More than just a therapeutic way to create, actively participating in a hands-on, immersive project activates our brains so we learn more than by simply watching or reading about a technique. Thanks to Saint Martin’s University and their Lacey MakerSpace partnership, soon we can all participate in building the future.
The Lacey MakerSpace at Saint Martin’s University is targeted at fostering innovation, product and idea development, entrepreneurship, and workforce development. More specifically, it is an important early component of the City of Lacey’s Innovation District concept. The Lacey MakerSpace will provide entrepreneurs shared capabilities for conceiving, designing, and prototyping products and services that can serve as an engine for further economic growth in the region.
Often associated with fields such as engineering, computer science, and graphic design, a MakerSpace is defined as a physical location where individuals gather to share resources and knowledge, network, and build. Its purpose is to promote entrepreneurship and provide the impetus and resources for the development of new products and services, advancing the local economy. The overarching goal of the Lacey MakerSpace is to promote economic and workforce development in the South Puget Sound through innovation, entrepreneurship, and skill development; and to provide the impetus and resources for the development of new products and services to support local and regional economic growth.
By serving as a facility where products can be prototyped and designs refined, the Lacey MakerSpace offers designers the support system to physically experiment with concepts and transition ideas to businesses. In the words of the City of Lacey Director of Community and Economic Development, Rick Walk, “the [Lacey City] Council’s vision is to create an economic environment for innovation accessible to the whole community where innovative ideas can be developed, prototyped and brought to market stimulating entrepreneurism, business startup and expansion and also growing a skilled workforce. The City sees the Lacey MakerSpace as a key spark to igniting this economic innovation.”
The group behind the project showcases our region’s most dedicated planners. The City of Lacey, Thurston Economic Development Council’s Center for Business and Innovation, North Thurston Public Schools, and Saint Martin’s University are working with members of the community to have the Zaverl Hall site open by the end of 2018.
Executive Committee Secretary Jim DeBlasio explains that the building has a simple goal. “The project started with the realization that many people in our community require more training and hands-on experience in order to apply for manufacturing and service jobs,” he says. “Also, we recognized the need to help companies to fill the ‘jobs of the future’ which are quickly becoming occupations of the present as many traditional jobs are disappearing.”
The idea comes from the original Fab Lab, a 2001 project attributed to M.I.T., the Grassroots Invention Group, and National Science Foundation. Since its inception, Fab Labs have popped up worldwide including one in Tacoma. “The Tacoma FabLab,” says DeBlasio, “has spun-off eight start-up companies in three years. We believe that model could work [in Lacey]. When people in our local community develop high-demand skills, such as custom fabrication and computer design, companies can innovate and grow the local economy.”
Committee Chair Graeme Sackrison agrees. “The development of the Lacey MakerSpace will afford those with ideas for new products the opportunity to produce and refine prototypes. It will be a great fit with the economic development and educational entities in the area.”
Once doors open, anyone is welcome to apply for a membership that is “a model similar to a gym,” explains DeBlasio. “We will provide training and certification on equipment—some of which will be required before members can use some of the equipment, such as 3D printers, computer design software, and other fabrication equipment. What is offered will evolve based on member interests. Members who commit early will have an opportunity to help grow this facility.”
But don’t let that seem daunting. The MakerSpace hopes to appeal to four primary groups, though everyone is welcome. These are entrepreneurs and small business start-ups, veterans hoping to learn a new skill or brush up their training, hobbyists without garage workshops, and young people just starting out.
“We hope that by bringing people of various levels and interests together in one space, collaborative learning and design will allow people to learn from each other and bring projects and ideas together,” says DeBlasio. Saint Martin’s students, staff and faculty are also excited for this opportunity. Dave Olwell, Ph.D., Dean of the Saint Martin’s Hal and Inge Marcus School of Engineering, serves as the vice chair of the executive committee for the MakerSpace, helping with planning, marketing and mentoring.
Follow the project’s growth on the Lacey MakerSpace website, Facebook page, and email newsletter. While online, catch up with their Shop Talk blog, or suggest future classes and workshops. Some potential offerings include fabric, textiles, and upholstery; CNC routing and milling; and electronics.
The MakerSpace hopes to add a plasma cutter, bench top metal lathe, and assortment of saws, hand tools, and machinery as funding allows. Contribute through the Saint Martin’s University crowdfunding portal to keep this vital project moving forward.
Nothing makes us more invested in a project than rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands dirty. Thanks to projects like the Lacey MakerSpace, you can do so while bringing ideas to life. And who knows? It could grow into a new hobby, passion, business, or career.