'Maker space' at Burton Barr Library provides hands-on learning opportunities

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Photos by Amanda LaCasse

Children and parents tinker with snap circuits and other circuit boards for fun or to complete projects as part of Hacker Haven Tuesday nights at Burton Barr Central Library.

There are various other tools for hands-on creativity on the fourth floor of the downtown Phoenix library, including a 3D printer, sewing machines and laptop computers with knowledgeable adult sources around to help.

Hacker Haven is one of the Phoenix area’s more than one dozen so-called “maker spaces” — places where community members can create and learn in a variety of different areas. A maker space is any location where people can “come together, share ideas and create things,” the director of Hacker Haven Terry Ann Lawler said.

The maker spaces in the Valley are catalogued in a Google Maps. The map includes buttons highlighting many hidden gems in the Phoenix area and one up in Flagstaff.

The map is open source, which means anyone can add a maker space.

The maker space at Burton Barr also offers classes on Photoshop skills. Journalism freshman Natalie Tarangioli, who described herself as not very creative, said she would be interested in a Photoshop course because knowing the photo editing software is “a good skill to learn.”

Some maker spaces in the Valley, including HeatSync Labs in Mesa, are dedicated solely to electronically oriented skills.

Ryan McDermott works with HeatSync Labs, a computing-focused maker space he calls a “hacker space.” McDermott was on hand to assist with Tuesday night’s Hacker Haven at Burton Barr, helping young people work with hands-on projects.

McDermott hopes maker spaces will continue to be available in across the Phoenix area.

McDermott also said the maker spaces seem to mirror the general population of the given area.

The downtown community has a large number of galleries and artistic individuals throughout the area, including Roosevelt Row and Grand Avenue. Downtown is also home to the most “interesting, innovative and creative” people, said David Krietor, the CEO of Downtown Phoenix Inc.

Krietor said downtown Phoenix is expected to go through a period of population growth. With that growth, there will be room for new common spaces.

One of the perks of participating in a maker space is that there is “no pressure to conform to specific instructions,” Lawler said.

“(There is) freedom to create,” she said.

Contact the reporter at alexandra.watts@asu.edu