TECHSHOP DETROIT: ‘MAKERS’ OF DREAMS
THURSDAY APRIL 26th, 2012
If you count yourself among the many who dream about making something – a work of art, a gizmo or gadget, a better mousetrap, or even something more complex – you are a Maker. If you like to tinker, take things apart and figure out how things work – you are a Maker. If you are crafty, have an eye for design, or like working with textiles – you are a Maker. If you have these ‘maker’ impulses but have always been thwarted because you didn’t have the tools or know-how, great potential awaits you at TechShop, a new national workshop model opening its newest location right here in Metro Detroit’s Allen Park. TechShop provides Makers and Makers-to-be with the tools, space and assistance needed to ‘make’ dreams into reality.
Chairman and Founder, Jim Newton, explains how TechShop came to be – “I live and work in California and had been working on the popular TV show MythBusters and was also teaching a class on combat robotics – through those two projects I had access to all sorts of great tools and resources. When those gigs ended, the most painful part was the loss of access to those tools and resources. I started thinking about how to build a business model that would support the cost of assembling all those great tools and a facility to house them. The idea of a gym membership model came to me in 2005 and in 2006 the first TechShop opened in Menlo Park, California.”
Ford was instrumental in bringing TechShop to Detroit. Bill Coughlin, CEO of Ford Global Technologies Licensing, first became aware of TechShop in 2010, connections were made and the Detroit-area store was put on the fast track. “Our partnership with TechShop will connect Ford to the community of local innovators, and spark imagination that could be the solution to problems that we couldn’t solve before, or develop all new ideas that are answers to questions we weren’t even asking. In the future open innovation will play an incredibly important role in the progression of our company,” said Coughlin.
TechShop Detroit is the latest location to open, and since December’s soft opening the Allen Park TechShop team has already signed up 600 members – their goal is 1000 in order to keep the workshop open 24/7. The tool array and workspace is impressive; there are tools to help you create almost anything. Members are using machining tools, woodworking, plasma cutters, welding equipment, electronics, laser etching tools to create in 2-d or 3-d, heavy duty textiles machines, plastic molding machines, and high-tech painting equipment. Members also enjoy a workshop that offers state-of-the-art safety gear and procedures, training on all the machines and a space plan and employee culture that encourages collaboration among members. Essentially, a Maker’s dreams come true.
“One of the biggest surprises for me is the number of new companies that have been incubated in our TechShop locations,” said Jim Newton, Founder. “One of the great Tech Shop success stories is the guy that had an idea for a case for the iPad. He took a couple of classes and began to fabricate his design for the DoDo case.” This Tech-Shop member is now the owner of a multi-million dollar company.
Karen Corbeill is the Education and Events Coordinator at TechShop’s new Metro Detroit location and has been there from the beginning. She says there are 15 employees and they are all creative types: ‘DIY-ers’, ‘hackers’ and ‘Makers’ that are driven to help the members. “This is what Detroit is all about…we have so many people that are part of this community with loads of talent and experiences but not necessarily with the resources. We have the resources here to feed that talent and ingenuity,” said Corbeill.
Luciano Golia is a very recent transplant from Italy to Michigan, his wife is from Allen Park and the news about TechShop’s arrival influenced their decision to settle there. Golia has been a Maker of musical instruments for 24 years and recently completed a double bass at TechShop. He says his craft requires skills in carving, woodworking, music, and math. “The TechShop – it is a beautiful place and very creative,” shared Golia. “Technology and my work are not in alignment because every instrument is custom made, but the TechShop is nice because there are other people there making many different things and it is nice for a creative to be with other people working at different levels with different skills.” Golia sees the TechShop membership as a way to keep his business going while he and his wife are getting settled. Golia’s recommendation for other artists on using TechShop: “… it’s a tool for your creativity, it should be a great help for artists because any kind of prototype or piece of art could be created there thanks to the help of a team of very experienced people and great tools.”
TechShop Detroit will be hosting a Grand Opening event May 5-6 from 10am to 6pm on Saturday and Sunday. (CLICK HERE for more details and a map) It is open to the public and there will be activities, tours and demonstrations appropriate for all ages. Exhibitions and Presentations will be offered by TechShop partners: Autodesk, Ford Global Technologies, Instructables, The Henry Ford Museum and Etsy. “We want people in here making their dreams,” said Corbeill.
Newton has an even broader dream for TechShop. He imagines TechShop locations all over the country and has a vision of families that will see TechShop as a recreational opportunity. “Wouldn’t it be great to have families choosing an outing to the TechShop workshop from the list of possible family activities?”