Tucked in a dilapidated old building in Hampton Roads sits the future.

Until a few weeks ago, I had never heard of a “makerspace,” but thanks to my Lead Culpeper class, I quickly received a crash course into the wild world of hands on education.

I first heard the phrase during a viewing of “Most Likely To Succeed,” a film screened by the Culpeper Chamber of Commerce.

I’m going to be completely honest, when I saw two hours blocked off for a movie at our September Lead meeting, I thought “oh man, I’ll need a lot of coffee to stay awake.”

I was wrong.

Highlighting the efforts of Hi-Tech High in California and discussing how to further education through hands on learning, the movie was captivating and spotlighted the importance of makerspaces.

OK, so now you’re wondering what is a makerspace?

It’s simply a safe location where people can share ideas, create them using high-tech machinery and share their projects with the general public.

Two weeks after watching “Most Likely To Succeed,” our Lead group took a field trip to 757 Makerspace in Norfolk.

As we drove past the makerspace on the way to lunch, I almost had to look twice. It’s unassuming, maybe a little run down (let’s call it well-loved) and not someplace where you would expect to see a 3D printer.

Once inside, your misconceptions are quickly changed.

It’s a location where imaginations can run wild and is heartily encouraged by creator Beau Turner and his crew.

In one office space is a laser etcher, in another sits a 3D printer, in yet another is a plastic forge and in the back sits a myriad of wood crafting tools.

Now in its third year of existence, the project came about after Turner and his two boys took a trip  to NASA’s Langley base. Turner laughs at the story now, as his 9-year-old came in with enthusiasm and met a grizzled scientist with his arms crossed. The scientist explained they had just sent a probe into space and the technology needed to do so. Turner’s son answered they did something similar with a 3D printer at their house. The scientist argued his accomplishment was more impressive and Turner was afraid he’d have to haul his young child away from a fight. But the two crossed generations as they discussed the science behind the project and then spent 30 minutes sharing information.

It was that spark of imagination that led Turner to think of a location that would allow other children and community members to express themselves.

Now year memberships, quarterly memberships and even daily memberships are offered, allowing residents to stop in to make whatever project their heart desires.

For children, it’s especially important Turner said because it’s design-based learning. They’re more likely to remember something they’ve worked on.

He calls his little space that could “an island of misfit toys” and it resembles that with bamboo poles hanging from the ceiling, gargantuan cartoon faces on the walls and a stack of cassettes creating a table in the corner.

It’s also an island of creative thoughts, and one any community would benefit from.

Hopefully, someone steps up to the plate in Culpeper – I have a table I want to laser etch and don’t have the spare change to buy one. Help a builder out…

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