Decatur Makers Brings Together Hands-On Creativity and Tech

Imagine a wood shop, metal shop, computer lab, electronics shop, arts & crafts area, and biology lab — all within a 3,000 square foot space. That’s the idea behind Decatur Makers, a space where technology, art and hands-on work collide. The spot recently saw its official grand opening.

“It’s a cross between a hip art studio, a mad scientist’s lab, and a startup incubator,” says Decatur Makers founding member and Executive Director Dr. Lew E. Lefton. Dr. Lefton is also an Assistant Dean in the Georgia Tech College of Sciences and faculty member in the School of Mathematics.

No longer the purview of just DIY crafters and artists, the Maker movement has picked up a strong tech audience in the past few years with tools like 3D printers, smart textile machines and laser cutters become more commonplace. It’s also gaining attention from national organizations — in September, Dr. Lefton attended a Nation of Makers meeting convened by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy which saw representatives from NASA, the National Science Foundation, and more.

Decatur Makers has certainly aligned itself with this tech-focused maker movement, playing host to events like Intro to 3D printing classes, free coding camps meetings, and developer meetups.

And, though the space began as an unofficial group project in 2014, they held their official “Grand Opening” last week. In 2016, they grew their membership by 50 percent, developed formal lab spaces, and hired the first official employee after operating on an all-volunteer basis for the previous two years.

Decatur Makers offers a membership program — for $25 a month members gain 24/7 access to the space, storage for projects and tools, and event space to host meetups or classes. Partnerships with community organizations such as the High Museum, the Center for Disease Control, Atlanta Botanical Gardens and Atlanta Public Schools also provide opportunities for Makers members to get involved in special projects.

Dr. Lefton says the goal of the space is not only to build objects, but to build a community. “We believe in D-I-T instead of D-I-Y. I think it’s much better the you have a community that builds together.”