Three Rules to Follow when Making Awesome:

1. Don’t be on Fire

2. Be Excellent to Each Other

3. Leave it Better Than you Found it

by Alexandra Markovich | Photography by Dave Barfield

A recent archeological expedition in South Africa at the Rising Star Cave uncovered 1,500 fossil elements, mainly bones of an extinct humanoid (a species unknown until the find) called Homo naledi dating back 236,000 to 335,000 years ago. Typically, such artifacts would be removed and sent to a lab environment for further study; however, in South Africa a cultural antiquities law prevents archeologists from removing these fossil elements from archeological sites. Adding to the find’s complexity, some fossils were located in places too small to excavate or explore without risking damage. The team sent out a call for help and was able to locate two small women who could squeeze into the narrow passageways (one part as small as narrow as 18 inches) and obtain 3D scans of all the fossils. These scans were released to the public and David Brightbill, one of the founders of the Making Awesome makerspace in Railroad Square, took that as an invitation to put his 3D printers to the test.

Putting this information online allowed him to make exact replicas of the Homo naledi remnants through 3D printing, but the process did not stop there. Over time, he smoothed, sanded and sculpted the printed models into lifelike facsimiles. Making Awesome later donated these replicas to various local schools, including Maclay School and the University of Florida. Due to these generous donations, students would not have to learn about Homo naledi from a picture or textbooks, but instead will be able to handle and examine a precise replica of the fossils themselves. Being able to interact with these objects hands-on can better prepare students for what to expect in the field of archaeology.

This highlights just one example of the possibilities put in reach by the coalition of creators known as Making Awesome. Making Awesome is a makerspace that provides access to various mediums for crafting; such as 3D printers, electronics, metal and wood working and much more to the Tallahassee area. This may leave you asking “what is a makerspace?” A makerspace is a community center combined with resources like tools and manufacturing equipment to help people design and create works that they likely wouldn’t be able to produce working alone. Making Awesome is dedicated to teaching anyone who wants to learn how to make anything. And if they don’t know how, they will be happy to learn along with you.

The 3D printers are one of the most popular tools used by collaborators at Making Awesome, and are a relatively new piece of technology. If you are unfamiliar with the concept, 3D printing (also known as additive manufacturing) is a process where material, in this case plastic, is heated and forced through a nozzle one layer at a time to form an object. The nozzle is controlled by a computer using a 3D render file. 3D printing technology has not only helped Making Awesome bring people’s ideas to life, but also attracted both young and old alike to experiment with the creative process—whether to create fanciful objects or functional replacement parts (that otherwise may have been irreplaceable).

Not only is Making Awesome a makerspace, it is also a member based non-profit organization. All the tools and machinery that you see at the shop have been donated by fellow Making Awesome members, people of the Tallahassee community and other organizations. If you are interested in learning more, Making Awesome holds open houses on Wednesdays at 7:00 pm.

Interested in becoming a member? It’s easy! Go to to complete the membership application and agreement form online then wait for the board to review and approve your application. Once you are approved, you will be given a mentor to how you how everything works around the shop. After that there are only three simple rules: Don’t be on fire, be excellent to each other and leave it better than you found it.

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