Vector Space was founded by Adam and Elise Spontarelli in 2015, and they remain the primary staff at Vector Space. After nearly ten years in more traditional careers, they left their normal, predictable lives behind to pursue their passion. Adam is an engineer, and he loves it. He does more engineering at Vector Space than he ever did at a desk, and couldn't be happier about it. With a background in graphic design, Elise's life's work won't be complete until she has physically fabricated one of her designs in every medium possible. Vector Space is her second entrepreneurial venture, and probably not her last. Both Spontarellis enjoy building things with their children, two creative and adventurous boys, and love the strong and supportive community they have found here in Lynchburg. Outside of making, they enjoy biking, non-fiction, and travel.
Making a Makerspace
It turns out that, unlike some other business ventures one could pursue, there is no template or formula for creating a makerspace. We have visited dozens of 'spaces around the country, and they are each unique. Our own makerspace is part traditional hacker club- that is, a strong group of members that support and learn from each other, sharing their knowledge freely- with the addtion of award-winning, intentional educational programs for teens and adults. Prior to opening up shop, a startup team met with everyone in this city who would talk to us about our idea, and we have continued to grow in the direction of need, feedback, and within modest means ever since. We opened our doors in February 2015 with $1,000 worth of wood tools, a 3D printer, and 4,000 square feet of otherwise empty warehouse space. In 2017 a renovation of the second floor added another 4,000 square feet of space and a designated textiles area, computer lab, and blacksmithing. The latest expansion is wrapping up now, bringing the space to 12,000 total square feet with a newly expanded wood shop, fully outfitted machine shop, and more room for welding and other metal work.
We believe that a community makerspace should belong to the community. The internal community of members that use, care for, and advance the makerspace. The external community of partner organizations and indiviuals that can benefit from the resources that our tools and people can provide. Vector Space is deeply involved in our community and this is a mutally beneficial setup. The ability to triple in size and numbers in less than four years is thanks to hard work and dedication, sure, but equally integral has been the support of the community in Lynchburg and throughout Central Virginia.
Our educational philosophy builds on the foundations of John Dewey, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, and Lev Vygotsky, and is in line with the more current philosphies of Dale Dougherty and Simone Giertz. We know that teaching without doing is an incomplete lesson- like cooking without tasting. We have seen the smiles of joy, heard the yelps of excitement, watched the flush of pride, and received the appreciative feedback that is the result of making something successfully. We are equally familiar with the sound of an incorrectly soldered circuit popping, the crash of the laser head into the side of the machine, the sight of a failed 3D print, and the crushing feeling of diappointment when things break, or don't work to begin with. Both of these feelings- elation and dejection, are part of why making is so vitally important. High fiving your team after your rocket launches successfully is fantastic, but so is the head-down disappointment and subsequent rebuilding after your space balloon takes off without it's payload. If the world could see what these teens are capable of when we hand them a new tool and a far-off goal, we would all feel better about the future.
Vector Space is a nonprofit makerspace: a physical place for people interested in science, technology, engineering, art, and math to collaborate, invent, discover, and build the things that interest them. A place where students, hobbyists and professionals hone their craft, share their knowledge, and learn new things. Our mission is to build an open and collaborative community that fosters innovation, creativity, and the pursuit of science-based knowledge. Vector Space is a place where lifelong learners can come to expand their knowledge and explore their interests through hands-on projects. We place a focus on making the connection between personal interests and academic learning of science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics. Our classes, workshops and projects will inspire members to share knowledge, learn from each other, and mentor others. Each lesson is hands-on and taught by local experts and professionals: professors, engineers, graphic designers, woodworkers, computer scientists and more. Vector Space a is nonprofit corporation managed by a Board of Directors and organized exclusively for educational and scientific purposes as defined by section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. All donations are tax deductible.
How Does it Work?
Members pay a monthly fee for 24/7 access to the space, tools, and basic materials. Access to the space means having access to the computer and electronics lab, the textile room, the 3D printer, and the lounge, class, and conference rooms. Once you pass our tool safety course, your RFID tag will be given access to the fabrication workshop, giving you access to all of our woodworking and metalworking tools. Once you’re done for the day, you can leave your work in progress in our storage area. Basic materials are also included, such as plywood, sheet metal, and resistors; not included: Zebrawood, carbon fiber rods, and type K thermocouples. With access to 4,000 sqft of space, tens of thousands of dollars worth of tools, and an incredible community of diverse and talented makers, you won’t have any excuse as to why you haven’t finished building your solar powered stink bug collecting robot. Members also enjoy discounts on workshops and events.