Doug Hamerski is a nephrologist who likes to spend his free time on other sciences, from circuity to radio. This pastime has now grown to a new makerspace that welcomes entrepreneurs and science enthusiasts.
“I have a tendency to go from one science-based hobby to another. I like making things,” Hamerski said.
Hamerski has founded Cape Fear Makers Guild, a new STEM-based makerspace opening in downtown Wilmington, after meeting others in the region with the same passion for science and finding a need for a collaborative space.
The makerspace, opening at 273 N. Front St., will serve as a hub for makers, innovators and creatives to come together to collaborate, create and bring their ideas to life, according to a news release.
Years ago, he noticed that there were makerspaces throughout North Carolina, but the region lacked one since Elite Innovations closed in 2019.
“It was in the back of my mind that [makerspaces] seem like a really cool idea,” he said. “I have a friend who is a teacher at Cape Fear Academy, and she was telling me all the cool stuff they were doing with STEM and robotics, and I thought, ‘Oh, that’s just amazing. That’s great.’ But a lot of kids don’t really have that opportunity.”
In addition, Hamerski was drawn by the sense of community that makerspaces create. Captivated by the idea of bringing a collaborative space full of ready-to-use equipment to the region, he decided not to wait any longer and established the organization.
“I decided, if I’m going to do it, I just need to do it now. Not wait 10 years until I’m retired. So, I went ahead and in May of last year, I created the LLC, then we got the 501[(c)(3) nonprofit designation], then we started gathering people,” he said.
At first, Hamerski sent out letters to churches in Wilmington asking if they had any space they could use. Church of the Good Shepherd responded, and from August to January the group shared the space with others and met on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
“We were able to acquire a good group of people that were passionate about this. And so that was a very good starting point,” he said.
In December of last year, Hamerski and his wife purchased the building on North Front Street, with the downstairs unit dedicated to the makerspace.
Thanks to a member of the guild, the makerspace received a few donations to get started. Among the equipment, tools and technology at the location are 3D printers, circuity equipment, laser cutters, computers, a Cricut and more. The space is designed to accommodate a variety of activities from woodworking to metalworking to 3D printing to crafts and electronics.
Hamerski said the makerspace can serve as a great spot for entrepreneurs and innovators who may have a business idea that they want to flesh out.
“Entrepreneurs may not have a whole lot of money to invest in all this equipment. They can come here, use what we have, and this also brings with it a lot of expertise with the other people that are in the community that one can bounce ideas off of and share what they know,” he said.
In addition to providing a space for makers, the guild has hosted free workshops and other educational opportunities for those interested in learning.
A grand opening event is scheduled for March 18 with tours of the facility, demonstrations of the equipment and an overview of upcoming workshops and events. The guild will also host open houses for the public to become familiar with the space.
The space will be available on a membership basis with plans for individuals and families. The Cape Fear Makers Guild is made up of volunteers.
Hamerski hopes to pursue grants and corporate sponsorships to help the organization prosper. But so far, he has found a lot of enthusiasm from the community.
“I’m a big science nerd and I use science in my day-to-day life, and I see it benefiting people. And I think science literacy is so important because when people don’t understand the world around them, they make bad decisions,” he said. “I think getting more knowledge out there is beneficial to society at large. Plus, there’s a lot of other benefits, like for the entrepreneurs, maybe they couldn’t pursue a dream if they didn’t have the right starting conditions.”