Decatur Makers eye the future


The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) held a meeting for top Makerspace organizers on Aug. 24. Lew Lefton represented Decatur’s local makerspace at the meeting.

Makerspaces provide community-centered spaces for adults and students to create.  Locally, the Decatur Makers help these creative dreams become reality.

Makerspace organizers from all around the country took part in identifying organizational problems with the Makerspace movement. The most obvious challenge immediately came to the forefront.

“It’s as grassroots of a bunch of hippies and campfires as you can get,” Lefton said. Currently, there’s not a central organization through which individual makerspaces can network and organize.

“It’s not that there should be a central hub, (but there) should be much more of a mesh of connections.”

Fortunately for Decatur Makers, their makerspace is full of life with 130 members of all different ages. Even on a Sunday night, a woman uses a chainsaw to carve wood in front of the makerspace, while a father works in the space with his two daughters.

Meanwhile, other Makerspaces face funding issues and fail to attract new members. Lefton realizes this is an opportunity to be “intentionally inclusive.”

“To me it’s about getting more people in the door; letting more people feel comfortable. This is a huge amount of brainpower that we’re missing out on.”

Decatur Makers currently hosts a handful of Lego Robotics teams and has hosted field trips for Renfroe classes. Otherwise, there is not a direct relationship with Decatur schools. In the future, Lefton hopes this will change as learning consists more of “co-curricular” and real-life projects.

Georgia Makers
The Makers met in the Eisenhower building, which is across the street from the White House. “We could see the West Wing (of the White House),” Lefton said (far right).

Decatur sophomore Walden Hillegass wishes Decatur had a Maker club, but recognizes the issue with machinery.

“I worry with the school structure, and the school liability that some of that (making) might be a little bit restricted,” Hillegass said.

Still, Hillegass would join a school Maker club because he loves to see “all the junk that someone is going to throw into something great,” when he uses his family’s membership at Decatur Makers.

Similarly, a smile lights up Lefton’s face as he talks about maintaining and growing “the vibrancy of the space.”

Photos courtesy of Lew Lefton