In recent years, the need for people to learn and master hands-on skills is growing. In turn, there’s been a push for high school graduates to train in the industrial and other trades since those fields could face worker shortages in the future.
That doesn’t surprise DB Lampman and Scott Van Campen, the duo behind MakerSpace NYC, the Stapleton facility that provides tradespeople from every walk of life the space to make, invent and collaborate on their imaginative projects.
“The NYCEDC (New York City Economic Development Corporation) put out a Request for Proposal (RFP) right before Hurricane Sandy, and someone sent it to me. The request asked for a business incubator on the North Shore on Staten Island, and we started throwing around the idea of a MakerSpace NYC as a business incubator to help people get a start and benefit with all the equipment we had,” said Van Campen, the executive director of MakerSpace.
Lampman, the organization’s associate director, recalled: “We passed out surveys, and we had conversations with people and told them about this idea. We asked them if they thought it was a good idea. We asked them if we did this, would they be interested in taking or teaching a class. We asked if they had any special skills that they’d be willing to share with others.”
After the husband-and-wife team received great feedback, they decided to apply for the RFP. Once the bid was accepted, MakerSpace NYC opened on Oct. 28, 2013.
The hub — located adjacent to the picturesque Manhattan skyline along The Narrows at 450 Front St. — provides members the opportunity to purchase monthly or daily plans with access to the 6,000-square-foot indoor space. There, members can hone their skills and create projects in various trades like welding, metal fabrication, woodworking, ceramics and sewing. MakerSpace NYC also hosts a wide range of workshops, such as women’s welding, ceramics, blacksmithing, 3D printing, and raku hand building, for Staten Island’s growing community of talented tradespeople.
“It takes time to build a community, because this isn’t just a shop. It does take an explanation. We tell them that for a couple hundred of dollars per month, you receive access to all the equipment here, and you can learn how to use these tools to expand your horizons and make your projects better,” said Van Campen.
The Stapleton residents said they understand the importance of expanding horizons by visiting different communities and mentoring the youth on Staten Island. The STEAM Wagon — a repurposed box truck that has been transformed into a mobile classroom — brings a 3D printer, computers, laser-cutter, woodworking, sewing and soldering directly to students at schools across the borough.
Van Campen recalled working with third-grade students on the North Shore to create planters for the front of their school. The students were involved in every step of the process — planning, designing, and measuring — before he cut the pieces. During a break, Van Campen asked the teacher how she thought things were going.
“She told me, ‘My worst students are your best performers.’ I told her, of course, they were. They’re seeing it applied. They’re seeing where the math makes sense. They see the real-world aspects to it,” said Van Campen. “They don’t want to sit at a desk staring at a blackboard learning that. Different people learn different ways.”
Lampman added: “It’s important for us to know that not every kid is destined for college. And that’s OK because there’s different tracks, so that’s nice to show them these different things. And even for kids who grow up and go into finance or something else. I still think it’s really valuable for them to see what’s behind the things they use. Today, we have an intermediate school class coming in and making headphones.”
“(Having youth involved) was one of the things that was important to us when we started. We knew that would be an aspect, and we built that into the business model and plan,” she said.
Between STEAM Wagon visits and class trips to the Stapleton facility, MakerSpace NYC reached 80,000 students last year, according to Lampman. MakerSpace NYC has also supported the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce’s Young Entrepreneurs Academy program over the last few years by providing tours for the high school students involved in the program.
For their accomplishments, Lampman and Van Campen are being honored with a Louis R. Miller Leadership Award, which they will receive in the Not-for-Profit Businessperson category. The awards — which are presented by the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce and the Staten Island Advance — honor the memory of Louis R. Miller, a businessman and West Brighton resident who was also a community leader.
While the indoor workspace helps members create new projects and artwork, neighboring Marker Park is a site where those creations are featured. The 27,000-square-foot outdoor space — which is found across from MakerSpace NYC at the other corner of Front and Thompson streets — is used for public art, events and workshops.
After viewing the area, which was originally littered with abandoned and smashed cars as well as loads of trash, the two directors tirelessly pleaded with the city to let them take control of the lot. When they finally received that green light, they quickly spruced up the space and made it a welcoming and attractive sculpture garden in the community.
“The artist residency we offer allows them to come into this space and gain access to — not only the tools — but the classes so if they want to build something and they don’t know the equipment to use to build it, they can take a class and learn how to use that equipment. That happens over a two- to three-month period in the spring,” said Van Campen.
Lampman said: “The artwork goes up in July, and then in the early spring, we’ll take it down and put up new art. We also have honeybees out there with three hives and a beekeeper.”
It seems others have noticed this success, as MakerSpace NYC recently expanded into a 20,000-square-foot advanced manufacturing center at the Brooklyn Army Terminal. People can purchase a dual membership to gain access to both the Staten Island and Brooklyn locations.
No matter the location or the skill they practice, the MakerSpace NYC concept is all about allowing artistic minds the ability to work on their creative crafts.
“There’s nothing better than saying, ‘I made that.’ It could be the worst butter knife that’s ever been made, but people take pride in effort,” said Van Campen.
Recipients of the Louis R. Miller Awards are recognized as effective business leaders, and for their outstanding contributions to the local community. Awards are given out in four categories: Emerging, Established, Master, and Not-For-Profit. The honorees will be recognized during the annual Louis R. Miller Business Leadership Awards Breakfast on Thursday, Feb. 13 at LiGreci’s Staaten. For tickets, visit www.sichamber.com or call the Chamber at 718-727-1900.
Below, Lampman and Van Campen share more about their goals, jobs, and lives:
Current occupation and title: Associate director and co-founder of MakerSpace NYC
Hometown: El Paso, Texas
Past occupation/s and titles: Program director, Noble Maritime Collection
The best part of my job: Meeting so many creative people.
The most difficult part of my job: Dealing with so many creative people.
My life philosophy: Work hard, be nice.
I am most proud of: My daughter. She graduates from high school this year and has accomplished so much.
Something that no one knows about me: I didn’t graduate from high school but went on to get a master’s degree.
The quality I like best about myself: I am determined.
Personal interests and hobbies: Sculpture, needlepoint and running.
I laugh at: My husband (this is important when you are married and work together!)
I am really good at: Coming up with creative solutions to problems.
I admire: My mom who was a single mother of two, schoolteacher and poet.
SCOTT VAN CAMPEN
Current occupation and title: Executive director and co-founder of MakerSpace NYC
Hometown: Stapleton via Denver, Colo.
Past occupation/s and titles: Welder, sculptor, fabricator, rigger, machinist, carpenter and teacher.
Community involvement: Noble Maritime Collection, Staten Island Arts, Staten Island Children’s Museum, Flagship Brewery and Killsboro Brewery.
Some of my life goals include: Travel and explore the world more. Keep learning. Make something every day.
The best part of my job: Empowering people to create whatever they want to make.
The most difficult part of my job: Remembering people’s names.
My life philosophy: Get up early, show up on time, pay attention to the details, and do things right.
I am most proud of: Personally, my daughter. Professionally, the impact that our organization has had enabling kids and adults to invent, design, and build a better world and future for themselves.
Something that no one knows about me: I wish I could play the banjo.
The quality I like best about myself: My ability to problem solve. In fact, there are no problems, only opportunities for solutions.
Personal interests and hobbies: Vintage machinery, mechanical sculpture, cigar box guitar building, and working on my house.
I laugh at: Bad jokes and puns.
I am really good at: Welding.
I admire: Sunrises.