The Future of 7hills Makerspace (Take Two)

I am very pleased to announce that 7hills Makerspace will will be moving to a new location under the leadership of nForm Technologies, an innovative company founded by brothers, Denny and Christopher Nolan. nForm Technologies will be taking over the website, all social accounts, and the email list.  They will be writing and posting more about their plans and location in the coming weeks, which includes investments in additional equipment and broader community and educational efforts.

Denny and Chris were two of the earliest members at 7hMs back in 2011. Denny was preparing to go away for college, and Chris was a high-schooler at the time. They both contributed to our founding and growth in countless ways – including the mentoring of many other members. We are thrilled that Denny decided to return to Rome after college and start a company that epitomizes the maker movement. nForm Technologies seeks to solve various hardware and software problems, getting the job done creatively with maximum return to the customer.

Chris will be leading the charge to expand the makerspace under the sponsorship of their company. They have been busy renovating and organizing their facility and we’re excited to track their progress and support their efforts.  I know that the community will be benefit tremendously from their ideas and energy.

The lease of the iconic Masonic Lodge is coming to a close and we will be wrapping up our move-out at the end of this month. It is a bitter-sweet time.  While are sad about handing over the keys and moving out of a space that has meant so much to so many, we are filled with pride and fond memories of our time here.

What I am most proud of is how Rome has embraced the maker movement.  Even as we transition to new leadership, other spaces are growing throughout the community: HackBerry Lab, Darlington School Robotics Lab, Elm Street Elementary STEM Lab, and even our own secondary project on 5th Ave, Makervillage.  We are witnessing the transformation from Rome as a “community with a makerspace” to a true maker community.

My company, Civitium, is continuing to grow the software-as-as-service startup CrowdFiber that was incubated here with additional hires and customers around the world.  I will shift my focus in the community to supporting Tricia with the building of the new co-work facility and code school at Makervillage.  I believe this transition will help highlight the distinction between the entrepreneur-minded Makervillage non-profit organization and the sponsored 7hills Makerspace place for community tinkering and learning.

I want to take this opportunity to thank our members, the organizations and people who supported us, and the many friends we made around the country. Happy making.

Gigapixel Rome


Want to see downtown Rome at 303 megapixels?

As part of the 7hills Makerspace Maker Scholars program, funded under a grant from the State of Georgia, we are creating gigapixel panoramic images of various scenes, using a robotic pano-head and software to stitch together hundreds of high-res images.

This one was taken from a rooftop at 4th and Broad Street just before the Zombiethon. In addition to viewing the panorama, you can zoom in to see lots of detail. To see the gigapixel image, click the link below:

Gigapixel Rome

The Future of 7hills Makerspace

Picture1In 2010, my company founded a makerspace in our hometown of Rome, GA. Our work has always involved trend-spotting in the area of technology-based community and economic development – and a makerspace seemed like an appropriate investment, the right experiment to learn how communities could move forward.

I wrote at length about our inspiration at that time here.

moved in and lived for the first couple of years in the attached apartment as our original “maker in residence.” Since that time, countless people have visited and worked and made things in the space. It has evolved in unexpected ways. We, along with numerous civic, corporate and community organizations have held meetings and events there.  Its members conceived of and created a world-class event called Confluence. Chris Anderson from Wired Magazine visited the space and declared it “the most beautiful makerspace in the world.”  Make Magazine named it “one of the most interesting makerspaces in America. Oh, and I found the love of my life under its domed ceiling.

Looking forward, 7hills will undergo a change in April 2017.  Civitium will end the lease of its iconic location at 336 Broad Street. There are several practical reasons for this:

  • My company needs to evolve into new areas, and it is appropriate to realign our resources to tackle new problems, and to experiment in new emerging areas.
  • Berry College, with whom we’ve had a partnership with for the past couple of years — providing a shared lab space for students in its Creative Technologies program — continues to advance its leadership in this area, its HackBerry Lab, along with its facilities and other resources.
  • Darlington School, a leading private school here in Rome, continues to advance its maker program, robotics competition, and summer camp for your makers.
  • Makervillage, the project I co-founded with Tricia, is gaining momentum and becoming a force for entrepreneurship for Rome. I want to return more to my roots – starting and growing new companies – and I want to offer more support under Tricia’s proven leadership.
  • CrowdFiber, a company incubated within Makervillage is taking off and consuming 150% of my time, as well as that of my business partner.

Aside from these practical reasons, I also believe the value makerspaces provide within communities may not be perpetual.  It occurred to me that, had citizens put together “internet spaces” in the early 90s, when the web first came about, those might have been vibrant places for several years. But such places would make little sense in the world we live in today, mainly because the internet is woven into every part of our lives, across the dimensions of work/live/play, place, and time.

I could argue that, if the culture of making becomes so pervasive in a community that it is happening in schools, libraries, homes, garages and coffee shops – and in the absence of a space dedicated to making – it might be time to think about sunsetting the space itself. This will be approached differently in every community, with every group of makers.  But I think the maker movement becoming pervasive, as it has in Rome, can be a source of pride and accomplishment for a community

The reality is that 7hills Makerspace is a member-based organization today. So, despite whatever decision I make or my company makes, it could actually continue in 2017 under different leadership, or in a different location, or with a different business model, or with a different sponsoring organization. If that’s what its members elect to do, I will applaud that decision, and support them in any way possible. This is why we are being transparent and announcing our intentions with eighteen months leadtime.

I want to personally thank Dr. Matt Mumber for giving us the opportunity to build and operate our  makerspace in the beautiful, inspiring Masonic Lodge that he and his wife so carefully restored. I am sure that our rag-tag band of makers and our oft-times flea-market environment was not what he envisioned for such an historic and sacred building. The walls of that beautiful space have seen many “movements” come and go, and I like to imagine Max Meyerhardt and Robert Redden looking down favorably on our time here. As George Washington once said “the grand object of Masonry is to promote the happiness of the human race.”

I especially want to thank Dr. John Grout of Berry College and Tricia Steele of SAI Digitial for co-founding the space with me, and for seeing it through the thick and the thin. I want to thank my business partner, Bailey White, for co-investing with me, and granting me the latitude to experiment with a makerspace in my hometown.  I want to thank David Parker of Parker FiberNet for bringing us the fastest internet in the world, and for being a consummate maker himself, long before it was cool. I want to thank Rome commissioner Wendy Davis for being our fearless and visionary elected leader, and Sammy Rich, our brilliant young city manager, for helping us navigate many parts of the community to build support. I want to thank fellow makers Eric Parker and Grace Belangia (Augusta), Jim Flannery (Athens), Rob Betzel, Nadia Osman and Michael Rosario (Macon), and Charlie and Bindy Auvermann (Dawsonville) for inspiring us through makerspace efforts in their communities. Most of all, I want to thank our members — who saw the vision and supported the space over the years.

I will cherish the experiences I have had and the friends I have made through the space for a lifetime. Rome, Georgia will go on teaching and healing and making just as it has for over a century – I hope and pray that it will do just a bit more making – in some part because we were here.

Joe the Butcher

An article ran last week in the Washington Post entitled “At the source of the shutdown, the economy falters — and anger at Barack Obama runs high.” You can read it here.

Rome was the unfortunate (in my opinion) backdrop for this story. It highlighted the owners of two of our local businesses (a butcher shop and a wholesale produce company) and the president of a local community bank. The businesses had suffered during the recession. The butcher shop had even closed its doors recently. Both placed the blame on Obama, his policies and Obamacare. The banker was brought into the story because, apparently, he had turned down loans to businesses — and he promptly stated “[Obama’s leadership] certainly hampers the ability to recover.” The butcher went even further in saying “I’m going to go hide for two years” until “he” — President Obama — is on his way out.

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$6 Upcycled Dog Bed

We needed a new dog bed. OK actually, the dog needed a new bed. Here is the sad “before” state.


Dog beds cost like $25-40. That’s just silly. It’s some fabric and stuffing. So, we got some supplies. A throw blanket from Wal Mart ($2.87). Iron-on seam tape ($3.97). And the best part – we had a couple of old study-buddy pillows that were ready for donation to the thrift store, where they would no-doubt sit endlessly waiting for one of the tens of people in the world who buy used pillows to stumble on them. Since everyone has some old pillows of some type lying around for stuffing, total cost for the dog bed: $6.00.

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