to coding, woodworking to tinkering with electronics, the space has tools for anyone who wants to create. 

When the space opens next month, anyone interested can come to a weekly meeting, where they won’t get a business pitch, organizers said. 

“They are not going to be pressured to join,” Johnson said.

The organization currently has what it needs to make rent, so the goal is to add one new member a month, which seems attainable, he also said.    

“It’s just fun to come and watch what other people are making and bounce ideas off [one another],” he said. 

About the community
It’s difficult to describe the breadth of activities at makerspaces, which are sometimes called hacker spaces.  
That name-which uses the word “hacker”-often gets a bad reputation, leaders said. 

But a hacker isn’t solely someone who illegally gains access to computers or data. The word also describes a person who likes to tinker with technology. 

And hacker/makerspaces are generally open to anyone who has an interest in anything from sewing to 3-D printing. 

“It’s really hard to define as one kind of thing that people make,” Johnson said. “It’s sort of an Etsy playground. If you’ve got a vision of something you want to make, you can come down there and make it.”

Tools  
From laser cutters to 3-D printers, makerspaces generally have an array of tools. 

The local space doesn’t have all the ideal tools yet, such as a 3-D printer or laser cutter, but plans are in the works.

The team plans to launch a Kickstarter campaign in early 2017 to buy tools that aren’t yet available. 

But lots of tools, such as woodshop and soldering tools, are available. 

Other spaces 
Brian Wagner helped launch a makerspace called LVL1 in Louisville, Kentucky.  

He couldn’t underestimate the value of the connections made at the space.

“We started out the hacker space thinking it was going to be about the tools, the stuff and the space, but it quickly became about the community,” he said. “Wonderful friendships have blossomed from there.” 

Future status 
The team is working toward getting approval from the state to be a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

Meetings 
After the new space officially opens, leaders plan to have weekly meetings every Tuesday at 7 p.m., starting the first Tuesday in December.