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LVL1 Vision and Long Term Planning

Mon Sept 12th 7pm BBC St Matthew's

Attendees: Brad Lyster, Brian Wagner, Chris Cprek, Joe Pugh, Tim Miller, John Hicks, Mark Endicott, Jeff Johnson, Tim Hardin, and Cindy Harnett

We had a good discussion about where the maker movement would be in 5 years. Tim H. believes that wherever the Maker Movement goes, LVL1 is likely to be following it closely. Chris suggested looking at the history of Open Source software to predict a similar path for Open Hardware. Brad thinks it is a good thing to read "Homesteading the Noosphere."

LVL1 Mission

LVL1's mission is to provide a shared space for collaborative technical and artistic experimentation in the Louisville area. We are a non-profit organization following the hackerspace model currently flourishing in cities all over the world. Our goal is to create an open workspace where engineers, artists and educators can meet and collaborate. LVL1 is where we begin making amazing things.

Are we living up to our mission? Yes - but we need more community outreach in terms of workshops. Our mission statement explicitly acknowledges our educational responsibilities, but workshop organizing has been fading. Workshops are also a great way to get new people into LVL1 to make and learn.

Do we need to change our mission statement? Not discussed, but feeling is no.

Our Space

Size? Need more to combat entropy. The space quickly fills up with abandoned projects and donations, making it difficult for makers to find workspace. Efforts to clear the space and increase organization have been successful, but more help is needed to avoid members burning-out trying to keep up with it. Chris suggested making the loft more inhabitable. It sounds like we could get that space for free and if we could air condition/heat it, it could be used for workshops etc. The Zinks say we can use the whole space however we want while it's unrented. We have the option of getting the upstairs loft in the event that the front room is leased. The biggest consideration is making the upstairs loft usable in summer and winter. This can be used for meetings, presentations and workshops so as not to interfere with our normal working space.

Jeff suggested to take a look at Bob Segrede's industrial space (20,000sft) as a future potential space.

Utilization? Our current space has maybe a 30-35 person limit and if we want to grow beyond, we need more space. We run out of seats and table space during well-attended meetings. If people do not have space to work, they will not work at the space. Our space looks better if it is cleaned up and put away. Directors need to encourage members to clean up after themselves and put away projects, so as to make room for other makers.

Cleanliness? Cleaning groups do not work. Perhaps area hosts will. Chris is going to look at getting ORI's Cleaning service to get our bathrooms and kitchen. Tim M. didn't want to hire a cleaning service without first seeing if members will volunteer to clean. Chris wonders why they haven't volunteered already, but will try soliciting volunteers first before figuring out what it will take to hire a professional service.

Storage? We need more shelves. We will always need more shelves.

Meetings? Too long according to Joe, Tim M., Jynn and others. Chris is going to cut out the Oculus pics, old business and sold out workshops. Chris talked about how our meeting have two roles. One is to address LVL1 business. The other role is to serve as a rally for projects and inform / welcome new people. It's a fine balance. Tim H. suggested making one meeting a month a business meeting. Chris countered that it's hard to remember and goes against the Tuesday pattern. Joe suggested reserving time before the meeting for a business meeting. Chris didn't understand how that would help. It was left that Chris would cut out several agenda items in the meeting and rely on Joe, Tim and others that don't like meetings to give him feedback. Tim H. wants there to be time in the meeting for all new people to introduce themselves. Chris and Joe countered that new people are often shy and don't want to be put on the spot like that. Chris agreed to reword his end of the meeting introduction to encourage members to introduce themselves to new people, instead of "If you see someone you don't recognize, introduce yourself."

Our Leadership

Officers? Not discussed

Board of Directors? We need to have a strong board of directors that oversee what happens in the space. Chris believes the Director's need to be more involved in the day to day organization of the space. It's important that directors be seen as 'points of contact' to get things done around the space. They need to reach out to members when tasks around the space languish. And they need to be available to members and non-members alike to help navigate our often confusing ad-hoc social structure.

Responsibilities? Would each director have a specific area such as training or workshops or communications? Directors need to to serve as points of contact for members that want to accomplish things in the space. They are elected to positions of leadership and they should serve as leaders to members as they are needed. Directors should informally help facilitate organization around the space, even if it's not in their job description. If for no other reason than LVL1 needs it.

Committees? Committee is a bad word. (Chris: "Committee isn't necessarily a bad word, if a committee accomplishes something). Instead we did discuss having "area hosts". Area Hosts are people dedicated toward maintaining a specific part of the space, like the lasercutter, makerbot or small tools. This is something we can put in place right now.


Grow? We really did not discuss the ideal size of the hackerspace, but we did all agree that the space still needs to grow more. The one concern is that we may be getting too big for the space. That is why Chris suggested fixing the loft so it is inhabitable. Everyone is in agreement that we should at least pursue getting a cost estimate for this.

Becoming a member? We were concerned that it is too hard to become a member and we may loose some who come in and leave. Far too often someone visits a Tuesday meeting once and are never seen again. We need to work harder to encourage repeat visits that can grow into potential memberships. We are going to work on some trinkets and take-home things that visitors can get. Ideas are small solderable circuit board and laser cut things. The basic idea is to get new visitors active when they first enter the space.

Equipment Needs

Chris would like to become a MIT Fab Lab There are certain criteria to becoming one and we will figure that out.

It was agreed that we need to have a training system for space equipment. This responsibility would fall on the 'area hosts' or 'area wardens' to determine what training needs to happen, what verification would be expected and how to make training easily available for members. Chris was concerned that forcing equipment training before use would be regressive if actual equipment trainers didn't make themselves easily available. If, for example, the laser cutter requires training but the trainer can't make arrangements to train a new person for 2 weeks, this is regressive and an unnecessary burden for someone wanting to use equipment. Chris has faith training availability can work well, but the potential for unnecessary delay means it should be watched closely.

There is a certain amount of frustration in finding tools and making sure you put things back where they belong. We would like to have an "Area Host" or "Area Warden" type system to give ownership to a particular thing. Chris thinks we are already doing this in an ad-hoc fashion; i.e. Jeff's store, Tim and Aaron knowing the Makerbot well, etc. But if by making it more official it helps promote volunteers, he is all for it. Chris warned against creating 'fiefdoms' with the area hosts. He said it is important for Director's to show leadership and attach themselves as facilitators for area hosts to make sure things get done and be able to replace them if they are absentee or just need a break. Tim H. volunteered to organize this.

Area Host area could be:

  • Lasercutter
  • Woodshop
  • makerbot
  • small tools
  • Library
  • etc.

We also discussed getting some metal shop tools such as mill, metal Lathe, welder and Plasma Cutter.

Community Outreach

Makership? Need to get back on this. Chris suggested making the makership a smaller amount such as 2 or 3 months. It was also suggested to have a $5/mo donation button to give to the makership. Chris has donated enough money now to fund a 3-month makership. There have been hardly any donations outside of this, leading him to believe it will not grow unless there are some examples of what a makership can do. Makership is planned to be reworked into a 3-month membership plus $100 of project financing. A recurring $5 donation will probably net more outside contributions from fans of LVL1 that don't have time to be involved.

Workshops? Definitely need monthly workshops and we are falling behind in the endeavor. Discussed having a director of workshops, director of training, etc. By opening up the upstairs loft to workshops, it should address the space crunch when workshops are held at the same time as people needing to work on their projects in the space. Chris is organizing the effort to clear / clean-up the area and find a way to better insulate it.

Other thoughts

Mark was concerned about having too much structure. It will be hard to strike a comfortable balance.

Chris would really like to see a strong and empowered board of directors. Directors should direct. LVL1 needs more leadership to keep the space running smoothly as we grow. Currently this is falling to a few directors and members that are there most often. This is leading to frustration.

We discussed "Wild Ass Ideas" for the next 5 years. They are:

  • Brian: Sponsor our own MakerFaire.
  • Chris: Would like to see multiple hackerspaces in Louisville, serving different areas, etc.
  • Tim Hardin: A metal working shop will a mill and lathe.

A plasma torch and electric welder are also mentioned.

  • Jeff: Would like to see us triple our space and have different rooms dedicated to different activities.
  • John: Would like one of those areas to be a place where classes and workshops could be held without interfering with people working on projects and with good acoustics.

Action Items

  • Implement a training system for equipment at the space.
  • Implement "area hosts" system. - Tim hardin
  • Proceed with renovating and expanding to the loft. - Chris
  • Investigate what we need to get certified as an MIT FabLab. - Chris
  • More workshops!
  • Take a look at Bob's space - Jeff Johnson
  • Small take away thing for newcomers. - Bill and Brian have been working on this.
  • Member volunteers OR paid cleaning crew to get the bathrooms etc. - Chris to contact ORI