Makerspaces Inspire Creators & Entrepreneurs

26 Jun 2017

In another step to help empower local entrepreneurs, the Phelps County Development Corporation recently led a group of local residents on a tour of the Nebraska Innovation Studio and its makerspace studio.

A makerspace is a collaborative work space that houses high-tech equipment that can be shared among students or adults to foster creativity or entrepreneurship.

Alli Donohue, former PCDC Project Coordinator, said she was encouraged by local business owners to learn about the program and possibly bring together groups interested in starting a local makerspace.

“The makerspace inspires people who are artists or creators to have the resources they need to create things,” Donohue said. Makerspaces often house equipment such as 3D printers, industrial sewing machines, wood-working equipment or laser cutters that can be rented to those interested in using them to learn or develop an idea.

“If they want to start a business making oven mitts, they can use the industrial sewing machines,” Donohue said. “If they have a great idea, they can create it on a 3D printer and then take it to a manufacturer to duplicate.”

Some makerspaces are collaborative efforts between libraries, schools, colleges or other community groups. Others are operated as a professional business where creators and entrepreneurs pay a daily or monthly fee to participate and use the space and equipment.

Across the country, makerspaces are popping up, especially in urban areas. Donohue said it would be a boost to a rural area like Phelps County to have such a space to encourage entrepreneurs and help students develop skills in art, science, technology and engineering.

A successful Fab Lab, which is another term for makerspace, has been operating in Independence, Kan., (population 9,164) for several years. Events at the Fab Lab have included Maker Girl and Maker Diva programs to inspire girls to pursue STEM careers. With the help of a 3D printer, creators at the Kansas Fab Lab created a “Cyborg Beast Hand” for a 13-year-old girl born without fingers on one hand.

Those joining Donohue on the local tour to Lincoln included Betty Sayers, owner of Nebraska Rural Living and co-owner of the F. Johnson Building; Lori Swanson, Phelps County extension assistant; and Jackie Whipple, Mosaic’s Central Nebraska Community Relations Manager.

Donohue has made contact with the Holdrege Public Library, the Don Sjogren Community YMCA and the Holdrege Public Schools on possibly collaborating on a local makerspace project.

Although some of the pieces of a makerspace are available locally, such as a 3-D printer at Holdrege Public Library, wood-working equipment at the Mosiac woodshop and industrial sewing machines at the extension office, there’s no open door policy on using the equipment.

Donohue encourages anyone interested in using a makerspace or helping start a makerspace in Phelps County to contact PCDC at (308) 995-4148.

More information on the Independence Fab Lab can be found HERE.