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Category “makerspace”

IRL and IRL2 Student Employees

Our student employee pool is growing. We’re now at 16 employees trained in digital fabrication, Internet of Things, first aid, CPR, and so much more. Very proud of these students, their capacity for learning, and the continued growth of the Idea Realization Labs.

Hire these students if you have the opportunity!


Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

Spacelab has a new home!

Here’s a video of the new space we just moved into at Lockport, IL.


Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

The IRL2 is Coming Online!

Photos by Haley Sullivan, Claire Rosas, and a few by me.

Photos by Haley Sullivan, Claire Rosas, and a few by me.


Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

Maintaining Communication and Tribe in Makerspaces

Every makerspace I’ve created has started out with very small, organic growth. Meet as a small group of folks in a coffee house or a restaurant and brainstorm what the organization could become. From there scale up and, if you’re doing it right, become a group of 30, 40, 50+ people and so on.

As the organization grows it becomes hard to have that same community feeling as the small room of people. In-person meetings, while still important, are no longer sufficient to maintain group cohesion. The organic nature of things somehow begins to feel more forced.

This is the challenge of managing a large egalitarian-leaning group: everyone is equal and communications are flat. Flat communications, unlike schemas more pyramid-oriented (top-down), are noisy. So we look for tools to keep everyone connected. We try social media, chat clients, forums, wikis, and everything in between.

But these also seem insufficient. So where do you go from here?

By abstracting up. Fragmenting the growing group into somewhat smaller nodes, and giving: a) people within those nodes means to communicate with each other, and b) each node the ability to interface with other nodes. Nodes can be anywhere up to 30 individuals, and people can shift between them.

The answer doesn’t lie in more structure from the top down, but in structure across the base. This reduces noise while maintaining the flat nature of the organization.


Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

Hiring Process

The rapid expansion of our innovation space offerings at DePaul has led to many scaling issues, and one of them is hiring. A few months ago I hired ten new employees (to a total of 16 reports). This was a massive undertaking, and as I filtered through applications and ultimately interviewed dozens of candidates, the inadequacy of my hiring processes became apparent. I knew what kind of employees our spaces needed, and had a decent set of questions, but it didn’t feel like there were any verifiable metrics for me to judge candidates on.

Now, as we look to potentially further expand at DePaul, I’m again faced with this problem. Only this time I have a potential solution thanks to this HBR podcast, which is the real reason I’m writing this. Anyone who’s hiring folks should check this episode out. It goes into some depth on developing metrics and standards for hiring that aim to give employers reproducible results. Check it out.


Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

Idea Realization Lab Annual Report 2018-2019

A while back one of our Lab Specialists at the IRL, Claire Rosas, came up with a great idea to release a report summarizing activities at the Idea Realization Lab over the last year. After a lot of hard design and compilation work from her (and the rest of our student workers!), we’re pleased to release the first ever annual report for our space. Enjoy!


Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

The Educational Makerspaces Interview Series

I recently completed a series of four podcast interviews with folks from higher ed, K-12, and libraries who all run makerspaces and are involved in the educational advancement of making. You can check out all four episodes on This Should Work*, but here they are in sequence:

Aaron Hoover, Olin College

Terry Steinbach and Betty Shanahan, DePaul University

Jeff Solin, Lane Tech

Sasha Neri, Harold Washington Library


Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

TSW* 21 – Sasha Neri

This Should Work* has crossed the 20 episodes mark with this fun interview: Sasha Neri of Harold Washington Library. Check it out!

Sasha Neri runs the Harold Washington Library Maker Lab in the Loop of Chicago, Illinois and runs Chicago’s yearly Maker Summit. This is the fourth and final part of our educational makerspaces series, and I’m happy to have Sasha on to talk about how makerspaces work in a library setting, and the benefits they have for the broader community of patrons that libraries serve.


Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

Idea Realization Lab May Report

Big thanks to our (now ex-) student worker Fiona Baenziger for building this report (and congrats on graduating!).

Our numbers continue a trend toward growth. Excited to see where they go next year!


Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

Setting Goals

Setting our yearly goals for the Idea Realization Lab and Idea Realization Lab 2 for AY 19/20.


Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus