NovaLabs – Maker Space in Reston

A Maker Space is a business or non-profit that finds a space in the community where Makers can congregate and collaborate. Many Maker Spaces focus on collecting large tools that the average person would not be able to afford or store in their home, such as large power tools, 3-D printers, looms, kilns or other expensive equipment. Through membership, Maker Spaces can slowly add equipment and pay the rent.

We recently visited a Maker Space right in our home town named Nova Labs.

I have been trying to visit Nova Labs ever since we attended our first Maker Faire in New York in September. With all the regular busy family stuff, weeks passed. Plus I wanted Bob and the kids to come so we could talk about it.

Nova Labs is located in a business park only a few minutes walk from my work. We attended on a Wednesday evening when they have their regular open house. A very nice Maker named Mark showed us around. He gave us the history of the group. Here he is showing us how they gradually built their own 3-D printers by printing out components from earlier versions.

Learning about the history of 3-D printers at NovaLabs

Learning about the history of 3-D printers at NovaLabs

Nova Labs is a series of rooms with various tools – mostly for wood working, laser cutting, 3-D printing and electronics. While we were there, there was a class going on teaching people how to use the laser cutter. In another room were young people attending a robotics class.

How does membership work at Nova Labs?

There are three ways you can participate in programs at Nova Labs. First, you can just attend classes by paying a fee. If you want to use the equipment outside of a class, you first become an “associate” which means you can use the equipment after you have been trained, and by paying a monthly access fee – ideally $50 per month.

The tools have green, yellow and red tape on them to show how dangerous they are. You have to get a green training, then yellow, then red to have access to everything.

Once you have been an associate member for a few months, and people get to know you, you can then become a full member which means you can access the Maker Space outside of open hours – they give you a key. The expectation is that you would be contributing about $100 per month at that point.

Wood Working Room at Nova Labs

Wood Working Room at Nova Labs

It started out as a small group, but now there are more than 1,000 people signed up to the Nova Labs Meetup. Based on this huge enthusiasm, the Maker Space is thinking about finding a larger space. The current space started out with about 3,000 square feet, and is now double that. It is located near the future Silver Line Metro stop that is scheduled to open in early 2014, so rent is likely to increase. I asked Mark if he was worried about this and he said no because they already have leads on a larger space.

Will I Participate?

I definitely love the vibe of all the Makers coming together. However, the things I want to make so far do not require this equipment, so we’ll see. Perhaps I can propose some classes on topics related to creative re-use. Or maybe when they have the larger space, we could make part of it into a Creative Reuse Center. That would be awesome.

I am SUPER excited to see that this Maker group will host a Maker Faire in Reston in March. I am SO happy about that and trying to figure out what I could offer at a table about Trashmagination! So many ideas… I need to narrow it down. Perhaps I will make a survey of options and get you all to help me choose.

You can learn more about this very enthusiastic group of Makers at:

2 thoughts on “NovaLabs – Maker Space in Reston

  1. jeff hanlon on

    Very interesting. Hopefully, this shared-space concept will become more common. I know of a similar (sorta) open shop entity in the Philadelphia area that specializes in woodworking. So far, both Reston and Philly are a bit too far to make my participation convenient to joining. But for you….. I recommend at least a “yellow” designation if for no other reason than using a drill press to cut holes in caps!

    • Carla Brown on

      Jeff – you would be the perfect Maker Space member because you would be so helpful and would make such cool stuff. Let’s hope this comes to Delaware soon. And perhaps you come to Reston for the March Maker Faire & to see the place. You never know – you could connect with others in your town and start your own!

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