Making A Home For The Makers In Rockford

Dec 21, 2015

2014 was declared “The Year of the Maker” by a magazine dedicated to Do-It-Yourself culture. President Obama even hosted the first-ever Maker Faire at the White House. And as 2015 draws to a close, there’s an invigorated push in Rockford to create a space where people can get together to share ideas and equipment.

Kai Holdmann in the proposed Makerspace.
Credit Susan Stephens / WNIJ

  Imagine a community workspace where people can learn to weld while others use 3-D printers. Still others are programming computers to control machines to create exactly what they need for their projects.  Meanwhile, a child designs a robot to help take care of his sister:

“I would use an Arduino. Of course I’d use an Arduino.”

Kai Holdmann knows Arduino and other microcontrollers are the electronic “brains” behind many maker projects. His number one request for a workspace is one that includes people of all ages -- even young kids. His dad, Kevin Holdmann, is one of the planners of what they hope will soon be Rockford’s first Makerspace.

“My goal is to engage the community and find people who are interested in helping me start something. This needs to be a community effort and I wanted to start the ball rolling and get everybody who is interested on board and go!”

Rockford is known as a do-it-yourself town with a lot of talented people in the field of manufacturing. So it’s a natural location for a Makerspace, also known as a Hackerspace. A Rockford resident with a big idea has to travel a long way right now to get to one. And dropping in occasionally at one in Madison, Chicago, or the Quad Cities goes against the sense of community you get as a member of that DIY culture. Holdmann says Rockford’s Makerspace can be whatever people want it to be: a place for glassblowing, textiles, metalworking, welding…and it gets even more interesting when electronics and computer programming get involved. It’s a melding of arts and technology.

Another suggestion added to the list of ideas for a Rockford Makerspace.
Credit Susan Stephens / WNIJ

About 50 people attended the organizational meeting for the Rockford Makerspace last week to share their ideas about what they want and are willing to contribute. 

Holdmann owns a former warehouse in downtown Rockford that he’s offering as a location, and it’s already stocked with some equipment. The next steps are big ones: setting up committees and figuring out insurance for an operation with expensive, potentially dangerous equipment. Holdmann sees it being funded with a combination of memberships, grants, and donations. It could open by spring.