Prototek OKC: Makers in Midtown

Prototek-2If you walk inside the sad looking garage at the corner of 10th and Hudson this evening during H&8th, you’ll be amazed at what you’ll find inside.

Prototek OKC is a Makerspace/Hackerspace. It’s a place for makers (and soon-to-be makers) to connect outside of their garages, to learn from real life humans, and use various tools to create anything they want. And I mean literally anything.

In the same night I spoke with one person designing a pinball machine to another wiring a cheaper way to roast coffee. A VP of a bank spoke about starting a robotics program at a local school while another described how I could finally master javascript, all while dodging a test flight of a miniature quadcopter.

prototek-matt

Matthew Wilkes and James Newman, two uber makers in their own right, first founded Prototek in a sketchy back alley downtown a little over a year ago. Now they’ve relocated to Midtown and are already seeing exponential growth in membership. Matt says Prototek has more than 100 members so far.

“Midtown is booming right now, the community is great and when this building opened up we were very excited at the opportunity we felt it would provide for growth.”

The idea is to allow people who may not have access to expensive software or hardware a place to play and create for a small membership fee (currently $50/month). A makerspace is certainly not a new idea, but it is a first at this scale for Oklahoma City.

“We have assets that range from 3D printers, to metalworking such as CNC lathes and mills, to woodworking, electronics, and software programming. We even have an art and craft room for those who make in other ways.”

Learning and teaching is another essential aspect of Prototek. Not only are people sharing ideas and techniques organically while creating in the same room, Matt hopes to provide even more classes on any subject, taught by whoever wants to teach them.

“We’ve taught classes on 3D Printing, metalworking (both with machines and a forge), vinyl cutting, and laser engraving. We have had several speakers come out with topics ranging from programming languages like Ruby, Java, Javascript, and soon Python, to a gentleman from Texas Instruments who came to share some of his projects.”

This will run a coffee roaster someday.

Most of the machines in the back of the shop were purchased through auctions, such as a 1.5 Ton robot arm that will be used to create a 3D printer. But some devices and tools were donated by friends and members.

Safety seems like it would be a major concern for those who may be inexperienced with some of the larger equipment. But Matt says he doesn’t allow anyone to just walk up and start using something without at least some training involved.

Already the organization, which has been in Midtown a total of 6 weeks, has built fascinating things, all done in during people’s free time. And as Matt explained, anyone is invited to do the same.

“I would encourage anyone who likes hands-on projects and wants to learn, or to just have a space to create, to come out to an open house (every Tuesday night at 7) and see what we are all about. We’ve got a great community of makers who love showing what they’ve created and are always willing to help others build along the way.”

Prototek-19So Prototek seems to be a work in progress.

But maybe that’s the whole point?

 

On a side note, Prototek will be open for tonight’s H&8th (which should now be called H&6th-10th). To show off their skills, they’ve made 150 gallons of Oobleck for an interactive walk on water exhibit. You’ve been warned…

Check Prototek out on Facebook here

A few photos from our Prototek OKC visit are available on our Flickr account here

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