The Rapidian

GR Makers, Mutually Human Software create space for hardware, software innovation

Two workspaces in Grand Rapids have teamed up to create a space that provides entrepreneurs access to tools and other professionals to produce innovative products.
A member of GR Makers demonstrates his product at the 2013 Maker Faire Deroit.

A member of GR Makers demonstrates his product at the 2013 Maker Faire Deroit. /Courtesy of GR Makers

GR Makers

401 Hall St. SW

Grand Rapids, MI 40503

 

Memberships available:

  • Tinkerer - access 10 times in a 30-day period during open hours, $49 monthly
  • Maker - full access during open hours, $99 monthly
  • Resident - 24-hour access, $199 monthly

 

Join GR Makers' free weekly meetings on Wednesdays at 8 p.m.

  • learn what others are working on
  • get help on a project

 

Visit GR Makers' website or Facebook page

Visit Mutually Human's website or Facebook page

A GR Makers member volunteers to power wash the boiler room in preparation of its opening.

A GR Makers member volunteers to power wash the boiler room in preparation of its opening. /Courtesy of GR Makers

GR Makers and Mutually Human Software have teamed up to provide a coworking space for the tinkerers in hardware and the hackers in software to collaborate and encourage craftsmanship. Samuel Bowles, Mutually Human Software's Vice President, and Casey DuBois, GR Makers founder, hope to provide a space that combines the worlds of hardware and software.

"The maker movement is really taking and reinventing this DIY culture. It's taking this idea of building things yourself - sort of a return to craftsmanship - and mixing it with new technology," says Bowles. "So we're seeing people be able to manufacture in small batches things that they could never have manufactured before."

This rebirth of creating and making is similar to the revolution that happened when desktop printing came around, says Bowles. Desktop publishing became something that anyone could do as more people had access to desktop printers.

"Anyone could participate in publishing," says Bowles. "The same thing is happening with manufacturing. Anyone can participate in creating an object with 3D printing [and] these CNC machines that are coming down in price so that average people can have access to them." 

Rather than seeing each other as competition, GR Makers and Mutually Human believe they have created an opportunity for the two industries to learn more about each other.

"To maintain our edge as a software company and to be collaborators in this new world that is emerging, we have to embrace hardware," says Bowles. "Investing in GR Makers and being part of what GR Makers is doing is all about living at the intersection of atoms and bytes. It's about creating a place where we can learn and explore the world of hardware, and hardware that will inform our software."

The inclusion of hardware development as part of the work being done at GR Makers creates a different environment than at other workspaces, says Bowles.

"Most coworking places are quiet, studious places for you to get work done without disturbing others. Our space will be loud, dirty, creative and chaotic- and that's by design," says Bowles. "[But] we can see people wanting to have memberships at both The Factory or another coworking space downtown and also wanting to be members of the makers space."

The workspace is located at 401 Hall Street SW in the old Steelcase manufacturing building. GR Makers' new space in the building will total just under 9,000 square feet. The building's former boiler room will be the location for larger projects requiring welding and tools such as table saws and drills. The boiler room is expected to open in September.

"This building was built to make things and we're bringing that back to the building now," says DuBois.

GR Makers also hopes to bring back the making and manufacturing industry Michigan is known for. The maker group hopes to do so by attracting and retaining as much talent as possible in Grand Rapids.

"We've got this long history of manufacturing and we have a lot of young talent that's interested in technology," says Bowles. "How do we keep the people here who are pushing and advancing the future? We think GR Makers is one of the answers to that."

Memberships are currently available at GR Makers. Access to tools and the workspace vary depending on the type of membership chosen. Work done by members varies from digital and creating electronics to screen printing and even knitting.

"We have very talented individuals that are willing to share their talents and share their expertise on one subject or another, whether it be programming or hardware or whatever. It's a very sharing community," says DuBois. 

Bowles and DuBois believe the mix of creators found at GR Makers fosters a creative environment. 

"We have a great diversity of people," says Bowles. "These kinds of contrasts and interaction are the seed of innovation, where innovation is a real thing and not just a buzzword.

Weekly meetings are held on Wednesdays for members to share what they are working on and give each other ideas or suggestions. Skills courses are offered to the public, including welding, soldering and computer electronics. One course allows people to build their own 3D printer they can take home. Members of GR Makers get a discount on courses.

"What we really care about is that people are making things and getting back to the craftsmanship of creating things by hand. They're creating, they're exploring and they're innovating," says Bowles. "Innovation can happen using technology or not. Both of those are completely embraced at GR Makers."

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