Empowerment: Fall 2022

This week a new group of students from Lynchburg City Schools Empowerment Academy begins their semester at Vector Space. As they embark on a new community project, we wanted to share the work of last semester's students.

Vector Space has partnered with Empowerment for several years, but that partnership, like so many other things, was interrupted during the pandemic. Each semester five students who are staying on top of their grades and have a good attendance record are selected to spend each Wednesday afternoon at the makerspace. Fall 2022 was our first semester back, and we chose Blutooth Speakers as the project. Each week we spent time getting to know students, training them on the woodshop and electronics tools, and giving them tools to express their creativity, like laser engraving and spray painting. By the end of the semester we had a collection of fully-functional, highly personalized speakers that each student took home.

Throughout the semester we learned of students' interests, goals, and previous hands-on experience. This group was particularly adept at handling power tools and being able to visualize a 3D object from a set of 2D plans. Many of them had shop class at Dunbar Middle previously, and they were gratified by the hands-on work of cutting, routing, sanding, and assembling their wooden speakers. Electronics was a new frontier for most of the students, with the exception of an attempted lamp repair by one ambitious teen, but they showed persistance and an admirable amount of competitive spirit in building the best looking and sounding speaker. As always we began with a plan that included room for following the students' lead. Their interests lead to the unplanned lessons of laser cut stencils, leather handles, programmable LED lights, a space-themed spray paint effect, 3D printed speaker accessories, and advanced wood joining techniques.

We celebrated their successful speaker build with a field trip to Blackwater Branding + Add Logo, where local recording artist Phinees motivated the students with his own story of following his passion to success. A stop into Mrs. Joy's for a cookie along with an entrepreneurial boost from another Lynchburg role model rounded out our field trip. With the semester wrapped, we are now working to connect these promising students with our local employer partners at EDM, Southern Air, and Foster Fuels for internships and post-graduation employment.


Vector Space: Driving Away the Cold

On a welcome sunny day after Virginia’s recent cold snap I had the pleasure of hearing the heart warming story of downtown Lynchburg’s Vector Space member Stability X. With sunshine streaming in the window of her bus, soon to be home, she told the story of how she came to use Vector Space as a way out… Stability joined Vector Space in Sept 2021 after moving here from Georgia, where she became familiar with shared workspaces. As a mother and a disabled veteran, Stability found herself bumping into housing barriers. Trying to use her disabled veteran’s allowance to rent an apartment was not working. Like a sack of bricks landing in her lap she realized that with the modest allowance and rising cost of housing she would not be able to afford a large enough space to house both her and her first child. Now four weeks away from another bundle of joy in her life, Stability tells me about how she sees the bus as her way out. For Stability, access to a place with tools and a supportive community like Vector Space is an opportunity to create her own housing, a way to “do it however I want to do it”. 


When Stability moved to Lynchburg she had her mind open and found Vector Space by a stroke of curiosity. Stopping to snap a picture after driving by one day she navigated her way to the website, pointed her compass towards membership and hasn't stopped rolling over there in her bus since. 

Stability in her Schoolie!

Satbility's most recent collage piece



Engineering Mentoring

When I decided to study engineering, I knew that I liked science and I liked to build things, and that engineering probably included these things. I wasn't completely wrong, but certainly misguided, and it's an experience I've heard from many of my fellow engineers. If there isn't an engineer in your life, you likely have little understanding of what engineers do in general, and even less about specific subdomains. Part of the solution to this problem must surely be for engineers to engage with the public and serve as the source of this knowledge. This is the purpose of BWXT's Engineering Mentoring program, to engage working engineers with high school students in a hands-on way, through the completion of a small engineering project.

Vector Space partnered with BWXT for the second time this fall, with the goal of bringing fresh and exciting educational experiences to this year's cohort. For this semester's project, we chose to build modular performance stages. The Academy Center of the Arts served as our mock customer, providing students with a rider typical to a performance they would host, with design specifications clearly laid out for our budding engineers. These included a budget, striction dimensional accuracy, and a minimum load requirement of 150 lb/sqft. Students worked in teams of four, each guided by an engineering mentor to first design a stage on paper that met these requirements, then build a small scale prototype from basswood, followed by the full scale build from construction lumber, and finally inspection and load testing.

Though I was looking forward to destroying all of the student built stages with a mechanical press, they all withstood the maximum 2,500 pounds of force over a 2 foot square, far exceeding the load requirements. Next time I won't underestimate their engineering abilities.

This project was made possible by the Future Focus Foundation, BWXT, and Framatome.

Makerspace Move + Expansion

2023 is shaping up to be a BIG year for Vector Space. With the support of our Board of Directors and community partners, our team has secured the perfect location for the makerspace of our future: 2004 Memorial Avenue. This high-visibility location includes infrastructure for both industrial shop space and clean workspace to accommodate diverse maker mediums. The new building will increase our footprint by 60%. With the expansion of our welding and machine shops, the addition of pottery and printmaking studios, and increased shared workspace, our new location solidifies our future and our role in Lynchburg's legacy of making. 

Click here to learn more about the campaign, including video footage of the new space.

Math Marathon 2022 Wrap Up

The second annual Math Marathon has come to an end, and though the problems got harder, after 26.2 hours, we're proud to have collectively solved 43 problems this year, earning 5 more awards and reaching level 3 on The hardest problems of the event (144 and 169) were solved by Emily Griffen, Andrew Burks, and Jesse Hyatt. Two participants, Jesse Hyatt and Adam Spontarelli, completed the full 26.2 hours, though their productive output was logarithmic.

There were several memorable moments throughout the 26.2 hour event, from 5 hour attempts at single problems, to conversations about our math educations, to the infamous correctly-guessed solution, but there's one story in particular that I'd like to delve into. At hour 24, when working together with a high school student, we had found what we thought was the solution to a problem, and in order to submit the solution to, we also had to complete a captcha challenge. We talked about how captcha questions are becoming more difficult for humans as computers are better able to solve them, and I suggested that captcha questions should just be challenging math problems if someone really wants to ensure that a human is on the other end. The student responded saying, "that doesn't make any sense, computers are great at solving math problems."

This certainly isn't the first time I've heard this sentiment, despite it being grossly misguided. Computers are as good at math as hammers are at building houses, which is to say, quite poor. Computers have no idea how to find prime numbers or how to check for pallindromes or search for common factors. Computers turn on and off bits and store the resulting state, nothing more, and it's only by the intervention of human-made code that this extremely rudimentary task can be made to do what we call math. Then why bother using computers at all? Because they're able to perform these manipulations quickly, in fact very quickly. If you're skeptical of this computer-as-simple-tool perspective, try it yourself, ask your computer for the equation of a circle that passes through 840 integer coordinates.

It's understandable where this confusion comes from. Few people outside the computer science professions know what it means to program a computer, and in their interactions with computers, they often ask questions for which the solution is already known and obscured from view, in other words, someone else has already programmed the solution you're looking for. What is the sine of 22 degrees? Even your calculator can solve this one, but have you ever thought of what the algorithm might look like or even the fact that there must be some programmed calculation of the answer in the first place?

This student's common misunderstanding was a powerful reminder of why professionals need to take the time to step out of their seclusion and show others what it is they do, and why it's so important. All communities, Lynchburg included, need people who can wield computers as tools to solve difficult math problems, and more generally, this depth of understanding is needed if we hope to make any original work. These lessons can't always be found in the home or in the classroom, lessons I'm glad for the Math Marathon to have instilled in at least one person.


In addition to solving Project Euler problems as a means of recognizing math in our community, we asked local elementary school students to share stories of when they use math outside of the classroom. You can enjoy listening to some of the excellent responses below.

Elementary Students Use Math Too!



Thank you to all of our problem-solving participants and to everyone who sponsored and supported this event.

Problem-solving Participants:

Dawn Thomas - U.S. Navy

Jason Thomas - CCRI

Derek Schmell - Cisco

Jesse Hyatt - EDM

Kerry Silva - Engineer

Andrew Burks - Engineer

Emily Griffen - Engineer

Luke Chapman - Randolph College

Shauna Shepard - Randolph College

Peter Sheldon - Randolph College

Todd Matthews - Framatome

Jonathan Stephens - BWXT

Greg Troyer - Framatome

Bo Browder - VES

William Henderer - VES

Aruind Misra - Framatome

Mike Coco - University of Lynchburg

Adam Spontarelli - Vector Space


Read about our first Math Marathon here.


Now Hiring: Outreach Coordinator

Outreach Coordinator Job Posting

Outreach Coordinator leads outreach, audience development, and community engagement efforts for Vector Space. The Outreach Coordinator reports to both the Executive Director and the Director of Education at Vector Space.
The goal of outreach at Vector Space is to introduce new people to the available learning opportunities at the makerspace. This includes adults, teens, and occasionally families. This role is expected to take 20 hours per week. Compensation will be discussed during the interview process.


  • Plan and implement outreach to community members and groups to forge deep, engaged, and meaningful relationships, targeting groups and communities throughout the year in order to increase attendance at Vector Space events and enrollment in Vector Space programs
  • Work with staff to create and implement social media campaigns, including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and other platforms heavily used by audience segments
  • Manage Public Relations to generate and track press coverage, including reviews, features, and listings, both locally and nationally, when appropriate. Expand public relations efforts to increase national profile, with a particular focus on trends and research in maker education 
  • Work with the Vector Space staff and Board of Directors on outreach strategies
  • Manage and expand Vector Space scholarship offerings, designed to provide access to underserved and impoverished communities
  • Help to develop and manage partnerships with local schools, nonprofit organizations, and businesses
  • Work with staff to understand upcoming community and educational events and programs

To Apply
To apply, please send a resume and cover letter to Applications will be reviewed after October 31, 2022. This position is vacant and the chosen candidate will start at their earliest availability.

Summer Programming for Teens

Summer Programs now open for enrollment! ☀️
We are offering three sessions for teens to build their maker skillset. Woodworking, public art, and environmental science are available for registration now.
Woodworking Summer Session
June 13-17, 9:00-3:00

Learn the basics of wood working, and build your own table.

Public Art Summer Session
June 20-24, 9:00-3:00

Paint a public mural in Downtown Lynchburg this summer.

Waterworks Summer Session
July 25-29, 9:00-3:00

Build a working model of Lynchburg's water distribution system.

Learn more and register:


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