Monday, February 08, 2016
1. You need someone dedicated to making sure people treat the equipment well, the place gets cleaned up, and the like. The student shop was a mess as nobody kept care of the tools, and I had to spend considerable time cleaning up (as a graduate student volunteer!) the bike coop to keep it in proper order, despite my constant e-mail blasts of "clean up you fools!"
2. Despite your best efforts, stuff will break continuously. It was cheap for us to replace a few cone-wrenches (~$20ish) but if someone is being dumb on a 3D printer--that's a whole different kettle of fish. What I've seen of the better places is that you have to show training on a specific item to use it, and so you'll need to make sure that there is training available.
3. Even if it's not broken, you need to make sure tools are sharp etc. for general safety and effectiveness.
4. Liability is an issue. The bike coop was covered as a student club (and we had no power-tools to really hurt yourself on). But it needs to be figured out one way or another.
Running the bike coop was probably THE defining experience of grad school for me, and was one of the best sources of learning I had for becoming a better experimentalist. It's a great investment, but don't half-ass it.
Secure storage of projects-in-progress. If you have to get to college by public transport, carrying the project in every time you want/are able to do work on it becomes an issue, unless the project is very small. If storage is provided, then it will need to be curated: "This student is still registered, but it is 3 years since they did any work on their widget. They'll get 2 e-mails then it will be scrapped."
Final ownership of joint projects. Students may club together and build a robot, without thinking about who will finally own it.
Materials & consumables. To do anything will require consumables, that might not be affordable by the students most likely to benefit. However, if provided for free then someone will be tempted to do something silly: The wood and sheet aluminum is free? I'm going to build a yacht! Actually the could be fixed by dealing with the storage problem: Provide lockers and specify that only things able to fit in the locker can be made in the facility.
Liability: To do anything interesting you need tools that can really hurt you. Professional, experienced people today still loose life and limb to chop saws and lathes.
2. This goes back to the issue of keeping CC students on campus outside of class time. Most of my students have busy lives and convincing them to come to campus for office hours or tutoring is difficult enough.
Depending on the quality of equipment available, expect to see a certain kind of person keeping "just registered enough" for access, particularly if you don't change fees for using the makerspace (most makerspaces around here that are open to the general public charge both a membership fee and a time-equipment-is-being used fee that varies by the tool in question). It's all of the same problems with having an on-campus fitness and swim center, except that there's no maker equivalent of the local Y available in most cases to logically funnel off interested community members to.