While I was enrolled at UNF, I think I got bored of the monotonous work of creating uncreative things. When I got my first apartment on Southside (a one bedroom apartment, I rented out the sunroom of) I tried building a 3D printer, and realized that it wasn’t working out nearly the way it was supposed to. 3D printers almost go hand in hand with Makerspaces, and I think somewhere down the line 3D printers were first conceived in a makerspace. But regardless we didn’t have a makerspace in Jacksonville, so there was really no help for my non-working 3D printer aside from what I could read on the internet. So ultimately I’d tried getting people together who were also interested in makerspaces in Jacksonville. I formed a group on Facebook, with really only my roommate at the time and myself. He wasn’t much help with anything, but he was a Redditor, and he invited me to an annual reddit meetup in Jacksonville, where I met a very cool guy named Ronnie. There were now three of us in the Facebook group. I started a weekly newsletter, and we started drumming interest for a makerspace in Jacksonville with some weekly meetings at my apartment. We finally got up to about 20 people who were interested in actually getting a space, Ronnie started scouting out some warehouse space until we found a place we could finally agree on. All we needed at this point to open the doors was some money for rent, but even with what we could all afford at the moment we didn’t have enough to open the space. One member, Ziggy, was nice enough to be an angel investor and throw down half of what we needed to get going. We opened the 7,000 sq. ft. warehouse space in downtown Jacksonville the next month and started moving in. It was completely empty, except for some big white pillars. No walls, no air-conditioning. Fast forward a year or so, we’ve built out the space with specialized rooms for electronics, art, metal and wood working. We’ve also got a huge collection of donations, and more stuff really than we know what to do with. We have a computer lab, lots of computer, a couple 3D printers some members have been working on. We’ve got a classroom, about 8 board members, and we’ve incorporated the space as Jaxhax, Inc. with the possibility in the future of forming a non-profit organization for donation of some bigger equipment. Also in an odd twist, we’ve come out as one of the larger makerspaces in existence. A bit surprised we haven’t been contacted yet by DARPA or anyone else. Anyways! Here’s to the future of hacking things!
The Downstairs expansion:
Why did Jaxhax Makerspace close? There’s several reasons. For one, the makerspace had no public funding. It was completely funded privately from Member dues of $75 a month. Additionally we had a pact between our board members to pay dues and cover any additional expenses from the Makerspace. We typically advertised the makerspace at events like the Jacksonville Artwalk. People could visit the Makerspace for free during Open House nights. However many of the people that would come visit would treat us like a museum. They’d walk through, look at our tools, our space, and our projects and would walk out to forget about us and never return.
Update: Jaxhax Makerspace has since closed. It operated for about 3 years with no public funding. When it closed a competing makerspace group opened up several bays down from us in the same warehouse we worked out of, they also opened a location in the Jacksonville Landing but never found success and they closed there as well. Finally the Jacksonville Public Library opened a “Makerspace” which is really only in name only. They have a space in the back of the library that is mostly just an open area, with no actual tools, except two 3D printers, some computers, and maybe some markers and paint supplies.
Truthfully Jaxhax Makerspace was way ahead of its time by 2014, it was underappreciated, and under-rated, even now in 2021 when I write about it I know there is no other place in Jacksonville that rivals its former glory, and I miss it dearly.
In its wake, everyone involved in starting Jaxhax makerspace likely benefitted professionally from it, despite all my coworker’s from IEM knowing about it at the time, none of them visited. I used the tools at Jaxhax to produce the first prototypes of my InSite Energy solar panels and start my company.
Ronnie was working at the local Airport and producing electronic toys for his brother.
Dan was working at FSCJ as a systems administrator and got hired by Oracle.
Kai was working at a Lowe’s
Chris was ???