Thank you all so much

I was a heavy user and then board member and occasional user from 2015 through Covid time and right up to the non-profit merger with ASMBLY. I had not been in the space for a long time and I cannot express how much joy I felt, moved to tears, touring the space and using the facilities this week. I’m moving away from Austin – my home these last 27 years – and I feel so much closure and peace seeing what the community has achieved. @stewards @leadership @dannym and volunteers past and present – so much gratitude.

The textiles area – so well needed, bright and well laid out. Seeing enough lathes to make teaching a class profitable, and hearing about the plans for improving and expanding beyond it. The shiny welcoming front room and, mirable dictu, a welcoming volunteer at the desk. Noting that “residual dust on the saw fence” is the standard for carelessness among the community. The woodshop felt both more open and more capable, great balance.

Most of all, seeing @dannym’s laser blasting through 1/2" material with one tube down like it ain’t no thing, well documented, cared for, everything you need at hand.

Three reflections on opportunities for further growth.

You’ve done an amazing job of making the machines safe from the users and sustainable for the teachers and volunteers. The remaining gap to perfect-enough is, for each area of the space, to closely follow a cohort of novice users all the way from initial class on a machine through however many machine sessions they need to label themselves confident and competent. Include at at least one person for whom joining the space is a brave and difficult emotional process i.e. they were raised to believe that they are not welcome near tools and such.

I’m saying this because despite the staggering leaps in documentation, in workflow simplification, and the significant skills I came in with, I encountered many little stumbling blocks along the way to re-mastery of lasers and saw some remaining gaps in workshop tool organization. For the lasers, I documented several of them and have flagged others as homework for volunteers. I trust your judgement to slow the roll there – if that’s too many things for volunteers invited or if they would be distractions, mute the posts, all good. The only strong suggestion I’m making here, which you may already be practicing, is to shift from planning around improvements to the space to instead remediating the remaining barriers to success.

A second, lesser suggestion is to offer instructor-less(ish) intermediate classes on an Oxford system:

  • a menu of small projects that will have the maker go deep into one or two aspects of the craft
  • Time slots when a Tutor will be on call for questions or assistance – but with the goal that the student is largely proceeding on their own. As such, the Tutor’s role is to direct the student towards learning resources, rather than solutions, wherever reasonable.
  • Class completion criterion is to either make a notable improvement in documentation for the problems they encountered along the way; OR a to add well-documented (with photos) tutorial for executing that project on ASMBLY facilities – posted on the (wiki? YO? your call).
  • A recognition card or something on a wall in the space upon completion of the project and the documentation

The one last thing I saw missing from the hackerspace of my dreams and the ASMBLY of today is tangible outward recognition of the volunteers, stewards, and leaders of the space.

  • Add the names and faces or avatars of the leadership team and stewards to the website. Researching makerspaces near my new home, I gained so much comfort seeing that they had a diverse board of not-too-many-not-too-few leaders. True artists sign their work, and you’ve done great work.
  • Dedicate a wall of the entryway for laser-cut cards celebrating contributions such as serving on the board or leadership team or being a steward for a year, or giving enough volunteer hours to earn the bonus. Caveat: I tried a version of this once a while back, and the idea of it helped some but it was not a sustainable process. I think it may be ready to succeed now.

Literally cementing a person’s name to the wall and similar community rituals help are the difference between “I pay for an ASMBLY membership” to “I am part of ASMBLY”, between this-is-an-activity and this-is-who-I-am.

Closing with the main point:

For all the volunteers, members, leaders, board and stewards, thank you, you’re doing great work, and it was worth all the heartache and toil to see what the place has become.


Flip. Thank you for all your contributions. Stay in touch. Tell Kye, I said hi.

R. D. Childers

I’m sad to hear you’re moving away from Austin, but excited for the city you are moving to and the wonderful things you will start there. Quick side tangent for those who don’t know, @mrflip is one of the founders of Vigilante Gastropub & Games. Most of the clever things you see in there were prototyped and/or made at ATXHS/Asmbly. Check out this thread for a June social outing @ashleyrlee is planning there and see the awesomeness for yourself in person – June Social Outing: Vigilante Gastropub & Games

I’m really glad you were able to come into the space and use the shop before leaving and deeply appreciate your reflections here. I’ve missed you and @kye :heart:

1. Following a cohort of novice users
This is something we’ll actually be doing very closely in our first ever New Maker Scholarship Program which is providing a 3 month membership + classes and project kits to young adults transitioning out of foster care (or in extended foster care). The program outline here tells you more about it. We’re hoping in this highly structured setting we can learn a lot of lessons to apply to general membership to improve the new member experience and provide volunteers helping in this realm with more guidance and resources on how to help most effectively. We definitely still have room for improvement on documentation and tool organization which absolutely makes things easier for newbies.

2. Intermediate classes
This is one we’ve been working on for 6+ months in various forms. We’re trying to get inexpensive project kits created where members can buy a kit that contains everything they would need for a simple “next level” type project after taking a class to gain access to a tool/shop area including a QR code to instructions/video on how to do it (e.g. beer flight holder with glasses). We’ve also discussed having a project idea board with links to project plans to help members get inspiration for things they could make. In the Education department (where we now have 2 paid part-time staff!), we’ve been putting particular focus towards developing project-based classes so that members aren’t simply learning a machine but a specific application with that machine. @CLeininger has also been teaching 1:1 Woodshop Mentor classes that are student led (i.e. student chooses what topics are covered). The Education Team is also currently working to offer a clearer option for 1:1 instruction in other shop areas. I really love your suggestion on part of class being making a notable improvement in documentation for gotchas or under-documented steps.

3. Recognition
I wholeheartedly agree here and it’s on the list! Our current website – while leaps and bounds better than the previous – has a very transactional tone to it which is not at all what we’re trying to convey. We’re doing a website revamp this summer which will have a major community first vibe – we are creative people coming together to share space and tools for the joy of making! Thus far, most recognition occurs in our monthly newsletter, annual report, or here on Discourse (BTW, if you didn’t know we have @mrflip to thank for the existence of this forum – he brought us out of the Google Groups email thread dark ages :raised_hands:). When it comes to ongoing volunteer positions and big volunteer efforts like work days, we plan to have lots of faces on the website showing that off while soliciting more volunteerism at the same time. We could certainly still do better on recognition today and I’m hoping we can add this sort of thing to the TV displays we have in the lobby and shop as well.

Some things you might enjoy perusing if you haven’t seen them already –

Again, thank you for all you have done to help build the incredible space you see today. Your contributions and perseverance during those tough times helped this organization make it through (and me as well!). Really hope to see you again sooner rather than later :heart_hands:


So long @mrflip! Sad to hear you’re leaving but whatever new spaces you land in will be lucky to have you.

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