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Local duo opens Geekspace Gwinnett, a place for community thinking and building

Ben Ferrell, left, and Brad Newton, have co-founded a non-profit organization called Geekspace Gwinnett. Their member operated Makerspace in Lawrenceville is used for creative thinking and building. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)

Ben Ferrell, left, and Brad Newton, have co-founded a non-profit organization called Geekspace Gwinnett. Their member operated Makerspace in Lawrenceville is used for creative thinking and building. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)

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Brad Newton, co-founders of the non-profit organization called Geekspace Gwinnett uses a large handmade controller to play Pac-Man. Geekspace Gwinnett, President, Joe Ratulowski, back left, holds daughter Lissette Ratulowski, along side member Luke Ruppersburg, as board member, Steve Peters, and co-founder Ben Ferrell, look on. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)

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A oscilloscope is among the unique tools on hand at the non-profit organization called Geekspace Gwinnett. Their member operated Makerspace in Lawrenceville is used for creative thinking and building. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)

LAWRENCEVILLE — Ben Ferrell and Brad Newton figured it might take six months to bring their plan for a creative geek haven to Gwinnett.

That was two years ago.

The co-founders of Geekspace Gwinnett might have been a little overambitious about the time frame, but not about the concept.

“We had very grand plans of it taking six months, so it’s good to get here,” said Ferrell, a Dacula resident.

The grand opening of what’s called a makerspace is Saturday evening at their new digs at 1000 Hurricane Shoals Road (Suite B 1400) in Lawrenceville.

For those who have never heard of such a thing, it’s a non-profit sanctuary for a wide range of endeavors. From robotics to engineering to costuming and woodworking, Geekspace Gwinnett aims to inspire collaboration and creativity.

“It’s just general geek stuff,” Ferrell said with a chuckle. “It’s for anyone who is a tinkerer, a programmer, a builder. Members are encouraged to contribute as much as they take out of it.”

The idea germinated from a trip to a similar organization in the metro area called Freeside Atlanta.

“Back in March 2012 we took a trip there,” said Newton, who lives in Sugar Hill. “We liked the concept, but they are south of I-20 and not really accessible to us north of the perimeter. We said, ‘How hard can it be?’”

The last part is said with the humor of hindsight.

It didn’t take long, only a few months, to build up a membership of more than 30 people with a myriad of skills. The search for permanent space took much longer. But Geekspace Gwinnett has a physical home now, loaded with all kinds of equipment that wouldn’t be accessible to most people. For electronics hackers, they have servers, sandboxed networking equipment, soldering stations, oscilloscopes and several testbed power supplies. For makers, there are 3D printers, a metal lathe, a CNC mill, sanders, grinders, a reflow oven and a platoon of Dremels.

“We also have engineers with brains to pick,” Ferrell said. “And access to a level of skill you yourself might not have. It’s a place for creative thinking. We have programming classes coming up and soldering. We’ve done digital topography and Raspberry Pi, embedded computing and robotics. There’s been a good bit of interest in costume building for DragonCon.”

Recent projects at Freeside Atlanta, which Ferrell and Newton both said has been incredibly supportive of their organization, include drones and an offroad wheelchair.

The grand opening Saturday, which includes refreshments, is from 6 to 8 p.m. and a chance for anyone who is interested to come have a look around. They are also offering tours starting at noon.

“It’s a big day,” Ferrell said. “We’ll be showing off some of the projects we’ve done and what the space is capable of doing. When we get rolling, there are going to be some really interesting things coming out.

“We are really trying to move forward with that and get the members to contribute some amazing things.”

Geekspace Gwinnett is incorporated as a non-profit corporation in the state of Georgia and is fiscally sponsored by The School Factory, Inc., a 501(c)3 organization which specializes in supporting hackerspaces and makerspaces across the country. The cost of the space is supported by member dues and class fees.

Anyone can sign up to take a class, but members get a lower rate. The website, www.geekspacegwinnett.org, includes more information on their offerings and history. Class signups can be found at www.meetup.com/geekspace-gwinnett. Class cost varies depending on the material cost and instructor.