The Dallas Maker Community Backstory

Photography By Steve Rainwater 2012 CC BY-SA 2.0

The Dallas Personal Robotics Group

Years before their call for a maker community in North Texas, there was the Dallas Personal Robotics Group (DPRG). The first meeting of the DPRG took place at the Heathkit Electronics Center, 2715 Ross Ave., Dallas, TX on Saturday, June 16, 1984. The DPRG continued to operate for the next 8 years as a typical club, without a permanent location. It hosted meetings at various locations including Science Place, adjacent to the State Fair Grounds, and Bill J. Priest Institute of El Centro College.

Thanks to the late Mike Dodson, the DPRG had access to a warehouse in Garland from 2002 through 2009. He allowed the DPRG to use one of his warehouses for almost a decade, putting up with all their geeky shenanigans. After Mike retired, the building changed hands, and the DPRG began meeting at locations including public libraries and XMax Games. Their solution was to call for a maker community in North Texas to build a "makerspace" using a well-established community hackerspace model. This new makerspace, which later become the independently managed Dallas Makerspace, was to become the DPRG's new home by agreement of all parties, including its co-founders Mark Havens and Peter Smith.

The Maker Movement

Making is a relatively new term for one of the oldest traits of human society—creating something (be it a new tool, food, language, art, platform, or expression of social commentary) and then sharing that creation with others. Making isn't unique to any one group or culture, and it's predominated throughout all of history. Dale Dougherty, the founder of Make Magazine and Maker Faire, coined the term "making" as a way to describe the Do-It-Yourself spirit that drives so much innovation and exploration here in the United States. "Making" is a phrase derived from old English for fitting (machian) and matching. Following Chaos Champ in Europe, a separate group of people from the United States, including Mitch Altman, explored the idea of bringing hackerspaces to their home regions in the States. Researchers at MIT, such as Neil Gershenfeld, also started an outreach project to spread the work they had been doing with rapid prototyping—the class How to Make (Almost) Anything—calling them Fab Labs. Throughout the decade that followed, all of these efforts combined with the passion of thousands more individuals to create hundreds of spaces, events, and organizations dedicated to fostering communities of all shapes and sizes throughout the entire country—on top of the rich tapestry of making happening in cultures, communities, neighborhoods, and households across the country that may or may not use the term "maker".

The Dallas Maker Community

In January of 2010, after the Dallas Personal Robotics Group (DPRG) initiated a community call to build a new makerspace, The Dallas Maker Community (DMC) was eventually formed as an unincorporated nonprofit association by Mark Havens to establish the first self-managing makerspace in North Texas. Bootstrapped from an independent informal association that began the creation process of Dallas Makerspace (DMS) in February of 2010, many associated with the Dallas Maker Community soon became founding members of Dallas Makerspace. During the startup phase and beyond, others joined the community. Soon, the Dallas Maker Community became seemingly synonymous with the membership of Dallas Makerspace. This intermingled relationship persisted from DMC's beginning in 2010 until the beginning of its dithered separation from DMS in 2019, marked by an unsuccessful defamation lawsuit.

On April 13, 2020, During the onset of COVID-19, DMC/DMS founder, Mark Havens began the Dallas Maker Community Facebook Group and its companion page in order to establish the DMC as an organization independent of other makerspaces in North Texas. In contrast to the declining inclusivity of DMS culture during the preceding years, establishing the DMC as independent was an effort to better establish core principles of cultivating a culture of collaboration, openness, and freedom that would encourage innovation of other maker interests throughout North Texas, independent of the divergent values of DMS by its elected leadership during that time.

In 2022, once the pandemic lockdowns began to subside and people began to emerge from their homes, the DMC adapted to the newly emerging needs of the post-pandemic maker community. Beginning strictly with regional civic makerspaces, such as makerspaces found in North Texas libraries, it was decided that the DMC should begin to focus on marketing and organizational development efforts in order to help promote and drive foot traffic to struggling post-pandemic makerspaces.

Photography by Steve Rainwater 2015 CC BY-SA 2.0

Dallas Makerspace

Beginning early in 2010, DMS co-founders Mark Havens and Peter Smith of the newly formed Dallas Maker Community (DMC) along with DMS co-founders Ed Paradis, Steve Rainwater, Alissa Pipe, and Eric Chaney of the Dallas Personal Robotics Group (DPRG) began to regularly meet to bring a new collaborative community workshop to North Texas. Ed and Steve reached out to their local community to pitch the idea in order to help the DPRG host their meetings and events. Recognizing that the DPRG was in short supply of people to lead and help fund the initiative, the partnership moved forward with the Dallas Maker Community led by Mark and Peter so that the two groups could more easily collaborate, design, and build what would later become Dallas Makerspace, the first organization of its kind in North Texas.