As HackPGH celebrates nine years, it’s more than doubling its maker space

Maker spaces Protohaven and Prototype PGH are growing, too.

The new look for HackPGH. Lower left rendering by David Roth and drawings by Mike McQuaide.

The new look for HackPGH. Lower left rendering by David Roth and drawings by Mike McQuaide.

courtesy of HackPGH
MJ Slaby

HackPGH, the volunteer-run maker space in Uptown, is taking over the entire ground floor of its Fifth Avenue location to more than double in size.

Adding more than 2,000 square feet will provide more room for woodworking and metal shop tools, a spot for a designated classroom and maybe even a kitchenette, said Chad Elish, HackPGH president.

The expansion comes as HackPGH celebrates its ninth anniversary and as maker spaces across the city are growing and finding ways to work together.

When TechShop closed, it affected the market here and nationwide, said Elish, who is on the board of Nation of Makers, a national maker organization. “We see a lot of bootstrapping in the maker movement across the U.S. … [In Pittsburgh,] TechShop closing lit a fire under everyone to figure this out.”

For many makers in Pittsburgh, TechShop was a place they either passed through at some point or where they worked on a regular basis, added E. Louise Larson, co-CEO and co-founder of Prototype PGH, a feminist and gender non-conforming maker space in North Oakland.

So when TechShop closed, makers there turned to other shops and worked to create Protohaven, a maker space in Wilkinsburg that opened in December. Each maker space offers something slightly different so it’s great for the city to have multiple maker spaces with a “sibling competitiveness,” added Devin Montgomery, Protohaven co-founder.

Regardless, there’s a strong sense of community among makers in Pittsburgh, Elish said, adding that maker space leaders wanted to find a way to collaborate and strengthen the field. Cue MakePGH, a website that will soon serve as a resource for all the city’s maker spaces.

In the meantime, both HackPGH and Protohaven are hosting open house events, while Prototype recently won $50,000 from Google and is in a contest to earn an additional $50,000.

HackPGH’s open house on Saturday will celebrate its anniversary and show off the new expansion, which will be empty until after the event, Elish said, adding that the goal is for attendees to see the space’s potential. Currently, he said classes are taught in the middle of the shop which makes it difficult to teach while other people are using the tools nearby. Plus, moving that classroom space will free up more room for the popular metal and wood shops.

HackPGH Expansion Open House

Come to see the new space and celebrate nine years of HackPGH. Drinks and light fare will be provided.

Where:HackPGH at 1936 Fifth Ave. (Uptown)

When:March 3, 2018 at 7:00 p.m. to March 4, 2018 at 12:00 a.m.

Adding a space for metal and wood working is also on the agenda for Protohaven. But first, the maker space is opening the doors of its studio space, a.k.a. the first phase, which houses laser cutters, 3-D printers and more. Now open 72 hours per week, the maker space has started to work with community organizations and Montgomery said his plan for March is to work on setting up more classes.

Protohaven Studio Open House

Come to see and learn more about the first phase of Protohaven as well as machine demonstrations and food and drink. Attendees can also learn about the discount for the general membership as well as the new, affordable starter members.  

Where:Protohaven at 214 N Trenton Ave. (Wilkinsburg)

When:March 6, 2018 from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

At Prototype, the maker space recently received two grants — a $5,000 grant from the Sprout Fund and $50,000 from Google Impact Challenge Pittsburgh.

The Sprout funds will go to starting a “City as Our Maker Space” collaborative network with Prototype, University of Pittsburgh Manufacturing Assistance Center, the Black Unicorn  Project and the Ujamaa Collective.

The Google grant will fund 100 workshops for 1,000 women aimed at helping attendees learn the skills to up their earning potential. Larson said. The funds will also allow for the maker space to have a more formal approach to incubating startups, giving at least five women entrepreneurs access to the space and a platform.

Plus, voting is currently open for the Google challenge’s People’s Choice award, which would give an additional $50,000 to one of the four local winners, including Prototype. (Vote here through March 14.) The added funds would allow Prototype to hire staff and purchase added tools, Larson said.

For Prototype, Larson said the maker space’s mission is resonating with people as discussions about gender and equity are happening on a national scale. And the maker movement is becoming more mainstream, she said. “It’s more of a capital M and less of a fringe hobby.”