Story by Ilima Loomis | Photography by Bryan Berkowitz
Jessie Wallace and Pete Menningen are hunched over a curved piece of hard, grey plastic. Hot off the 3D printer, this corner piece is a smidge too wide to fit the brackets Wallace has already printed for her project. Not to worry, though—after double-checking the opening, Wallace can adjust the measurements and print it again. “This is what you learn by doing real engineering,” says Menningen, watching her work. “You expect things like this in the real world.”
In her final year at University of Hawai‘i–Maui College’s Electronic & Computer Engineering Technology program, Wallace was looking for tools and guidance to create her capstone project. She found both at Maui Makers, where she met Menningen, an engineer who agreed to be her mentor and teach her how to use the group’s 3D printers, design software, electronics equipment, and other gadgets. When she’s done, Wallace’s project will demonstrate her newfound skills with a programmable light and water show. “It’ll be like a mini Bellagio,” she says with a smile.
Maui Makers was founded as part of the “maker movement,” inventors and tinkerers who take DIY to the extreme. Nationwide and around the world, they provide a place where members can share expertise, find workspace, and play with tools and equipment that would be out of reach for most nonprofessionals to gather on their own. After several years of working out of an empty shipping container parked in a sugarcane field, Maui Makers moved into an industrial park off Waiko Road in 2016 and has been growing its woodshop, metal shop, electronics, 3D printing, and other programs ever since.