Vector Space is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and all donations are tax deductible. Each year we serve learners of all ages as they tinker, explore, and learn new skills in the makerspace.
This giving season, please consider a donation to support our educational programming at Vector Space. The makerspace turned five in February- and how good it felt to have something to celebrate! More than 40 makers contributed 56 items for our 5 Year Anniversary Auction, and we enjoyed a look back through the years with you during the live stream event. This milestone and the auction event are thanks to the partners and supporters that have helped us arrive here.
In March we continued with virtual programming, producing our first ever Virtual Maker Faire. With advanced planning and partnerships we managed to produce 21 videos featuring local makers with a wide variety of talents. From food and clothing to jewelry and traditional art, our makers included students, professionals, educators, and more. Our work was noticed by Make: Community, and featured globally as a model for virtual Maker Faire events, elevating our makers and our mission even further.
While many of our large community events remained virtual, it was a joy to have small groups of student makers attending in-person programming. Under the guidance of our talented educators, students dove into some big ideas at Vector Space this year: welding, technical drawings, engine mechanics, entrepreneurship, product design, e-commerce, environmental science, electronics, photography, storytelling, public art, and more. Both of our Rocketry teams were invited to compete in the National Flyoffs, and both finished in the top 5% of the competition, an elite level accomplishment. We push our rocket students intellectually, limiting their use of off-the-shelf products in favor of as many in-house designs as possible. I am tremendously proud of our teams for their hard work, and am thrilled that some of them are now studying aerospace at the university level. Each of our students left their mark on Lynchburg this year, whether that mark was burned rubber on a go-kart track, a line of custom hoodies being worn around town, data sensors collecting and sharing environmental status reports from our local creeks, or a 20 ft painted mural. Soon it will be hard to go about your day in Lynchburg without encountering the work of our makers!
While youth were busy, so were our second group of Women in Machining participants. Three women completed the 12 week program this year, making increasingly complicated work in the machine shop on the metal lathe and the milling machine. These women are now employed at Wegmann and Belvac, two of our local employer partners, and furthering their machinist education at Central Virginia Community College. Our youngest participant, Macie, has called this experience “life changing work”, which is precisely our goal with this intensive program designed to provide low-income women with a new career path, giving them not only the skills but the tools and resources needed to succeed in an industry that is 96% male nationally.
In August we hosted Lynchburg’s first Mathathon, an event celebrating math and collaborative problem solving. Again, we used our role as community hub to bring together 14 participants from 12 different organizations. They worked in shifts, and the group included high school and college students, engineers, computer science professionals, teachers, professors, and programmers who worked together to solve 51 Project Euler problems in 13.1 hours. In addition to hosting this endurance event, Vector Space developed original curriculum for K-12 students to get a taste of computational math, connected via Zoom with our local schools to work through an example of a difficult math problem in the classroom, and shared a live stream event interviewing our participants, your neighbors here in Central Virginia.
In the midst of all of this programming, in 2021 our membership grew by 45%. In order to serve these new makers, entrepreneurs, artists, and craftspeople, we implemented an internal leadership program of Shop Captains. These 16 volunteers are experts in their areas and committed to teaching others, improving the workshop, and cultivating fresh, new ideas for projects and tools. Collectively this group alone committed more than 200 volunteer hours to the makerspace since the program’s implementation in May. Programs like this one will allow us to continue growing our membership, providing access and training to more individuals in our community. As artist and new member Joy put it, “I’m so grateful to be a part of the Vector Space community. It feels like literally everything I have been dreaming of [for my art] is right here waiting for me to show up, to come to life.”
In addition to member engagement, we re-launched our monthly First Friday open house this summer, inviting all members of our community to make without barriers. Our member volunteers assist participants of all ages in free, hands-on activities like marshmallow shooters, pencil making, foam gliders, and pumpkin carving with power tools. We have moved this program outdoors to allow for safe physical distancing, and have served an average of 54 people per month since July. In 2022 this event will continue to be outdoors, with new infrastructure planned to support more attendees and all-weather participation.
As we look ahead to 2022, I am thrilled about the return of in person Maker Faire Lynchburg with our partners at Randolph College. There are, of course, exciting and ambitious student projects planned for next year, involving youth in their community in new ways. Please join me in celebrating another year here, as we know now how precarious these years can be. I am grateful for any support you can provide for Vector Space to continue making a difference in our community.
Please join us as we continue to improve the lives of individuals through access, education, and empowerment in Central Virginia.