By Amina Clyde
Photo captions by Linda Foster
On October 6th, a group of students and I had the opportunity to enter the Makerspace studio at Brooklyn Army Terminal. We were taken to Studio B, the general area for those who create small projects or want to take classes.
But what exactly is Makerspace?
Makerspace NYC is a nonprofit community for artists, welders, and more. It was founded in 2013 by husband and wife Scott Van Campen and DB Lampman. The very first location was out of Staten Island, branching out to Brooklyn in 2019.
The beauty of Makerspace is the access to high quality equipment and classes with little to no background skill needed. In addition to this, Makerspace is actively paving the way for the rise in automation and for buildings and projects that call for more environmental friendly functions.
During our trip, we were also accompanied by ITAC, a company that aims to “connect New York City firms to ideas, resources, and experts to help them improve how they work. [They] offer customized consulting services to small and medium-sized manufacturing and technology companies to help them grow their businesses, improve their bottom lines, and achieve their strategic goals.”
Corey Pickett, a marketing project manager, and Kinda Younes, an executive director at ITAC explained some of their work and their collaboration with organizations like Makerspace before we toured the space.
Our guide, co-founder Scott Campen himself, first took us to an embroidery station where he explained the seamstress classes along with an interesting machine that embroidered patterns based on codes in the computer. Campen described the driving force behind automation as a whole as a CNC system.
CNC “stands for computer numerical control and these machines play an important role in the manufacturing industry. These complex machines are controlled by a computer and provide a level of efficiency, accuracy and consistency that would be impossible to achieve through a manual process.”
Mr. Campen explained to us that this is where people come in. Automation can replicate repeated actions, but they need people to code that in. That is where the argument that “robots will take over jobs” becomes a little more layered. With Makerspace, people can fill those jobs while more obsolete jobs will be replaced by machines.
After that, we went to a section with these large machines. The most notable was called the Milling machine, a machine that dates all the way back to the 40s. The machine was so effective it remained the same for almost 60 years, only recently getting a semi updated version.
The Milling machine is kept up to date with occasional part replacement and such. A fun fact we learned was that you can make a milling machine, with a milling machine!
Then, we went to another section of the workshop where there was a massive laser cutting machine. It rotates objects all the way up to the 6th axis, using a, x, y and z in all directions.
Similar to the CNC embroidery machine, the machine is coded to do this. A real life application is bots used for space exploration. The machine codes are worked on for months to years, then put in a machine that outputs the object in nearly a quarter of the time. Our school even has a version of this, of course to a lesser, more causal scale.
Finally, for our last stop we got to look at the water jet cutter, the Flow mach2 waterjet cutting system. Its purpose is sort of in the name. In simple terms, it’s a precise pressure washer times tenfold.
It uses water to cut through any object from glass, metal, wood, or anything within reason. Of course, this is also coded to do so, and is only operated by Campen and another person. The machine uses sand to sand things as it cuts, and is filled with water. A benefit Campen described is that the water jet doesn’t create the hard edge beat often does when it cuts through metal, making it easier to work with for the stages after.
All these incredible machines are paired with classes to learn the full scope of their workings, and the average person can learn all of this in one space. It won’t be quick, but the skill in the end will be valuable and worth the time and energy put in.
Ironically enough, Campen put an extreme emphasis on safety more than the actual learning. These machines are bending and cutting the toughest of objects, so constant safety is a must when it comes to classes.
After our informative tour was over, we were taken back to our main area and told about some programs in relation to all the things in Makerspace.
For people 18+, you can apply to learn the basics of whatever field of your choice, then be assigned to a site almost like the SYEP process. The good thing about this program is that if you build up a reputable status with your site, you can continue to work there outside of the program. Mind you, all these things do not require degrees, making this one of the most accessible opportunities for students who aren’t college driven, or want to dive right into this workforce.
For our last activity, we were tasked as a group to make a really niche, useless device. We were judged on uselessness, marketability, and our pitch.
My group made a “pedal sharpener”, a device that sharpens your pencil from your desk. Personally, I thought our pitch was great, and had a great amount of uselessness. But our marketability lost points because in the digital age, no one really uses pencils. I had fun with it though, and I enjoyed seeing the other wacky things my peers made.
All in all, it was a very informative trip. I’d recommend taking a look at the Makerspace NYC socials and websites. There’s so much for everyone there that I think even people who don’t think they’ll pursue a career in coding, automation, etc. could find some use in it.
Scott Van Campen was so knowledgeable and persuasive that I found myself lending an ear to some welding, and I want to work in the food industry.
Like I’ve said before, it’s so accessible it almost doesn’t make sense to just look or try it. A lot of businesses kickstarted in those buildings, and I guarantee you they couldn’t do it without such a space.
Makerspace is a platform, but it’s up to the person to step on and use it.
Here are some student narratives about the experience:
Allan Maliza, Junior
“The moment we arrived at our destination, I noticed that the building was similar to a prison or to a Warzone map I played a long time ago. Regardless, I later learned that it was an old military base in which they remodeled it into a Makerspace and a daycare for the young ones. We later met people who are a part of the Makerspace company that was introducing themselves to us. After that was done, we headed over to the metal cutting room. It was absolutely stunning how many machines they had and how they used them. We then went to the wood-cutting room in which I saw machinery I never thought I’d see. It made me realize how far humankind has reached and developed over the years. Our last stop was the glass cutting room. They showed us a machine on which they could cut glass with water. I didn’t believe it at first, but oh boy I do now. When the glass came out, it was shaped to a word “ITAC” that was so smooth that you could easily run your hands through it without getting hurt.
We returned back to our seats and started to do an assignment that they tasked us with. We had to make a useless invention related to a topic. My partners, Chris and Kevin, both worked hard and while laughing, to create a bookcase in which can hold books while walking around the library. Our topic was about “At School/Library” so we immediately thought of books. My job was to make a fan, with cups and straws. I managed to create it; however, it wasn’t too presentable. With 10 minutes left on the clock, we managed to create pencils and replaced nails that were inside of a Mentos box with paper to make it seem more realistic. As soon as the instructor said that we had no more time, we organized everything that was inside the box and headed over to present. I went with Chris and had a blast presenting our invention. After all the groups presented, the instructors had to pick a winner in which they chose a group with the toilet. Even though we lost, I had a great time and many laughs with my group. I liked the Makerspace as they have interesting machines that I hope to test out.
I learned that there are not many welders and so it’s a career that’s in demand. I also learned that a manufacturing career has diverse opportunities, innovation and technology, involves problem solving, hands-on experiences and more. I learned the salary of different manufacturing jobs and the requirements for them. Let’s take a look at Welders and Cutters, which is a job that joins and shapes components using various welding and cutting techniques. Their average pay is $52,600 and the education required is high school, technical training, and apprenticeships. This type of knowledge will be useful towards the career that I hope to pursue. It was such a great opportunity to meet people who have first person experience.
Crystal Paul, Sophomore
My teacher Mr. Rodriguez and another teacher Mr. Crockford took a group of students to Brooklyn. Army Terminal. Brooklyn Army Terminal (BAT) is a modern industrial business for entrepreneurs in the making and other workers in the same position. Overall, I can say that trip was a 10/10 if I’m being honest. I got to meet my future architecture teacher Mr. Crockford. When we got there we were introduced to 4 people. They were like the top 4 of the company. There was this one man named Scott and he was our tour guide, and the first thing he showed us was a type of maker that can just make anything you want when you send it a picture. I wonder if I could make a +-Shirt from scratch. Next he took us to some old machines from 1997 and way back they used it to shape stuff. Lastly, we went to the backroom to the Flow Water Jet, where we put on goggles and stood in front of a machine with a high water pressure and watched it cut through glass. For the competition for the most useless object, my group’s project was called the “Toilet Cleaner 6000” and we won and got a free class to come learn how to use their products. And last of all, we got to laugh, talk, and have a good time.
Jake Kadar, Sophomore
We went to Makerspace NYC today to learn about the manufacturing industry, and one of the conversations we had was about machining metal. We were shown a milling machine, and we learned that it was really good for precision machining and had a very wide range of motion. It could turn in so many different ways. We were also told that a lot of the time, you would go in between the milling machine and the lathe, a machine that spins a piece of metal (or wood) around that you can cut into while it spins. Then we were shown the old standard milling machine, the Bridgerton Mill. These Bridgerton Mills were around 60-80 years old and the guy said that he trusts them more than the new mills. Throughout the whole conversation, the importance of safety was heavily emphasized because of how sharp the tools were. Overall, this trip was really fun, interesting, and informative.