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The Foundry’s Creative Community Series: Buffalo Lab

There’s a great deal of diversity in what the residents at The Foundry bring to the table. You have metalworkers, soap-makers, bicycle builders, woodworkers–so many artisans creating independently while functioning as integral parts of a bigger vision.
While most of the residents adopted the collaborative approach when they joined The Foundry, the technology enthusiasts from Buffalo Lab are bringing more of the community element in with them. 
It’s almost as if Buffalo Lab joined up as The Foundry’s resident microcosm. This group is a hackerspace/makerspace, which they define as “a combination of a community workshop and a social/educational venue. It allows people to pursue technical hobbies that they wouldn’t have the resources to do otherwise. It gives people a place to share knowledge, collaborate on projects, and use expensive tools and equipment they would not otherwise have access to.”
Since its founding in 2009, Buffalo Lab has bounced from space to space–starting in a location at Seneca Street, then moving to the 500 block of Main Street, then another temporary space on Broadway. But none of the locations quite fit with their long-term vision. 
“We wanted to be part of something bigger,” said Mike Dawidowicz, Buffalo Lab founder. “Electronics and new media were becoming an art form. Artists would come in asking about electronics and soldering and we would help them build stuff. Fabrication and making things became our central focus. Rather than do anything on our own, we wanted to find a collaboration with another artists’ space.”
And what better place to find artisans to work with than at 298 Northampton? 
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“We were shopping for buildings in October 2012 when we found out about The Foundry and Rusted Grain,” Dawidowicz said. “We thought, wouldn’t it be great if we just collaborated? We could get the benefit of the woodshop, they would get the benefit of electronics. So we came and spoke to Mike and Megan about Net Positive and The Foundry’s vision for the future, and the idea of a hackerspace being this one membership to access all the residents. Their vision aligned with ours, so we jumped on it and moved here as soon as we could.”
Buffalo Lab is currently in the process of building out their hacker/makerspace within The Foundry, which will be comprised of 2500 square feet of space to learn, work and teach in. “It will include large benches and engineering workstations for soldering and electronics engineering, working on microcontrollers and embedding stuff. We’ll be adding workstations for computers, setting up computers for networking, and adding extra stations for 3D printing,” Dawidowicz said. 
Buffalo Lab will be open 24/7 for anyone to utilize the space, tools and equipment for whatever their project may be. Members of all ages and levels of expertise are welcome–from novice to expert. The makerspace will be fully insured, so members will have to take a safety course before they can use the equipment. Buffalo Lab will also provide an open device lab – a giant library of mobile devices, tablets, phones and computers members can rent. 
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In addition to the technology workspace, Buffalo Lab will have equipment for creating arts and crafts. “Our art space will take up 30 percent of the space with hot glue guns, crafts, sewing machines, everything that you would want,” he said. “It’s going to be the Mecca of making. That’s the goal, someone who is into making things, say they have a workshop in their basement, they can come here and we can support them with equipment and tools.”
Buffalo Lab will also be offering tons of workshops–about 140 annually in 10 to 12 different disciplines, including metal, wood, fabric, software, food, fine art, car repair and more. This will bring other Foundry residents into the fold to host monthly beginner workshops and quarterly advanced workshops. There will also be other classes and events put on by private tenants. “Eventually we might have two or three things to attend every night,” Dawidowicz said. “Every workshop is under 50 bucks to start and so much of it is free, it’s ridiculous.” 
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Examples of classes include soldering workshops, database seminars and an intro to microcontrollers using Digispark. They’ll be offering a small fabrication class on learning how to use a 3D printer and small hand tools, with an advanced level class on how to build your own 3D printer. Also in the works is a “Food Hacks” course for those who struggle in the culinary department. “It’s a pun–if you’re a food hack, here’s some hacks,” Dawidowicz said. “It’s sort of like Alton Brown meets bad cooking, Buffalo and technology. Creative cooking with a little bit of science in the background.”
Since they want the makerspace to have 24/7 access, Buffalo Lab is implementing a swipe card access door system using open source software at The Foundry. Transitioning from traditional keys to digital is expected to wrap up within the next month and walls will be going up in Buffalo Lab’s section. They’ll be launching an equipment fundraiser soon thereafter.
Those interested in getting involved with Buffalo Lab should join the mailing list on Buffalolab.org to get updates on upcoming workshops and get involved in discussions about what’s happening with the space. Open labs are held the second and fourth Monday of every month from 5 to 10 p.m., where curious non-members are welcome to come explore. While everything is free and open right now to raise awareness, memberships will eventually be required at $50. 
“In the past three years, we’ve fully activated and succeeded at getting a vibrant user scene and technology enthusiast scene running in Buffalo,” Dawidowicz said. “There are so many user groups active that I can’t keep track. We’re no longer shepherding the process. Now we want to do it with a physical space. Now education, tools, equipmen
t, and getting more youth and business involvement are the initiatives.”
“So if you’re doing things on your own and you’re sitting by yourself doing them–stop it–do it here, do it with likeminded people,” he continued. “Let’s move Buffalo forward together. The things people do just by being in the same space, you end up creating something that’s greater than the sum of its parts.”
Speaking of moving forward, The Foundry’s fundraiser on Indiegogo is still in full swing. If you’re interested in donating to help with their upcoming build-out, here’s where you can do it: www.indiegogo.com/projects/transform-the-foundry
  

Written by Sarah Maurer

Sarah Maurer

I moved to Buffalo to attend Canisius College in 2007 and began writing for Buffalo Rising as a journalism intern in 2010. Working with Newell and meeting numerous entrepreneurs, activists and everyday folks who were working to make their city better made a huge impact on my decision to stay here. After witnessing all the positive development and grassroots initiatives happening in neighborhoods throughout the city, I was inspired to pursue a term of service in AmeriCorps and a career in Buffalo's non-profit sector. I currently work in the housing department at the Lt. Col. Matt Urban Human Services Center of WNY and am excited to be a part of their ongoing efforts to revitalize the Broadway Fillmore neighborhood. I also volunteer as the project coordinator for Artfarms Buffalo. I continue to write for Buffalo Rising because I love having the opportunity to stay connected to those working toward positive changes for the Queen City.

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