FAQ

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What is a Makerspace or Hackerspace?

One way to explain makerspaces and hackerspaces is to say that they are collaborative work environments. However, both types are also extremely varied spaces in terms of organization, mission, culture, scope, and size. There are small workshops where a few good friends get together to drink homebrew beer and hack on custom-designed 3D printers. There are sprawling spaces hundreds-strong, a small village barter economy - with ideas and imagination as currency.

One aspect that is almost completely unique to hackerspaces is environment hacking: new furniture, storage space, workstations, lighting, and rooms. Most people are conditioned by having to grow up, learn, live and work in environments that have been created for them from the top down. Red Mountain Makers completely inverts this social construct, and instead empowers its members to create their own environment, grassroots style.

It's a place for tinkerers and hobbyists to talk shop and compare notes. It's an unbounded blank canvas for creation, where ideas can be put to the test, things set on fire, and the stuff of legends cast in the forge of blood, sweat, and tears. Or just tablespace to work on your soldering skills. It's really up to you, as a participant, to create and define what the space ultimately becomes. Will it be a mere reflection of yourself? A composite, stained-glass mural of its member ids and egos? Or does it emerge into its own strange and magnificent creature?

The Hackerspace Manifesto embodies Red Mountain Makers' values.

These sites give a great introduction to hackerspaces and the growing maker movement:

Makerspace members both create and contribute to community projects. Project may involve as few as a couple of participants at a local makerspace, to many thousands of contributors across the internet. Some examples of projects that inspire makerspaces include:

Here's a few other collected thoughts from the web about making and hacking, the stuff of real, meaningful, important and relevant work:

What is Red Mountain Makers, exactly?

Red Mountain Makers is a non-profit makerspace and community, incorporated as an Alabama non-profit February 2013, and recognized as a federal 501(c)3 December 2014. We're run by our members and volunteers. Our purpose is to engage in scientific and artistic research, experimentation, and education. We provide a work space, a collaborative and supportive community of peer and project based education related to technology and artistic expression. We also support the use and development of free and open software, hardware and design.

How do I get to the Red Mountain Makers space?

5502 1st Avenue North Birmingham, AL 35212

  • By car: [1]
  • By transit: Take BJCTA Route 28 South Eastlake and get off on 1st Avenue North at 55th Street. It will take about 20 minutes from the central terminal downtown.
  • By bike: ride out from downtown along 1st Avenue North, or along 4th Avenue South to 3rd Avenue South (where the one-ways become a two-way again) or along 5th Avenue. Where 5th Avenue and 3rd Avenue join, follow 3rd Avenue. When you ride under the railroad overpass, look for 55th Street on your left. Turn and ride north to 1st Avenue North. Turn right and you'll be at the space.

Where should I park my car?

There is a municipal parking lot to the east of the building. There is also on street parking on 1st Avenue North.

Can I show up to visit the space at any time to check it out?

No, especially if you were not expected, and/or no one knows who you are. Keyholders (dues-paying members who have keys) are in and out of the space at odd times. Instead of stopping by randomly, please send an email to secretary at red mountain makers dot org, and make arrangements to visit. Good times are late Sunday afternoons and evenings, Tuesday evening or Thursday afternoon and evening.

What kind of services do you offer?

Red Mountain Makers is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. We don't sell products or offer services. Our customer support is terrible. Red Mountain Makers does not provide on-demand 3D printing, materials or machine time for construction of prototypes, or consulting for patent applications, engineering, or software. We do have a couple of 3D printers for member use.

The space has;

  • wifi
  • a larger meeting room with multi-media support and three work stations.
  • a smaller rougher meeting area with a table and chairs.
  • an office, with printers, a photocopier and standard office equipment.
  • a bio lab, with a current focus on fermentation, mushroom culture and work with biological materials (dyes, fibers, raw materials for other processes).
  • a computer lab.
  • a circuits lab with basic testing and soldering equipment, well-lit work stations and the beginning of a decent parts inventory.
  • a hack zone full of salvageable parts and equipment.
  • a fiber lab (sewing space) with looms, two sewing machines, two sergers, and a heavy-duty industrial machine that can handle leather, webbing and heavy canvas.
  • a workshop (the shape lab).
  • a growing technical library.
  • a kitchen for snacks and reheating of meals.
  • member storage areas.
  • individual studios and work rooms (one currently available).

Under construction:

  • a photo lab - maybe. We need someone to lead this area. Could be focused on exposure chemistry or screenprinting.
  • a ceramics lab.
  • a metal lab.

While we don't do things for members directly, we do provide appropriate space for self-directed and collaborative projects, ranging from programming, to 3D-printing, sewing, silk-screening, molding and wood-working. We're starting to run classes. We know of other city groups who are doing makerish things in other subject matter, such as MAKEbhm, Paperworker's Local, Sons of Vulcan, Bib & Tucker Sew Op, Space One Eleven, and Jones Valley Teaching Farm.

What are your hours?

Right now, we don't keep regular hours, but somebody is usually around most evenings during the week, on Saturdays. We have an open lab from noon to five on Thursday afternoons, and the space meetings late Sunday afternoon/early Sunday evening. Our members are more than willing to show off the space and its projects! Send an email to secretary at red mountain makers dot org, and we will make arrangements.

Red Mountain Makers is open 24/7 to key-holding members.

What is the best time to stop by and see it for myself?

We haven't yet established an official open house night. Probably time we did so.

Our organizational meetings are at 7 pm on Sundays, with board meetings at 6 pm on the second Sunday of the month (most of the time. December can be a bit mixed up). We have two regular activity nights on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7 pm. One keyholder hosts an open lab time on Thursday afternoons. Check out and join our Meetup group for the schedule and to RSVP.

How can I get more involved?

Red Mountain Makers is a member-supported nonprofit organization. We're always looking for active new members, donors, and supporters. There are many ways to get started. One way is to bring us something from our Wish List! Help organize a workshop. Add equipment you find desirable to one of the lab equipment purchase lists. Help us start the maker scholarship pool (sponsored membership for a deserving maker who is short on funds). The most important thing that is required for membership is enthusiasm. One of our goals is education and we'll teach you whatever you'd like to know. Don't wait for a class on it either - find a subject matter expert (SME) in the area that your interested in and they'll help you get started. Better yet - round up enough folks for a class and we'll help you organize and run it!

If we don't have a class/event/project/area that you'd like to see, start gathering an interest group to get it. If you can keep people excited about something, they'll help you build whatever you're looking for. The more we all do this, the stronger The Red Mountain Makers will become and the more resources you'll have at your disposal.

Why don't you organize "x"? (where x is the event you'd like to see happen in Birmingham)

One reason - available person power. As of Spring 2016, we have 50-odd passionate makers and keyholders who've worked hard to build out theSpace and gather equipment to create the workshops you see today. They all have day jobs and are doing so as committed community volunteers. We're going as fast as we can. It's the same for every other tech-focused group in the city.

If you want an event or activity for particular interests, join us, and use our existing online frameworks (event creation, ticket sales, and mailing lists) and connections to grow your community of interest. Bring your professional expertise and help us do it better. We know that there is a pent-up regional demand for regular youth tech and programming related activities. We've been working on getting groundwork in place to begin a youth interest group later this year and in 2017. These activities take place in only one-third of regional middle and high schools, and we can't cover all those bases on our own. We need you. We need parents to tell the local boards that this is important and that an introductory programming elective should be included at the local high school. Other countries (Canada, Pakistan, India, Great Britain) have been doing so for over a decade - why doesn't Alabama?

Birmingham is at an interesting point now - there are small communities of interest, but they haven't unified across the region. In a metro area of 1.1 million, you need to develop one central group to get enough people to grow an interest community. Critical mass counts.

I have a fabric stash I can't use. Would you be interested in it?

Ooh. Hard one. Our Fiber Lab is full up - for now. We had a lot of donations this past year, and we've got a fair amount of kit in there.

  • Threads and yarns - we have lots
  • Notions? (Buttons, zippers, fastener systems) Less so.
  • Small tools, fabric modification and manipulation equipment? Awesome! - bring it on.

Beyond that, you're better off contacting the Bib & Tucker Sew Op, or posting items at the Birmingham ArtCycle FaceBook page - many artists who can put your stash to work with community groups monitor posts.

I have a garage full of gear. Would you be interested in it?

It depends on what it is.

  • Sorted and tidy arrays of screws, nails, fasteners, hinges, wheel sets, small hand tools in good repair, working power tools - probably.
  • Extension cords and newer electrical - yes.
  • Lumber and wood - it depends on what it is. We have limited wood storage space on-site.

Email the shapelabhost at redmountainmakers dot org to make arrangements.

  • Metal and metal-working tools - contact the metallabhost at redmountainmakers dot org
  • Circuits, electronics, testing and bench tools - contact the circuitslabhost at redmountainmakers dot org.
  • Fermentation equipment - contact the biolabhost at redmountainmakers dot org

I have a piece of equipment that isn't working. Would you be interested in it?

If it's small and full of hackable parts (gears, rotary bits, switches) -- and if we have space for it in the Hack Zone -- probably. If we don't have room, then no, thank you for thinking of us, you're better taking it straight to electronics recycling.

We will not accept any CRT devices - they are bulky, take up too much space and there are constraints on component recycling.

If it's a larger piece of equipment that isn't too old, is robust, meets current safe shop practices and whom we can find a member willing to take on repair responsibility, we can talk.

I have a piece of equipment that is working, and that my company is removing from production use. Would you be interested in it?

It depends what it is.

We're looking for CNC equipment, cutting tables, lasers, vacuum-forming units, vacuum tables, UV exposure tables, mixing units, paint booths... manufacturing and milling equipment that can be used for small-batch prototyping and short production runs of objects made with fabric, fiber, composites, plastic, resin, wood and metals. In our current space, units need to be compact, multi-purpose, have appropriate safety switches, and be suitable for operation by novices. If that describes what you're interested in donating, let's talk.

How much are dues?

As of June 1, 2016

Rate increase voted in by Red Mountain Makers keyholders at the March 27th 2016 general meeting. This is to ensure that we have enough income to cover a July 2016 rent increase to $1,000/month and other base operational expenses.

Maker - $20/month
Keyholder, base fee - $40/month
Family members (Age 13+) may be added as part of a family group for an additional $20/month each
On-site storage - additional $10/month ($50 total)
Private work area - additional $80/month ($120 total)
Large private work area (one only) - additional $160/month ($200 total)
Available discounts (for members taking on lab hosting and space admin roles):
Lab host $20/month discount (must be a keyholder)
Admin $10/month discount (must be a keyholder)

Do you offer day passes or short-term membership?

We do not offer day passes or short-term membership.

The issue with short-term membership is that our community becomes strong by creating a high trust environment. Over time, people that have weak ties to our community and little investment in the continued success of the space may not take care of the basics, like keeping the space clean and putting away tools after working on a project. If a person is not interested in making a moderate commitment to Red Mountain Maker membership, then we encourage them to continue to attend our open houses, other public events, or to get involved in one of our community projects, all free of charge.

Do you have anything for kids?

At this time, it's very limited.

It's not that we're not interested in doing kid's activities.... and it's not that we're not interested in making this stuff available to kids - but we don't have enough time, money and person power. The space isn't suitable (unencased lead paint, no safety stops (yet) on the table saws, implemented safety systems not designed with children in mind, we don't have the greatest ventilation, and our current members, who aren't parents, aren't willing to take responsibility for another person's child.

There are some introductory maker activities being run at the McWane Center and at Mountain Brook's Emmet O'Neal Library. As of spring 2015, other makerspaces are under development at the Vestavia Library in the Forest and the City of Birmingham central downtown branch with finished facilities projected to be available in 2017. Birmingham is lagging other cities within the US regarding this type of instruction -- and DEFINTELY lagging behind Canada, Great Britain and the E.U. countries. We are very interested in helping other community groups get activities started for kids.

Some key-holding members bring their older children to the space to work on projects, and as of April 2015, we're developing a family membership. Parents are responsible for supervising the children at all times, and are responsible for the conduct of the child or teen while at the space.

If you, as a parent, would like to lead development of youth activities under the RMM banner - AWESOME!! - we'll help you every way we can. The existing membership and leadership have a mess of other things that we need to finish before we even consider tackling this. But if you can lead it - GREAT!! We'll help you find resources, coding tutorials and courses and projects.

Are my donations tax-deductible?

Yes. We issue tax receipts for donations (money, items and in-kind) at the end of each fiscal year. See our Wish List page for more information about what we need.

Is the Red Mountain Makers an independent 501(c)3 charity organization?

Yes! As of December 2014, we are a federally recognized 501(c)3 charitable organization. Contact the Treasurer for more information.

I have a question and I don't see the answer here. I think it should be in your FAQ. What should I do?

Send your question to redmtnadmin at redmountainmakers dot org. We'll add it with the answer.