Drop by a Camp Invention program during the summer and you will see scores of begoggled grade schoolers deeply engaged with their tools and gizmos developing the next great invention that will change the world.
Camp Invention, a program of Invent Now, based in North Canton, annually serves 80,000 students across the nation. These days, young inventors learn through Camp Invention not only what it takes to create a product, but also how to patent that product and ultimately take it to the marketplace. As president and CEO of the Aspen Institute Walter Isaacson has said, “Vision without execution is just a hallucination.”
Many will recall the workshop at Akron’s former Inventure Place where children had access to an ever-changing array of industrial scraps that could be combined in a multitude of creative ways. Fast forward to today. The simple workshops of yesteryear are being transformed through technology, savvy mentors and entrepreneurship into dynamic makerspaces. Across Ohio, makerspaces are sprouting up at high schools, colleges and universities, libraries, old warehouses and factories. Cleveland Public Library boasts the TechCentral MakerSpace, Lorain County Community College has Fab Lab and Case Western Reserve University is creating the seven-story think[box]. The Columbus Idea Foundry acquired a 65,000-square-foot former shoe factory and established one of the world’s largest makerspaces.
Makerspaces are drawing creative people from science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics to apply their skills with the aid of sophisticated equipment ranging from 3-D printers to laser cutters. But visit a makerspace on any given day and you will see much more than people hunched over sophisticated equipment. You will see individuals with innovative ideas iterating their processes, failing, pivoting and best of all, learning from others as they experiment.
Makerspaces fuel the creative process through collaborative learning and the camaraderie generated through shared experimentation. The rubber truly meets the road when makerspaces are able to weave entrepreneurial skills into the creative process so that inventors can envision what it will take to bring their product to market.
Case in point
Take the case of Stow’s Britt Duenyas, who used the TechCentral MakerSpace to prototype a new role playing game dice. Initially starting out using the 3-D printer, Duenyas switched to the Epilogue mini laser engraver to craft intricate symbols designed to appeal to advanced gamers. He then took his idea to Kickstarter, which turned out to be a real game changer for the young entrepreneur when he exceeded his $1,000 fundraising goal by more than $84,000.
After several production headaches, Duenyas decided to invest in his own laser engraving equipment and credits his time at TechCentral with being the catalyst for increasing his comfort level with the machines and product development. He plans to launch four new lines in his next campaign with his eye on moving out of his basement office. This is one of many stories about creative people capitalizing on makerspaces to build their ventures.
Deborah D. Hoover is president and CEO of The Burton D. Morgan Foundation. She is committed to building the capacity of Northeast Ohio’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.