RED MOUNTAIN MAKERS

Creativity Powered

Birmingham, AL   |  www.redmountainmakers.wildapricot.org

Mission

Our Mission is to provide a collaborative environment that promotes discovery, creativity, and exploration of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, & Mathematics). Our mission is to engage in scientific and artistic research, experimentation, and education. We provide a workspace, a collaborative and supportive community of peers, and project based education related to technology and artistic expression. We also support the use and development of free and open software, hardware and design.

Ruling year info

2014

Chair

Steven Wyss

Main address

810 4th Avenue North

Birmingham, AL 35203 USA

Show more contact info

EIN

46-2234591

NTEE code info

Science and Technology Research Institutes, Services N.E.C. (U99)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990-N.

Communication

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Most people never reach their full potential. Most people just see themselves as consumers. They never imagine themselves creating something new, or really even creating anything. They are never exposed to the vast array of possibilities, the wide range of skills they could learn, the joy of being able to say "I made this". Youth see themselves as powerless. They don’t realize their capacity to create because they are never exposed to the creative process. Most people don't have the space to have their own workshop, the resources to buy power tools, or the skills and knowledge to operate them.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Empower individuals to create and innovate by providing low-cost access to tools and knowledge

We believe that making changes the way you view the world, and want everyone to unlock the creativity and imagination within themselves.

Our objective is to provide the working space, equipment, skills, and knowledge that will enable people to take an idea or concept and make it real, whether it is a fun project, an artistic project, or a prototype for a product you intend to market. RMM is a place where you can fill in the gaps in your knowledge and gain the skills you need to accomplish your objectives, and discover new possibilities you have never imagined.

We support Birmingham's innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem by serving as a "pre-incubator" for members to develop their ideas into products. We take pride in our members who have found success due to the prototypes they built at RMM (Nathan McMinn of Conserv and Emmanuel Umoh of Vizrom Signs), and to our artists who have "graduated" to their own studios.

We offer ten studios for artists, artisans, and entrepreneurs.

Population(s) Served
Adults
Adolescents

RMM has moved to Hardware Park, an innovation focused development near Birmingham's Innovation District and adjacent to one of the primary commuting corridors in Birmingham. Our 8,000 square foot facility gives us greatly expanded working space, the ability to host multiple classes simultaneously, and the opportunity to host youth-focused activities our previous space would not support. Our lease provides the option to expand into another 7,000 square feet of adjacent space as our needs and capabilities increase.

As of February 2022, renovations are ongoing, as is fundraising for HVAC, improved accessibility, and more "professional" furnishing.

Population(s) Served
Adults
Adolescents

RMM is a technology focused makerspace with a strong educational mission, including promoting science, technology, engineering, and mathematics to the general population and especially to under-represented groups including minorities and women.

Maker projects can provide inspiring examples of what can be done with science and technology. Simple projects can introduce new makers to tools and techniques and create "I can do this!" moments. Learning to make things changes the way you look at the world, from "This is what is and what I must accept" to "I can make this better".

Art and aesthetics are essential components to good design; the intersection of art and technology is seen in product design, architecture, and user experience design for applications and websites. Bringing artists and technologists together can create wonderful synergy - the open-source Arduino microcontroller, one of the foundations of the Maker Movement, was created because artists wanted a less expensive, easier to use method of controlling lights and motion in art installations.

Population(s) Served
Adults
Adolescents

BHAM Support - a collaboration between RMM and other local makers - came out of the Maker Movement's response to COVID and sparked RMM's growth during the pandemic.

One of the immediate consequences of the pandemic was a shortage of personal protective equipment as demand quickly outstripped supply. RMM shut down normal operations and joined the worldwide Open Source Medical Supply movement, producing face shields for Alabama first responders and medical personnel.

4,267 face shields were distributed, and many of them are still in use today. Globally, makerspaces produced over 48 million pieces of personal protective equipment.

The pandemic helped us realize the impact we can have. The connections and visibility we gained through our response sparked our growth, doubling our operating revenue over pre-pandemic levels and giving us the confidence to make to move to a larger, more centrally located, and vastly superior new facility.

Population(s) Served
Emergency responders

SmarterBham (https://smarterbham.com/) is a grassroots effort to make Birmingham a smarter city by building a network of "Internet of Things" sensors. Current efforts are focused on deploying a network of air quality sensors designed and assembled at Red Mountain Makers.

Population(s) Served

RMM is committed to promoting open source hardware and software because they open up innovation and access to technology.

Open source software such as the Linux operating system and Libre Office provide the same capabilities as Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office, but are free and will run well on hardware that struggles with Microsoft Windows. This allows us to repurpose computer hardware that no longer meets corporate standards but is still useable.

Open source hardware such as the Raspberry Pi and Arduino are the bedrock of the Maker Movement. The Raspberry Pi is a $35 educational computer that runs Linux and is a full featured computer. The Arduino is a microcontroller that allows you to control motors and servos and read sensors; microcontrollers are the brains behind all of the electronic devices you use, from the control panel on your microwave to the cruise control on your car to the Instant Pot on your kitchen counter. The Arduino has an online community where you can learn to program microcontrollers and learn from all the projects others in the community have made, in the process learning the techniques that will allow you to create a product (such as the 3D printers created at the NYC Resistor makerspace in New York which lead to the widespread adoption of 3D printing in makerspaces, libraries, and schools).

Population(s) Served
Adults
Adolescents

In 2021, RMM hosted 85 classes on a wide range of topics - metal forging, woodworking, woodturning, welding, 3D printing, laser cutting and engraving, stained glass, leatherworking, and more.

In 2022, RMM has begun a collaboration with the Alabama Woodturners Association, hosting their meetings at Hardware Park and starting regular woodturning classes to bring this art to a younger, more diverse audience.

Our new facility offers the opportunity to expand our class offerings. We are starting our evaluation of how we can best apply our capabilities and knowledge to youth-focus programs.

Population(s) Served
Adults
Adolescents
Adults
Adolescents

Where we work

Our Sustainable Development Goals

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

We want to unlock the creativity and innovation that is inside each of us. We want to provide the opportunity for people to be exposed to a wide variety of possibilities in art and technology, to explore and learn new things, and to find an interest that motivates them to grow.

We want to be able to provide the equipment, knowledge, and skills needed to enable this growth, this exploration. We believe that Making fundamentally changes the way you view the world. You no longer have to settle for the way things are; you can change things, you can make them work better. This viewpoint empowers you, motivates you to grow and learn more.

We are building a community with a wide range of interests, knowledge, and skills. We are all different, with divergent views on the societal, religious, political, and economic issues that divide our country, yet we have established a culture where we all work together, united by our common love for making and creating.

We want to grow that community to allow us to have more impact on our community and on the next generation.

We want to continue to add new capabilities and bring people with varied interests together, to cross-pollinate ideas and approaches, to create opportunities for people to learn from each other.

To meet our potential requires growth - adding more people, more equipment, more space, more resources.

Adding and upgrading equipment brings in new people. Our $4,000 laser cutter provided capabilities that brought in people. The $3,000 we invested in blacksmithing equipment brought in more people. The $2,000 we invested in a used SawStop tablesaw upgraded the safety of our woodshop and gives us much more credibility with potential members interested in woodworking. More people mean a wider variety of knowledge and skills, and a larger pool of volunteers for our community programs.

Adding more people increases our available resources, which allows us to add and upgrade equipment. We are upgrading our social media presence by utilizing a professional rather than relying on volunteers. We are actively promoting our classes on social media, and maintaining a constant series of classes to increase our visibility.

Adding more space will give us room for more equipment, larger classes, more people. We are actively seeking a larger facility that will provide kid-safe classroom areas, larger workshops, and more studio space for artists and artisans. We are currently in a 4,100 square foot facility that is absolutely full.

Adding more resources means reaching out beyond our membership for fundraising.

Ultimately, we want to move to having a paid staff to manage the space.

A makerspace is defined by three factors: people, resources, and location.

The most important factor is people. They provide the knowledge, the skills, the mentoring, the assistance, the training - and the learning and growth. The culture - the way these people interact with each other - is critical to success.

RMM has a very strong core group with a broad array of skills, and a very healthy culture. RMM is an entirely volunteer-led organization with no paid staff, so our ultimate impact will be determined by how well we can grow our membership. We have artists, artisans, engineers, tinkerers, hobbyists, and entrepreneurs - people who can make pretty much anything.

Resources are the equipment and supplies needed to create. On the artistic side, RMM offers the opportunity to create using wood, metal (welding, forging, casting), ceramics, fibers, plastics, dyes, painting supplies, and other materials. On the technology side, RMM lets you create using 3D design software, electronics, microcontrollers, robotics, custom PCBs, advanced networking, internet of things, and more. The impact over the past eighteen months of the addition of our laser cutter, industrial metal lathe, and professional SawStop table saw and router show that investments that seem trivial in the grantmaking world can have profound effects on our capabilities and desirability for potential members. The laser cutter provided essential capabilities for our COVID-19 response.

Location, Location, Location. It determines your capabilities; it determines your constraints; it determines who you can serve. RMM is currently in a 4,100 square foot facility in Woodlawn, Alabama - a neighborhood on the east side of the city of Birmingham. It offers low rent, but in a scruffy neighborhood away from the major commuting routes. While we have over 1,100 members in our group on the Meetup application (https://www.meetup.com/RedMountainMakers/), our location in Woodlawn has kept them from actually becoming a part of our community.

Because it is full, adding new equipment, new capabilities means performing triage - losing one capability to gain another. We need more space, and we need a location that is more convenient to more people and able to safely accommodate youth.

RMM was started in 2012 by a group of people who had been members of makerspaces in other cities and weren't willing to live in a city without one. They organized, started paying dues and meeting together, and in October 2013 moved into our current location in Woodlawn.

It was a mess. It was a former medical clinic, so 4,100 square feet was broken up into 38 rooms. The group invested lots of sweat equity tearing out walls to make usable space. And the group grew.

2016 was both the high point and low point for RMM. By mid-2016, RMM had over 70 members. A group of RMM members mentored the Woodlawn High School Robotics team and took them to the semifinals of the First Robotics Huntsville Regionals. They were a rookie team, but were selected to compete in an alliance in the playoffs.

The low point came when one of our founding members was shot at the makerspace by two fourteen year old kids who attempted to rob a young lady in our back lot. They followed her to the back door; he walked into the room from the opposite side and was shot. He survived, but was no longer willing to spend time in Woodlawn. Membership dropped precipitously.

Yet, RMM survived and stayed financially stable even through the darkest days. Over time, it slowly grew, attracting Makers who could see the vision through the grunge.

Then came COVID-19...

It is said that every cloud has a silver lining. The pandemic - and our response to it - was a catalyst for RMM. We shifted from making things for fun to the very serious purpose of making face shields to protect healthcare workers and first responders and coordinating the distribution of personal protective equipment statewide. We connected with more Makers, got more attention, and gained more members.

RMM finished 2020 with a 33.7% increase in revenue over 2019, with a 38.3% increase in membership dues and a 23.9% increase in donations. 2021 has started even stronger, with a new series of blacksmithing classes and more classes planned for the summer in leatherworking, stained glass, and woodworking.

This success in the face of adversity has given us confidence to take the next step in the evolution of our organization. Our fundraising to date has been dominated by contributions from our members; we need to reach out and draw on a broader source of funding to reach our full potential. We have received our first major pledge - $20,000 from one of our existing donors to assist us in our move to a new location.

We are currently partnering with another nonprofit, HUB Worldwide, in our search for a new location. HUB collects surplus medical equipment and distributes it to under-resourced areas in the US and abroad. We are also in discussions with the Alabama Woodturners Association about possibly hosting them. While they don’t have the financial resources to help with rent, they do have equipment and a wealth of knowledge that can help bring in the next generation of woodturners.

Financials

RED MOUNTAIN MAKERS
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
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  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

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RED MOUNTAIN MAKERS

Board of directors
as of 3/21/2022
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Steven Wyss

The VON Corporation

Term: 2021 - 2022

Greg Good

Cardinal Health

Nicole Mubarak

BBVA Compass

Daniel Near

Fitz-Thors Engineering

Kris Kirby

IT network consultant

John Rhymes

Southern Company

Matthew Behling

IBML

Carlo Rezzonico

Artisan

Adam Smith

Businessolver

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? No
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Not applicable
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Not applicable
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Not applicable
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Not applicable

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 05/20/2021

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? GuideStar partnered on this section with CHANGE Philanthropy and Equity in the Center.

Leadership

The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
White/Caucasian/European
Gender identity
Male, Not transgender (cisgender)
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual or Straight
Disability status
Person without a disability

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity

 

Sexual orientation

Disability

We do not display disability information for organizations with fewer than 15 staff.