After most of the lights have been turned out for the night at the many warehouses in Hermon’s industrial area off Hammond Street, every Tuesday evening, one space in the Freedom Industrial Park welcomes a lively crowd of hackers, builders and creators to snack on pizza, share stories and dream up new projects.
Bangor Makerspace — just over the Bangor-Hermon line, so close enough to the Queen City — opened quietly last year, with the stated goal of becoming a place where tinkerers, makers, artists and “geeks in general” can work on projects, solve problems and learn from one another.
It’s been a slow and steady process for the nonprofit organization. But over the past year, co-founder Michael Revel, a Louisville, Kentucky, native who moved to Maine in 2017, has seen it grow from zero to 18 dues-paying members. Donations have allowed it to add equipment including 3D printers, a laser engraver, woodworking tools and a CNC machine — a computerized machine tool that can cut wood and other materials to the user’s specs. There’s also an array of products made by open-source hardware and software companies Arduino and Raspberry Pi.
On a given day at the Makerspace, there could be people designing and 3D-printing toys, using scrap leather and wood to make puppets, restoring vintage computer equipment or simply fooling around with coding to make a piece of equipment do something weird. Though many of the space’s present members are from the programming and computer engineering world, Revel hopes to see many more types of makers join as the organization grows.
Clockwise from top left: A drawing machine being worked on by Eric Lovejoy is made partially with Legos; Michael Revel, co-founder of Bangor Makerspace, leads the weekly group meetings on Tuesday evenings; and Chris Lewicki puts a small hole in a model he made using a 3D resin printer at Bangor Makerspace. Credit: Linda Coan O’Kresik / BDN
“That just happens to be the people that started the space — people with engineering backgrounds,” Revel said. “But we want every type of maker to feel welcome here. We’d love to see more woodworkers. We’d love to see space for ceramics in here. We just want to encourage creativity.”
The genesis for the space came out of the Maine Hacker Club, a group for computer programmers, whose members decided that they wanted a physical space for their projects. Over the course of 2019 and 2020, they raised startup costs, found the space in Hermon and finally opened in November 2020.
Revel, who finished his second degree in electrical engineering at the University of Maine in May — his first was in computer science at Indiana University Southwest — was inspired by LVL1, the makerspace where he was a member in Louisville prior to moving to Maine. LVL1 has been Bangor Makerspace’s guide in best practices, he said, though there are many maker spaces of all types all over the country.
“They have been incredibly generous in being kind of the model for us, and helping us learn how to operate and do things right,” Revel said.
Other makerspaces in Maine include Factory 3 and Open Bench, both in Portland and both of which operate under the membership model. There are also maker spaces operated by colleges and libraries, including at the Maine State Library and the University of New England. The IMRC — Innovative Media Research and Commercialization — Center at the University of Maine also offers an array of equipment and other facilities for rental use on an hourly basis.
Bangor Makerspace’s main goal right now is to get to 28 dues-paying members. At $60 per month for membership, that many members would allow the organization to be self-sufficient, and put all additional funding received toward buying new equipment and expanding programming.
Revel’s day job is as technology integrator and education technician at Regional School Unit 63, the K-8 school district serving Holden, Clifton and Eddington, where he also runs clubs for students interested in robotics, web design and programming. Education and inspiring creativity, whether in schools or at Bangor Makerspace, are his passions.
“I love being able to wear multiple hats — working with middle schoolers during the day, and then coming here to tinker and experiment with people my age on the weekends,” Revel said. “There’s just a real wealth of creativity out there.”
Bangor Makerspace offers a repair cafe on the first Saturday of every month for members of the public to bring in broken technology or other items for Makerspace members to try to fix. For more information, visit bangormakerspace.org.