A look at 2019.
Join the Vector Space team and compete in this year’s nationwide Youth Biomimicry Challenge, where we'll take inspiration from nature to solve man-made problems. Learn about different systems and processes in nature and use them to design solutions that mitigate climate change. This project will combine engineering, prototyping, documentation, and record taking, before submitting our project to the official competition.
More information and registration is available at: https://vector-space.org/biomimicry
This semester, four students from the Empowerment Academy spent their Wednesday afternoons at Vector Space launching their own businesses. Trianna, Jayla, Michael, and Jamar each came up with a business idea, acquired materials using their alloted budget, and produced a line of products. Using skills and inspiration gained at the makerspace, spent time identifying a customer, researching the market, and then got to work designing and building their line of products. Some students used digital tools to design and produce their items, while others sketched plans and got to work with hand and power tools. Hear more for each student below, and come see the results of their hard work this Saturday, Dec 14, at the Lynchburg Community Market in downtown.
From Trianna: In my semester at Vector Space I started a business called Glowbies. I went online to find my ideas but I created my own twist. I used acrylic for my design on the laser cutter. I feel like everything was easy except the measurement part and how much time we had, but I had fun. Now that I have done this I want to coutinue my business and create things for the world to see.
From Jamar: This semester we went to different resturants for menu design ideas. We came up with three types for Grey's. Which are wood, plastic, and acrylic. I think they look amazing and restaurants will like it. I learned how to use a laser cutter, and I recreacted the menu using Inkscape.
From Jayla: In my semester at Vector Space we started J.L.C., Jays Luxurious Creations, and my idea was chairs for children. Now that the holiday is coming families will need extra seating and play seats for the kids. My creation is made of wood with comfy seat cushions and the decoration is fun and kid-like. Since i started this program I have gotten better with my wood working skills, using all types of tools, and I plan to go on in the future doing more.
We are excited to announce an expansion, with work beginning next month! Since opening at 402 Fifth Street in Spring 2015, we have expanded once before in 2017, refinishing the unoccupied second floor of the building. Now we will work with landlord Riverfront Warehouse to incorporate nearly 4,000 additional square feet at 406 Fifth Street.
An internal double doorway will connect the two spaces and membership access will include both buildings. The additional space will house a newly expanded woodshop, as well as private office and studio spaces. This additional space will ensure safe working conditions for growing membership numbers and allow for new educational programming. Membership is currently at 92 individuals, with enrollment for new members open again in January. Vector Space serves more than 300 local students in project-based classes and workshops each year. New summer camp offerings will be available this summer, expanding the reach and depth of educational programming.
Are you moving?
What are the plans for expansion?
How can I support this growth?
Words from our Director of Education
Education inside a community makerspace overcomes many of the struggles of traditional education, including the propensity for overspecialization and isolation of content. It happens in schools that separate subject areas by hallways and in universities that use entire buildings to keep the humanities distanced from sciences. And with even more severity, entire institutions are used to keep the academic separate from the vocational. It’s an approach that has no doubt been successful in creating division between these worlds, generating pride in our overspecialization and resentment toward the others as we fail to communicate across boundaries. What we’re left with are specialists; programmed to perform specialized tasks when given specialized inputs. It has become commonplace for a practicing engineer to have never held a thermocouple or repaired a motor. People who are expected to design things are no longer expected to have built things and the result is a troubling lack of understanding. Rarely can the mechanical engineer work on their own failing automobile transmission, and rarely can the electrician program a simple microcontroller. Great thinkers and innovators need relevant hands-on experience to solidify their academic learning, and at Vector Space, we make it our goal to merge these worlds.
But to stop at what people can and can’t do in their isolated worlds would fall short of identifying a deeper problem. Worse is what we fail to even think about, let alone attempt to learn and understand. Consider the man-made inventions most important in your life, then imagine not having them. Clocks, clothes, pen and paper; most of us think of these things as trivial and unworthy of our attention until we don’t have them. This isn’t a new observation nor one that only plagues the uneducated. Carter G. Woodson recognized the problem a century ago, speaking of his highly educated peers, “Unless they happen to become naked they never think of the production of cotton or wool; unless they get hungry they never give any thought to the output of wheat or corn; unless their friends lose their jobs they never inquire about the outlook for coal or steel, or how these things affect the children whom they are trying to teach. In other words, they live in a world, but they are not of it.” Little seems to have changed; so few of us know anything about these items: where they come from, what they’re made of, how they’re made, why they’re made the way they are. When these simple things fail, or when their supply comes to a stop, as happened in post-war Japan, are you able to repair or recreate these essentials? War may be too extreme and unlikely a condition to motivate your learning, but such an unwelcome motivator shouldn’t be necessary. If we ignore the things our lives rely on, then what is worth our attention? Understanding how a shirt is made isn’t just important to aspiring fashion designers, it’s important to people who wear shirts, or pants, or clothes.
We have developed a series of camps for rising college freshmen from around the country that will bridge this divide, opening minds to a breadth of content, in a way that has lasting impact. The camps immerse students in a world that takes the time to consider how seemingly simple things are made, and in doing so recognize the deep connections that exist across disciplines. The camshaft in an engine has as much relevance to the sewing student as it does the automotive student, though traditionally only one of these students would receive this lesson. These educational experiences focus on making simple things from scratch, or as close to scratch as we can get. They require a variety of skills, led by top educators from around the country who bring different perspectives and approaches, attended by students from around the country with vastly different interests, visited by guest speakers ready to share a unique perspective on the world, interspersed with site visits to acquire materials from the source and wisdom from those around us, and topped by cultural evening experiences, led by a cultural guide, to remind us of the humanities in our communities and the importance of our communal engagement. These camps are designed to make makers: an experience with life changing impact.
Since 2015, Vector Space has been educating the public through maker education, an approach that deals not just in breadth of content, but also in experiences of deep engagement. This approach is one that sets high expectations and learns from failures, that demonstrates trust, that recognizes the importance of past experiences, of individuality, of history’s role in motivating learners, of the building of new knowledge upon old, the recognition of learning’s creeping pace, the construction of knowledge through tangible creation, the idea that knowledge should not be kept secret, and trust that students can take initiative, make decisions, and be accountable for results.
We have implemented these principles and refined our approach during the last four years, leading students in the creation of drones, capsules launched 150,000 feet into the atmosphere, projects that merged fashion with computer programming and electronics, the creation of custom bicycles and skateboards, and an autonomous boat that sailed the James River using computer vision. These are only a few among the dozens of maker education programs that we are proud to have developed and led. We have seen the impact these programs have on students: motivation toward further education, engagement in community, and a passion for knowledge. We hear it from our students and their parents, sometimes during the course of the project and sometimes years later. Most telling of all is when a handmade gift arrives on our doorstep, courtesy of a former student.
The trend toward isolation is deeply embedded in our culture and certainly not one to be blamed solely on our universities. Nevertheless, rising college students are pressured into this pattern more than anyone. They’re put into an environment that encourages specialization, surrounded by others studying the same content, taught by people focused solely on that content, seeking jobs that utilize that content. This is the time to impart a lasting reminder that there’s knowledge to be gained from every facet of life, and this knowledge has value beyond the laboratory in realms outside a single industry. But if we don’t take the time to recognize these connections, if we learn in isolation, we’ll build isolated minds and isolated lives. The things we rely on are important, they have lessons to teach us, ones that can open minds to connections, processes, and ideas never considered. To make them is to understand them, and it’s the first step in becoming someone who is of the world.
Teach at Vector Space in Summer 2020!
Vector Space is seeking one or more maker educators to work alongside co-instructors during three, one-week maker camps in Central Virginia during July 2020. Since our founding in 2015, Vector Space has earned a reputation for our exciting and immersive STEAM programs for teens. Our unique programs have launched rockets and space balloons, combined fashion + tech on the runway, added public art to our city, designed autonomous boats and FPV drones, and more. This is an opportunity for a maker educator with at least 3-5 years experience to join our most ambitious project yet, as we invite rising college freshman from around the country to learn about the world in a new way before they set off for campus life for the first time. Qualified educators should have a wide expanse of expertise, though formal training in all familiar subjects is not expected.
Camp specifics are linked and listed below, as well as history and background about our organization and the Lynchburg, Virginia area. To apply to teach multiple camps, you must submit multiple appliations (non camp-specific answers may be copy/pasted when applying for more than one week). To preview application questions in PDF form, click here.
Summer 2020 Maker Camp Schedule
About These Camps
The task of the college student can feel overwhelming. Sent hundreds of miles from home into an environment unlike any they have experienced before, expected to live independently while simultaneously tasked with learning the depths of thermodynamics and calculus. Navigating dorm furniture, food plans, a laptop with decent wifi connection, and parking passes. But at its core, the task is simple: the student must wake up, get dressed, and take notes. To read more about our educational philosophy at Vector Space and how we are changing the future of youth in our programs, click here.
About Vector Space
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. Our mission is to build an open and collaborative community that fosters innovation, creativity, and the pursuit of science-based knowledge.
The makerspace is member-based for adults, and offers workshops for teens and adults. During and after school maker education programs are offered throughout the school year and during summer months. Our classes, workshops and projects inspire members to share knowledge, learn from each other, and mentor others. Each lesson is hands-on and taught by local makers 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.
Lynchburg, Virginia is a small city of 80,000 residents, nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains and bordered by the beautiful James River. Like many former trade and manufacturing cities across America, ours is undergoing tremendous growth and revitalization after a devastating mid-century move towards suburbs and strip malls. In the last twenty years, Lynchburg residents are slowing beginning to look back up at the historic facades that have been mostly preserved, and are remembering a history of thriving maker businesses in downtown.
Vector Space is loced in Lynchburg’s historic and vibrant downtown district. Locally owned storefronts, coffee shops, eateries, and more offer unique and memorable opportunities year round. Multiple new restaurants and retail spaces are opening each year, while natural beauty remains accessible within city limits on the river, the rails-to-trails bike path, and along miles of beautiful hiking trails. Our home on 5th Street, formerly the thriving center for African American businesses, was once an abandoned retail area with high crime rates but has come back to life with the opening of the makerspace, restaurants, and small storefronts that have either survived the worst or returned to find a corridor almost reminiscent of its bustling past. Lynchburg is the home of five colleges and universities and the median age of residents is 28.7, providing a young audience invested in craft food, local culture, and meaningful objects and experiences.
This program is generously funded by Cognizant's Making the Future program, which seeks to inspire young learners to pursue science, technology, engineering and math disciplines by creating fun, hands-on learning opportunities.
One week it's art, the next week we're all business.
Immediately following our successful Public Art Camp, we welcomed a new group of students for our one week Entrepreneur Camp at Vector Space. Five students ages 10-12 spent one week launching a business and creating a line of products. The final event of their project is a booth at the Downtown Lynchburg Association's Get Downtown street festival on Friday, September 6th.
We began the week with a lesson on business: business plans, prioritizing expeneses, budgeting, market research, customer conversations, and more. During lunch we heard from guest speaker Becky Booth, Director of the Center for Economic Education at the University of Lynchburg, who had some great advice and sample youth-run businesses to share with us. Next, a lesson in sound and audio prepared students to create a custom line of speakers using a new technology called exciters. These nifty electronics turn any object into a speaker- although testing was needed to determine what makes the best quality speaker. Our students questioned and debated a few options before landing on an eco-friendly, digitally designed line of home audio speakers.
On Tuesday students began designing their speakers. Using graphic design software to digitally draw their work, we made practice pieces on the laser cutter and the vinyl cutter. They learned to design stencils, how to cut and engrave on the laser, and how to design a one-color sticker. Each of these techniques went on to become the means of getting digital designs onto the wooden speaker panels, which also needed to be prepped for use via sanding and cutting. Wednesday each student was busy creating two speaker designs, while we also set out looking for a chair to become our pièce de résistance. With a bass speaker installed in the back of the chair, this full-immersion audio experience is one for the geekiest of video lovers. Guest speaker Aaron Skeen of Rosetta Coffee discussed pricing structures, marketing efficiency, and how to build a strong brand with our students.
On Thursday speaker producation continued, with guest speaker Jeff Gray of Scene 3 Designs sharing his business model, including all recycled materials and custom designed packaging, as well as advice for deisplay setup and selling at an event. Students learned to solder and began assembling the exciters to be ready to mount on the speaker wood. Feeling short on time and products, students used hand painting and abstract spray painting techniques to hurry the production process along. Students also decided that if sales go well and we exceed our expenses, the proceeds would go towards a pizza party and stocking the Lynchburg Free Pantry.
On Friday students finished building, mounting, and testing speakers. We also turned our focus back to the business, deciding on our booth layout and creating necessary pieces to compete it. A screen printed table cloth and handmade display rack bring the look together. Tabletop information and tags on each speaker help inform customers about the products and the company.
Are you looking forward to supporting a young entrepreneur at Get Downtown? Here is a preview of what our students designed and created this week:
- Porter: Locally themed speakers, including laser engraved Virginia state elements for the sophisticated shopper
- Lucas: Our graphic design maven, he has limited runs of laser engraved speakers available for makers and Lynchburg lovers
- Katie: A fruit theme and two methods of vinyl cut stencil painting set her colorful speakers apart
- Elizabeth: Her focus was unwavered from day one and her world map speakers will appeal to travel fans
- Connor: Targeting the pre-teen demographic, his laser-cut stencil and spray paint techniques will be on display
Each student brought a unique design aesthetic and possitive attitude toward teamwork to the project. We are proud of their work and hope to see lots of support at Get Downtown on Sept 6th from 6:30-10pm on Main Street!