When I share stories of our student projects at Vector Space, I almost always find an interested listener. And when that listener sometimes submits their idea for a future project, it often comes with the larger suggestion that an urgent and pragmatic need be filled, that students make 3D printed prosthetic hands or braille readers for the blind or traffic counters for the city. There's nothing particularly wrong with these ideas, in fact we've done our fair share, but as much as they are offered with great intentions, they are also offered in naivete; a lack of understanding about the differences between novices and experts in their capacity to develop solutions to real world problems, and a lack of understanding about what it is that best engages and educates.
It may be that while reflecting on these conversations, I decided that for our next project, students would make and race go-karts. While it may be true that if we had instead focused our efforts on developing a hydrogen fueled car, we may have contributed to the prosperity of millions, but what would it mean for a student without the necessary prior knowledge to participate in such a project? The further from prior experience the task becomes, the less involved the students will be, until at some point they no longer play any meaningful role but serve more like passive viewers, streaming an interesting documentary. In contrast, by making a go-kart, an endeavor that I would readily admit solves no practical problems other than the education of 8 high school students, the students involved were hands on in nearly every aspect. Though they did not design the karts, they were given a budget and chose a design they thought would fit. They provided a bill of materials to their instructors, and over the following weeks, parts started pouring in. Our pile of steel tube gradually whittled away as students interpreted engineering drawings in order to cut parts to the right length and angle, learning the use of different saws for different situations: the horizontal bandsaw for straight cuts, the coldsaw for mitered cuts, the vertical bandsaw for steep or compound angles, and the belt grinder for cleaning up rough edges. The assembly of nearly one hundred different parts into their exact location in three dimensions is no easy task, a lesson these students learned again and again. The inaccuracies of each cut add up during assembly, until what was once a single degree becomes inches of misalignment, and the best way to move forward isn't to demand greater precision, but to use methods of assembly that compensate for such errors. Once parts were temporarily fixed in place, the welding began. It's tempting to think that the short edges of 1-1/4in square tube couldn't possibly amount to very much surface to be welded, but by the power of multiplication, those many edges had students welding for eight weeks, consuming twenty pounds of welding wire in the process. It's not just the fitup that poses challenges. In the process of mounting the engine and seat, students learned that the best approach is far from intuitive. Making an engine race ready isn't just a matter of bolting it in place. A three degree wheel camber and two degree toe in isn't a simple thing to measure.
Even when your first test drive has nuts rattling loose and parts falling to the ground, there's something deeply satisfying about driving your very own creation, something that urges you on when you would otherwise become discouraged by setback. With every test drive came inspiration for improvements and reminders of the disastrous effects of vibration on bolted connections and the importance of torque specifications. Every engine misfire, steering difficulty, broken bolt, and braking deficiency posed a new mystery to be solved, and by the end of twelve weeks immersed in the life of a go-kart maker, these students became suddenly capable of finding solutions. But let that not overshadow the feeling of driving your kart 30 miles per hour over dirt and mud, of racing your friends for the glory of the best lap time, and of rescuing them from deep within the woods where their wheel sheared off on an oak tree. This is how we impact a handful of lives as best we can.
Thanks to instructors Adam Spontarelli, Eddie Nemitz, and Jeremie Carriaga.
Participating in one of our camps or projects is like joining a sports team. Coaches lead small teams through immersive and ambitious projects. The teammates work closely with each other and with their coach as they learn the skills necessary to solve the problems they've been given. Each of our four one-week summer camps for 2021 promises to be a fun, creative adventure. Camps are open to teens ages 14-19. Scholarships, schedules, instructors, COVID protocols, and registration are all available on the Projects page.
This year our Maker Faire Lynchburg planning team put together a series of videos to take viewers behind the scenes with local makers. At a time when we could not gather in person, we wanted to bring you closer than ever to the making process. We conducted more than 20 interviews, shop tours, tutorials, and more to give you a peek at the motivation and momentum that drives local makers. In planning a virtual event we were hard-set against creating content you could find elsewhere online, or redundant stories that have already been told. These are the makers here in our community, and their process is their own. When you eat their food, use their goods, and take their classes you are supporting a local ecosystem of makers right here in your neighborhood. We are excited to introduce new faces and take you behind the scenes of some of your favorite local brands.
We whole-heartedly recommend that you watch each of our 21 maker videos. But, to make it easier to find what you're most looking for, we broke it down by medium and genre for your viewing pleasure. Until next year, enjoy Maker Faire Lynchburg 2021!
Kime Design - Lathe turned wooden rolling pins and bowls Scene3 Designs - Upcycled skateboards transformed into beautiful home goods
Iron & Earth - Hand forged knives with carved wood handles Laxton Forge - Everything blacksmithing: knives, hooks, decor, and more Chelsea Tinklenberg - Industrial motors and kitchen essentials mix and move in Chelsea's sculptural art Siobhan Byrns - Tin types, cyanotype, and more; photography that mixes modern tech with traditional techniques
Nugent Koscielny - Mixed media artist and educator, making frames and filling them with art Christina Davis - Artist and art instructor, painting on a variety of non-traditional canvases
Ted Batt - A tour of the Academy Center of the Arts May Carter Pottery Studio Kenny Tinklenberg - Ceramic artist, demonstrating hand built and wheel thrown techniques
Chelsea Tinklenberg - Industrial motors and kitchen essentials mix and move in Chelsea's sculptural art Gioia Calabretta - New Covenent Schools student with her award-winning 3D printed art piece
Amazement Square - Tour The Hive makerspace, a place of exploration for kids and their adults Heritage High School Makerspace - Tour the space and see what creative ways students are utilizing maker tools Gioia Calabretta - New Covenent Schools student with her award-winning 3D printed art piece BWXT - Two tutorials for hands-on projects by the Women in Manufacturing group
From February 15 through February 20, bid on items from our makers including art, home goods, fashion accessories, private lessons, and more. Every item is either made here in Central Virginia, or designed to inspire YOU to make something. Our community has put together some truly remarkable work, including several one-of-a-kind items.
How does it work?
The online auction will go live on Monday, February 15 at 6:00am. You can browse with no obligation or registration! When you've found the perfect piece and you're ready to bid, you will be prompted to register and enter payment information. You can bookmark items to come back to, and if you are outbid you will be notified by text or email, whichever you prefer. Bidding ends at 1:00pm on Saturday, February 20th.
To learn more about the items in the auction and our mission at Vector Space, you are invited to join our founders live online February 19 at 7:00pm. We will reflect on our 5 amazing years on 5th Street, highlight some of the auction items and their makers, and send a special thank you to our community partners that have been there for us from the beginning.
Give a fun and rewarding experiential gift for the makers in your life! We have gift memberships for adults, and projects for teens. Not sure what your recipient would be most interested in? A general gift card can be used towards membership, classes, or projects. Please enter both your contact information AND the recipient's information. Recipients will not be contacted until after the holidays.
Please note that project and workshop fees vary; your recipient will recieve a discount code for the amount purchased to use toward a project or class of their choice.
Thank you for supporting your local community makerspace, and for encouraging creativity and innovation with your gift this year!
Details Membership: Membership is for those ages 18+ and offers 24/7 access to the makerspace, including a tour, orientation, and member communication portal. Safety training is available as well. Minimum 3 month sign up.
Teen Projects: Participating in one of our projects is like joining a sports team. Coaches lead small teams through immersive and ambitious projects. The teammates work closely with each other and with their coach as they learn the skills necessary to solve the problems they've been given. Project topics and schedules vary. Available to teens ages 14-18, no prior experience necessary. For past and upcoming project examples, visit: https://vector-space.org/projects
Workshops: All workshops at Vector Space are open to the public and do not require membership to attend. Many of our students come to learn how to make at Vector Space with no prior experience. Workshops are short term and usually focus on a single skill. They're a great way to learn something new! You can also gift a specific class by visiting our workshop page: https://vector-space.org/workshops
In August we hired Jess Coco as our new Workshop Coordinator. And now, workshops are back!! In October we are hosting public workshops for the first time since March. Blacksmithing, wood turning, graphic design, 3D printing, and welding are all on the schedule for this month, with wood carving, sewing, and more classes being added next month. We launched with eight classes in October, with a goal of 10-15 per month going forward. Whether you are learning a new tool or refining your skills, we have a fun, fully guided class that will walk you through it!
Our educational model prioritizes theory and practice; making sure you know not just WHAT to do but WHY. Each class is designed to introduce a tool and techniques, allow for practice time, and then students will produce a small project to take home. Each class is small so that students receive indivdualized attention and assistance from the instructor. Workshops are open to teens (14+) and adults, and pre-registration is required. All workshops at Vector Space are open to the public and do not require membership to attend. Many of our students come to learn how to make at Vector Space with no prior experience.
For COVID-19 safety during all classes, we ask that participants and instructors, as well as members working in the space, wear a mask indoors at all times while inside the building and maintain a safe distance of 6ft from each other at all times while at Vector Space.
We are excited to introduce our new Workshop Coordinator, Jessica Coco. Jess is a member at Vector Space, an adjunct math professor, and a life coach with a love for people and making.
Jessica Coco hails from central Florida. She has been teaching Mathematics at both the High School and College levels since 2010. Currently, she is an adjunct Math professor at CVCC and a Habit & Academic Coach as a side hustle for her own business called Silver Bullet Coaching. As a graduate of University of Lynchburg, she holds a Bachelors in Mathematics and a Masters of Science Education.
During her time in Florida and in Graduate school at UL, she was tasked with coordinating educational programs such as the Math Monitoring Program at Polk State College (FL) and the Peer Assisted Study Session Program at UL while in graduate school. Jessica has also had the opportunity to coach teachers with instructional strategies as well as new mountain bikers with bike handling skills, teach Yoga, develop/design new traditional and online courses, and judge STEM science fairs as well as assist students with STEM projects.
Since Jessica loves to learn and exploring, she has a wide range of hobbies and interests such as Yoga, mountain biking, sewing, drawing, crafting, and painting. In the near future, she hopes to add all of the Vector Space offerings, like wood and metal working to her list of hobbies!