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TechShop is celebrating their first anniversary since opening a maker space in St Louis. One hundred local ‘makers’ will showcase their creations from the Summer of Making program on Saturday, August 26th, from 4pm-8pm.
The very first co-working meets maker space concept in Menlo Park, California, happens to be where the prototype for Square was first built. It seems like the payments company founder, Jim McKelvey decided to bring TechShop with him, on returning to the midwest. The St. Louis branch of TechShop opened less than a year after Square announced that they would be putting roots down in Cortex.
It if it was from a certain fondness that led to that recommendation, I can see why. TechShop instantly engages the other side of your brain.
I visited TechShop for the first time yesterday and my mind has been whirring with zany possibilities ever since. It reminded me of being back in school, where my favorite classes were wood-working and metalwork. All of which is to say that the 18,000 square foot space is like a playground for very big kids, who want to break stuff, mend stuff, build stuff and create stuff.
Despite having no engineering expertise whatsoever, I found something primordial about the place. I’d heard of the concept of “maker spaces” before, and assumed I knew what it meant, but after a guided tour of lazer cutters, 3d printers, screen printing presses and wooden lathes, I understood that my view of what it was ‘to create’ had not really kept apace with times that have been a-changing. As a “tech-guy,” I’d dimly assumed that everything was ‘digital,’ these days.
But after a peek into this DIY workshop and fabrication studio, I realized that I’d just landed in a fundamentally different world of co-working. Extremely specialized and sophisticated equipment that I would never have imagined having access to, was there just beckoning me to try them out.
It’s like a gym for artists or engineers and I was present to the sense of the tactile and reminded of the possibilities of physical computing. For a brief moment, I imagined people hacking objects and creating anachronistic interfaces, like something from the mind of Jorge Luis Borges.
Designed for entrepreneurs, artists, makers, teachers, and students come together to learn and collaborate, this shared creative facility is both an inventor’s playground or a great hobby hangout for anyone who wants to get away from the computer and, literally, get more “hands-on.”
Welding & Wizarding
Member Ambassador, Emily Elhoffer, talked me through some of the expensive equipment available to TechShop members.
“If you just had ‘one of those days’ and you need to let off steam, you gotta just try welding something. You’ll feel like a hero afterwards as you just learned to melt and meld metal. You’ll get all the satisfaction of prodding a campfire, or BBQ, only 10x better.”
She then proceeded to show me a T-Rex skull she’d recently carved out of granite, using a water jet – a giant precision cutting tool that cuts through pretty much anything with water… yes, water.
If you want to invent a physical product, this is the place to do it. Discussing the things local members had created, Mike Hill, General Manager, told me to expect the unexpected. He then thumbed open what looked like a wooden bound book, except when the pages fanned open, they lit up like some sort of wizard’s manual from Harry Potter.
We’ve only been going a year here, so most of our members who are on their way to building successful products are still at the patent pending stage. But nationally, TechShop has seen member creations go on to win Shark Tank and build a $6 million dollar company. This is a great environment to simply get an idea out of your head or go a step further and test a plan for mass-producing something.
At the Summer Showcase, our members will display many handcrafted products from lawn Roombas, and laser-cut topographical maps, to cosplay costumes, and 3-D printed jewelry.
Tours and demonstrations of TechShop machines and equipment will be available to all who attend, and various members will present and show off their creative abilities and the products they have been working to develop all summer long.
TechShop’s Summer Showcase in St. Louis
When: Saturday, August 26th
Time: 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Location: 4260 Forest Park Avenue St. Louis, MO 63108