In Episode 3 – I ask you…. Did you know there are over 480 MakerSpaces in the US. and an estimated 50,000 makers who invent, build and collaborate in them? Don’t know who, or what a Maker is?
No problem. I’ll get you up to speed as we talk to the founder of Connecticut’s First Maker Space! We talk about what you can make in a Makerspace and why it’s better than working alone in your basement.
You’ll also learn what it takes to get a MakerSpace going in your neighborhood if you don’t already have one.
Listen to the Podcast:
EPISODE TITLE: CT Makerspace with Bill Saturno
This week we interview Bill Saturno, Founder of the CT Hackerspace and Makerspace. I ask you…. Did you know there are over 480 MakerSpaces in the US. and an estimated 50,000 makers who invent, build and collaborate in them?
Don’t know who, or what a Maker is? No problem. I’ll get you up to speed as we talk to the founder of Connecticut’s First Maker Space! We talk about what you can make in a Makerspace and why it’s better than working alone in your basement. You’ll also learn what it takes to get a MakerSpace going in your neighborhood if you don’t already have one. Plus, FactoryoftheFuture®.Org has created a free download called “7 Proven Steps to Jumpstart Inventions.
About our Guest Bill Saturno:
Bill is the Founder of the CTHSMA – Connecticut’s oldest and largest Makerspace, and Head Promoter of its potential for the past 12 years. Bill is also Director of STEM and Technology at CT Boys & Girls Club and has always had a passionate interest, and experience in innovating, and an early adopter of new technology and new media. Bill also was a Production Manager at STEPCRAFT, a German-US company building and selling CNC machines for home and hobby use. In 2016 he was part of the Transition Team for the non-profit “Nation of Makers.Org”. Bill was also an early adopter and salesperson for some of the first cellular phone products and has many years of experience in media ad sales and as a Marketing Director, Announcer, and Studio engineer in Radio broadcasting. Sadly, my friend Bill passed away in September of 2021. I hope this interview and post does him justice for all the passion and commitment he brought to the Maker sphere.
About CT Hackerspace and MakerSpace:
CT Hackerspace is a DIY and Technology oriented collective, first formed to build custom desktops, repair early personal computers, and help people learn computer programming. Located in the great state of Connecticut, it is Connecticut’s Oldest and Largest Hackerspace. The core services to the local Maker community include a community workshop and prototyping center, mentorship for DIY skills, and expansion of ideas, and concepts into inventions and prototypes. It’s a vibrant community to help make your ideas real by our ALL VOLUNTEER members.
Link to CTHSMS homepage: http://www.cthackerspace.com
Notes from the Show:
So WHO are Makers? “People who think outside the box and are not getting fulfilled with the paltry creative outlets offered by Facebook and other online social media.” Others may lack connections to people who want to discuss ideas and methods for building / creating/inventing.”
What is a Maker versus what does the general public think a Maker is? A Maker is someone who desires to Bring Innovation to Life!
That it’s not enough to just read about it. Wants to learn skills.
What’s in a name? Why HackerSpace instead of MakerSpace?
I found my tribe! These people understand me.
https://nationofmakers.us – A national non-profit for the growth and collective forward progress of Makerspaces.
https://www.nomcon.org – A collaborative, community-wide Maker Convention
National Week of Making – 3rd week in June every year.
Maker Nation Report
Map of Makers around the US:
RESOURCES FOR MAKERS:
The Inventors Eye – US Patent & Trademark Newsletter
Patent ProBono for Inventors:
Episode 3 – Bill Saturno and CT MakerSpace
Mitch Kennedy 0:27
Hello, and welcome to another episode of the factory of the future.org podcast. I’m Mitch Kennedy, co-founder of the Factory of the Future.org and with me today is Bill Saturno from the Watertown hacker and maker space. Hi, Bill. How are you?
Bill Saturno 0:41
Hello, Great, thanks. How are you today?
Mitch Kennedy 0:42
I’m doing pretty good. Bill, can you give us our listeners the origin story of how you got interested in running a Maker space and things you do in your life that make you a maker?
Bill Saturno 0:55
Okay. Well, I think we’d have to go back to the fact that my family has A general store and hardware store. So from a very young age, I was always surrounded by plumbers, electricians, contractors, and had to access to all those tools. Anytime I wanted to build something or learn about it, there was always the hardware store some old tools around and, you know, workshops at home where I could always build so that was always part of my fabric kind of growing up.
Mitch Kennedy 1:29
Wow. That’s amazing. Where was it? Where was the hardware store?
Bill Saturno 1:33
It was in Hudson Valley area of New York. Orange County, New York. Okay. Yeah. Cool. Yep. Cool. And then, you know, I had gotten involved in technology and computers and that really was my focus, but I never lost the mindset of the builder Maker mentality. It always came back to making and building at some point because if I was away from it too long, it was missing in my life.
Mitch Kennedy 1:56
So real passion.
Bill Saturno 1:57
Yes. Yeah, yes.
Mitch Kennedy 1:58
And Do you have a couple of things that you’ve made you proud of? Or things that you are known for?
Bill Saturno 2:05
Well, I have to say, probably my biggest project. And I think a lot of people will say the same thing if they’re involved in building spaces is the Hackerspace itself. That becomes my primary project. On the side, sure I have some electronics projects I built. I also had some earlier inventions that I had built early cellular technology and streaming technology and built a couple of different things. Proud of those. But now it seems when I even have time for a project always comes back to something that could be done at the space to make it better. So the hackerspace becomes my number one project,
Mitch Kennedy 2:45
The maker is making the maker space,
Bill Saturno 2:47
Mitch Kennedy 2:49
Yes, that’s brilliant. I like it. That’s excellent. And then now I understand that you are in a company that is sort of a maker building a company called And if you could tell us a little bit about how, who they are, you know what they do and how you’ve gotten into the role you’re in and what you like.
Bill Saturno 3:09
Sure. Okay, so I work for a company in Torrington, Connecticut called step craft, we make a multifunction CNC machine so beyond a basic CNC machine that you might see other companies make. Step craft has 12 different attachments, so becomes a Swiss Army Knife of tools, you can add a laser, they have an oscillating knife, they have hot wire cutter and there are so many accessories, drag knife all fit on the same machine. So it really makes it a multifunctional highly adaptive machine for a lot of different maker projects. I thought it was a fantastic machine I had found out about it while I was running the hackerspace and I got them involved as a sponsor because I thought was a great tie-in as a great maker tool.
Mitch Kennedy 4:00
Yeah, good fit.
Bill Saturno 4:00
And then later on when step craft was expanding into their new line, they needed someone to head up that department. So with my experience that basically I had gained mainly from work in the Maker Space hackerspace community that gave me what I needed to get the job here at StepCraft.
Mitch Kennedy 4:20
Bill Saturno 4:20
Yeah. So it’s bee n it’s been a great fit. Sure, I had other skills that were great for the job, but the relevant experience just came from my 10-year involvement prior at the hackerspace.
Mitch Kennedy 4:32
That’s awesome. I definitely want to come back to that because I think one of the things when we talk about maker spaces is that maybe the public perception is a little different than the reality.
Bill Saturno 4:42
Mitch Kennedy 4:44
So we’ll come back to that. So you’re running this maker space hackerspace in Watertown, Connecticut. Tell us a little bit about that.
Bill Saturno 4:54
Sure. So the origin of that space came from an online post from a woman named Jennifer savage, the first one who posted that “I would like to have a hackerspace in Connecticut. So I’m not traveling to New York to Noise-bridge, or to Boston, which at the time was the Loft.”
Those were the two nearest spaces to people in Connecticut. There weren’t many spaces around back then. So we started an online community. And then what we did is we started going from city to city to see where in Connecticut there would be the most interest in starting a space for sure, I thought was going to be in the capital of Hartford. But it turned out after having a number of meetings, you had your regulars come to those meetings. And so those regulars who are really interested in taking the space in the next step, I said, hey, let’s do a Venn diagram of your home location with an agreed-upon traveling distance of 50 minutes. The overlapping town was Waterbury so we actually set the first year in Waterbury and it took And at that point we were looking to expand. And we found our new facilities in nearby Watertown. And, and that’s where we’ve been ever since.
Mitch Kennedy 6:07
Do you want to give the URL or the address?
Bill Saturno 6:11
Or you can find it online at CThackerspace.com. Okay,
awesome. Thank you. And what kinds of things do you do there?
Well, from the very beginning, our group wanted to basically build bigger robots. We were interested in doing projects, not only on a technical side but having a workshop that could also do the physical side. Now in our first year, in Waterbury, during the trial period week, we couldn’t do too much there it was, our first space was only 300 square feet. But there that first year we did build our first 3d printer. Now, this was pre-Maker-Bot. These were in the days of what was called a rep- rap, which was an early open source. The idea of building 3d printer technology. So we had built a rep-rap machine, a couple of other smaller electronics projects. But when we gained the new space in Watertown, that was a 4000 square foot space. And that’s divided up into a metal shop of 1000 square feet woodshop of 1200 square feet. Then we also have an area with a computer lab, electronics area, radio lab, 3d printer area. So not only do we try to accompany a lot of things that typical maker spaces have, but we’re also probably a little bit more shop heavy as well because we want to make sure that people in the community who want to build had access to not only a 3d printer or a laser cutter, but also possibly a bridge port or late night as a project. So that’s all incorporated within our space.
Mitch Kennedy 7:52
Cool, very cool. Not too many shops have that kind of equipment.
Bill Saturno 7:55
No, and it was a challenge at first because it was is relatively new to get into the shop environment. But, you know, back then it was pioneering ground. It wasn’t really any other spaces around besides ours. And in fact, for any group that was looking to start a space, I would go out and just share my experiences with them. I thought it was great to just reach out to other makers in the community, to not only share my successes, but the dirty little secret of it is, once they got up and running, I was able to take some great ideas that they had to incorporate back. It’s my long-term goal to have these spaces work together. Because I see them a lot as silos. Yeah, they’re all solving the same that we’re trying to solve the same issues. They have the same challenges. But I can tell you, every space has its own personalities and its own strengths, and a lot of times getting spaces to work together is like herding cats. It’s not that there isn’t a, want of working together, it’s just that they’re on their own goals and missions. And, you know, I’d like to in the long run try to coordinate that sort of efforts are in unison. So we can maybe share resources in unison as far as classes or materials or talent, right and create a pool that could go around to local spaces and regional.
Mitch Kennedy 9:23
Yeah, that that could do that makes a lot of sense. And, yeah, wouldn’t that be cool.
Bill Saturno 9:28
I think would be great. You know, there are other efforts around trying to do that. On top of that, I was invited to the first nation of makers conference in New York, New York, and Washington, DC, where the White House invited people who had built early spaces together, and they basically told us, you know, what, as a government, we really have missed out on the maker movement.
So how can we learn from you, the makers to see if we can help our country help our economy by getting this homegrown ingenuity and this passion that’s working, you know, into a productive environment to help the country and help jobs and help everything for the United States? And we had a great session was a lot of great talks. What came out of that, that we requested that the nation of makers, all the White House assets they had started, were given to a national nonprofit, the idea that at that point nation to makers will be self-reliant, and instead of being dependent on a government with that might shut down a nation of makers program as a government entity, right? If its own standalone organization, now, we’re self resilient. And if there are changes in the White House, for whatever reason, you know, there’s a better chance of survival, right. So at this point, the Nation of Makers is now a national nonprofit, helping maker spaces and other organizations, maker fairs, and what not to with recent courses to help them grow as well.
Mitch Kennedy 11:01
Very cool. Yes. What year was that first meeting?
Bill Saturno 11:04
That’s a good question. My memory is bad. And it was a couple of years ago. Okay. I’m sorry. I don’t remember what year it was.
Mitch Kennedy 11:11
It’s all right. So, so we have the space. How many members do you have?
Bill Saturno 11:17
We currently have 27 members. And basically, we have worked out a really good deal as far as to rent we’ve always run with the philosophy of keeping costs as low as possible. Most of our equipment has either been donated or on a personal loan from members. We do have a couple of pieces that we bought or constructed in-house so the 27 members with the monthly membership fee of $50 plus other workshops that we run, make us at basically a break-even up or down every month. Great and we are getting ready to celebrate 10 years as a space in Watertown, and well nine years in Watertown, But 10 years overall. yeah, so we’re really excited about that. Just being a pioneer in the Maker Space movement has been really, really amazing.
Mitch Kennedy 12:10
Very cool. Yeah, kudos to carrying the flag forward for today.
Bill Saturno 12:14
It gets, it gets tiring. But then, you know, you see someone coming for the first time learn something, or you see someone who has a prototype and they get to make their prototype. There are so many things that happen at a space that is fulfilling and rewarding, that then it just re-energizes you to, you know, keep them keep the space moving forward.
Mitch Kennedy 12:35
So what kind of classes do you offer?
Bill Saturno 12:37
So, our class schedule varies because we are all volunteers. It basically depends on the time that volunteers have to give our regular classes probably include programming, microcontrollers, computers, we also do welding classes, some woodshop classes, probably those are regular classes, and then we’ll do soldering classes, Introduction to soldering, we also have done classes on cutting the cord, for example, getting rid of the cable bill and just using the internet for your media consumption to save some money that’s been popular. Recently, we had a revival with ham radio. So we’re gonna do more with ham radio once again.
Mitch Kennedy 13:22
Yeah, very cool.
Bill Saturno 13:23
So I really try to have regular classes and what I try to do is keep the space and classes focused on whatever the current members are interested in. And this keeps this space relevant. So you’re not building a space for people who aren’t there. And it’s a dynamic space. It just keeps changing depending on the active members who are involved at a time.
Mitch Kennedy 13:44
In terms of the makeup of the people that come in, what kind of demographics Do you have, or?
Bill Saturno 13:51
Well, these are across the spectrum. I would say if you had to look at the largest groups, you’re probably looking at people who are either engineer’s machinists or retired engineers, and machinists. And then you just have, I guess the overall encompassing thing would be probably creative people who think outside the box. And they’re not getting fulfillment in their everyday lives as far as being able to build or create or even discuss ideas with people that they might deal with on a regular basis. So you know, coming to the space, it gives them the freedom to not only pursue building but also just brainstorm if they want to do problem-solving. I always tried to create an environment in the hackerspace where it’s open for questions, feel free to bring your ideas and also to help those who are there to help them if you can assist them in any way. And it’s been a really positive culture for the last 10 years.
Mitch Kennedy 14:50
Nice. I was wondering if you might expand a little bit on what a maker is or who a maker is and what the public thinks a Maker is.
Bill Saturno 15:02
Well, I tell you, it’s the same it’s I never had to think about that. So a maker is really someone who just wants this is gonna be a tough one who likes to create to create something at my event, just a thought something that’s in the mind and actually make it a physical object being a tool, or an idea to bring to fruition or collaborate on a project to see if an experiment might work. I guess bringing innovation, you know, to live to see if there if it has legs if it’s something you can move forward with. And for people just have a passion, there’s just a passion that people like to work with their hands they like to create, like to make and it’s not enough to just read about it or, or see it in the video but actually participate at some level and start building it.
One thing we also do in the space shares a lot, of knowledge and skillsets. So I think this is something that is key. A lot of times a maker might want to learn more about a specific way of building or creating, it’s outside their skill set, right? You know, for example, I might be helping someone with electronics, but in return, he’s helping me on the bridge port on milling out a piece of steel. And both of us have now gained more value because now that person can move ahead with the electronics design of their project. And now I built a better frame for my project. So a lot of this set is a sharing of skill sets. And a friend of mine in Louisville. She runs a hackerspace down there she summed up the best I thought is that people come for the tools but they stay for the community.
Mitch Kennedy 16:55
Bill Saturno 16:55
And I thought was a really nice summary that the spaces are a great place to have a shop and access to a lot of tools. But it’s the knowledge of the members. It’s the experience of the members. And it’s a diverse experience. And because the answer doesn’t always come from the person who might be an engineer in that topic, it might be from an artist who’s looking at things from a totally different perspective, right? Who’s thinking of it? A really out-of-the-box answer to a solution.
Mitch Kennedy 17:27
When would you get that? I mean, if you didn’t have a space like this one, would you get an artist together with an engineer and someone else who wants to build something, I mean, not at a coffee shop,
Bill Saturno 17:38
or not even at an engineering firm, right? Because everyone would have a certain curriculum that they would follow. And the nice thing is, even if there are engineers involved in space, if they’re involved in the space, they’re welcoming other ideas and other creativity. So you have that ability to think outside the box and come up with solutions that maybe You wouldn’t get in other a certain just way of thinking, you know, you get a diverse way of thinking.
Mitch Kennedy 18:05
Right, Right. And that’s where the creativity and the new solutions come from, is like, absolutely, yes. The whole concept of thinking of something no one else has thought. I want to touch basically, real quickly on public perception of makers and maker spaces. Have you been received well by your community are do people walk by the studio and wander in? Because they’re curious? I mean, how do you use the public view?
Bill Saturno 18:33
There are two different stories here. The first story is since was early on, and maker space wasn’t really a word, we went by the term hackerspace. So our first battle early on before the maker movement really had more traction was to defend the word hacker because hacker and immediate in the media’s view, is, you know, something that’s negative. This is a person who’s doing something illegal. using computers to break into a bank or something right? When that’s that’s not true. a hacker is just someone using a tool in a way it wasn’t meant to be used. And you know, the media coming up with a hack. That’s correct and make it so early on. We had to fight a battle just with that. But I was determined to keep the word hackerspace for two reasons. One, the initial founders found us through the word hackers. So they understood the meaning. And secondly, it was something I had heard at a convention I was at in New York City, where there was, this was the early time when the first hackers were coming back from Germany where they first learned about hackerspaces. That’s where I first learned about them was from this conference. And they said We need to take the word back. We need to take the word hacker back as a bad word and show that it’s not what it is. And you know, I tried to stand by that principle to that. I have to isn’t something negative, it’s just a different way of thinking it’s a different solution to the problem.
And, you know, for those two reasons, we, we stood our ground and we educated our community that we weren’t evil. And we were a good thing. And now with the maker movement getting more and more steam, you know, to the point where now the word maker spaces and hackerspaces are commonplace among the vernacular of the people in that movement. So we have made ground in that way. So now to get to your point to your second part of the questions. Everyone thinks it’s neat. Everyone thinks it’s, it’s interesting. And then what happens, you will get a trickle of people who realize they found their tribe that this is, this is my people, these are the things I want to do. These are the tools I have to do it. They, they understand me and a lot allows a lot of makers to be express their creativity and to to do that, and those and those peoples come along as your, as your leaders at the space. And then you get like a second tier of people who are interested in learning, and they come and they get involved.
So it’s probably in like, I would say, two to three tiers, people who are interested, they think it’s neat. You have makers who want to learn more. So they’re there. They’re testing the waters. They’re getting involved. They’re trying different things we have. And then you have some people who take to it like a fish to water and they jump in and they’re part of the space and they’re very active in the space.
Mitch Kennedy 21:37
So the obvious next question would be, what’s the future of your hackerspace? What’s the future of makers? And do you see somewhere in the future a growing connection between localized manufacturing companies and Maker spaces are some kind of give and take there at that level at some point.
Bill Saturno 22:05
I think I think you will see that but I think there’s still a lot of ground to be figured out in between those two worlds. I think you have traditional businesses and whatnot, that is going to be a little afraid to the maybe the looseness or experimentation that a maker space has. But I think it will come together. I mean, there’s no doubt that your home-based businesses, home-based manufacturing, small manufacturing is coming back.
I can tell you at our space, we’ve helped out hundreds of people and I’m going to say dozens of companies with either prototype or give them the resources to first experiment with at a very low cost before getting into investing into a company. You know, we were that wading You know, low ended a pool where they could use our facilities without making a big investment, you know, to see if a prototype works, or to get more knowledge and just get more understanding from talking to other people who might be in the associated industries.
So I think there will be I just think it’s going to take a little bit more time. There’s no doubt that the maker movement has been growing. The maker culture, I think it’s it’s a great thing. I also think it’s something that is from an American society standpoint on a pendulum where a lot of traditional manufacturing jobs and, and trade jobs were not a focus and everything was either college folk focus or services, right. And now I think the pendulum is starting to shift and I think the maker movement is partially growing because there’s a yearning in the community to be able to do this.
So I’m hoping that with Maker Movement, it’s going to help skilled trades come back into focus. And I think what’s going to happen and when they realize that this community exists of people who want to make, and there are assets in the maker movement in spaces in the community that help the skilled trades, I think companies and will say, Well here are people that we don’t need to train from, from zero or even introduce them to, to doing a certain technical task because they’re already doing it because they love doing it. Right. And I mean, that’s going to be your successful tradespeople as people who love what they do. If there you know, if there’s going to be more and more jobs, well, the maker movement is a great place to start looking for those potential, you know, new employees or new companies that are starting.
Mitch Kennedy 24:52
Now, Bill, I know that there are maker spaces all over the country, but don’t they also have some kind of maker space maker Expo or something?
Bill Saturno 25:02
Yes, there’s a maker fair that happens all across the United States. Most of them are all independently run by local groups or by spaces themselves. And this is an opportunity for makers to get together to not only show off their projects but there’s also an opportunity to sell products at them, as well as to invite the public for a day of not only seeing all these projects and what people are making but to participate. And there are classes that happen all day long.
There’s also corporate sponsorship. So companies get involved as well, to not only sponsor the events but to show off what they’re doing as far as innovation and making in their selective industries as well. So it’s a nice partnership between the two, and it’s a great opportunity for many people who maybe haven’t, are exposed to the maker movement to get involved in a day of fun. It’s family-friendly. There’s a lot of activities going on for people of various interests of various ages, from, you know, building your own circuits to, you know, race car racing at some of the events.
One of the popular races at some of the maker fairs is called Power Racing Series where we’re, we’re lucky enough to have a team that gets involved with the Power Racing Series. And basically how this works. It’s an actual sanction race with a budget of $500. And a given amount of battery. You, you basically build an electric car, and you race it. And normally the body chassis is based on a electric-powered kitty car or something along those lines. And it’s very fun. Sure, it’s competitive, but it’s Fun competitive. So you still have that. People don’t take it so seriously. I mean, people want to win the race. But there’s great, there are great entries. There’s some great innovation in cars.
And there’s also points what’s called Moxie. So, so that encourages you to have some more fun and you can actually so if you don’t have a card, it’s going to win. You could get points by winning just by having the most Moxie. And having you know, a fun card that really gets the audience involved. So we have a car that we’re building for the Power Racing Series, hopefully for the New York Maker Faire right now. The New York Maker Faire was sanctioned by Make Magazine and unfortunately Make Magazine recently closed its doors.
Mitch Kennedy 27:46
Bill Saturno 27:46
Yes. Yep. It was some restructuring. They took care of the New York Maker Faire and also one in California. It’s been, it’s been touted about the nation of makers and a lot of other makers. Not to get discouraged. Most maker fairs are going on. They’re independent organizations. They are growing, they are thriving. And hopefully, someone will just be picking up the ball to do a New York Maker Faire soon. But we’re going ahead and building our race car because if it’s not racing in New York, there’ll be another power racing series someplace that will be racing our car. And so maybe here in Connecticut, perhaps Yes. I’ve actually thrown out the idea to a couple of the Maker Faire people in Connecticut here that, you know, if there isn’t a race happening in New York, it’d be a good opportunity to add on a race to your but having a race can take some extra, you know, time and involvement. So this year, it’s a lot of fun.
Mitch Kennedy 28:46
Cool. Well, thank you so much for being on our podcast. You’ve been a very entertaining and informative guest. I want to thank you again, both for coming. Bill’s attorney and co-founder president of the Watertown Connecticut hacker maker space, also known as CT hackerspace, that’s correct. And also as a representative of step craft, which is sponsoring your, your hackerspace at the point. That’s correct. Yes. Great. Well, thank you very much. Thank you very much. Thank you to our listeners and tune again. Tune in again next week for another episode.
Tune in again next week for another episode and thanks for listening!