By Michele Nash-Hoff
The National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship held a Makerspace Ecosystem Summit titled “Make/Shift” in Irvine on April 24-26th, and I was able to attend the last day. I learned that in 2016,” the California Community College Chancellor’s Office, Workforce and Economic Division funded the $17 million CCC Maker Initiative for three years under the Doing What Matters for Jobs and the Economy framework.
It was the first statewide initiative to grow a system of community college makerspaces and included funding for 800 internships.
After a rigorous application process, 24 “California community colleges were awarded grants to establish makerspaces — do-it-yourself centers where students have access to technology that allows them to create, invent, learn and share ideas. Each of the selected colleges was awarded from $100,000 to $350,000 per year for up to two years.” The makerspace at Mt. San Jacinto Community College in Menifee that I visited last October on MFG Day was one of the funded makerspaces.
“Makerspaces —also known as fablabs — are places in a community where people get together to learn and invent using technology such as 3-D printers, computer-aided design (CAD) software and manufacturing equipment that might otherwise be unaffordable for an individual to purchase.” The California Community College (CCC) “Maker initiative is aimed at strengthening the workforce by inspiring students to learn by doing, teaching in-demand skills for jobs in science, technology, engineering and math fields, partnering with employers to provide internships…”.
The makerspace grants were planned to coincide with a program by the CCC “to promote its more than 200 career education programs as affordable training for good-paying jobs.” The CCC is the largest provider of workforce training in the U.S. with 114 campuses across the state serving 2.1 million students per year. Its career education programs are developed in partnership with local industries and taught by instructors with direct work experience.
At the first session on Friday, Willy Duncan, Superintendent and President of Sierra College said that while the initial funding has ended, he is committed to continuing the good work and getting follow up funding for the makerspaces. He emphasized that entrepreneurship in 4th Industrial Revolution is being led by entrepreneurs disrupting existing technologies. He said that the Fourth Industrial Revolution is interacting with other socio-economic and demographic factors to create a perfect storm of business model change in all industries, resulting in major disruptions to labor markets. It is a fusion of new technologies and talents.
The skills needed are more complex and cut across disciplines. Artificial Intelligence, Industrial IoT, automation, and robotics have the potential of creating new jobs, but will widen the skills gap.” He referenced the Future of Jobs Report, which states that automation will accelerate skills shift and social and creative skills will be more important — 42% of skills will change and
75 million jobs could be displaced. The less you make now will put you at risk for being displaced.
He mentioned that a study by the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism on Third Space Competencies stated that “third places” are places where you can connect to unlock innovation, drive collaboration, and develop talent. He recommended that educators need to create third places within makerspaces. He said, “A mindset of agile learning will be needed on the part of workers in the future. Project-based learning is the hallmark of makerspaces, and students who struggle in traditional leaning may excel in project-based learning. The future will require life-long learning to continually acquire new skills.”
Mr. Duncan said we need to figure out how to revamp learning to stay relevant. It can’t take years to change. Collaboration is critical to implementing change and learning how to lead “from the middle.”
Partnerships through collaboration within the College as well as within the community
Amy Schultz – Dean of Continuing and Technical training at Sierra College said that they partnered with Hacker Labs to create their Makerspace and said their makerspace has an advanced manufacturing. lab with Haas CNC equipment. Partnerships succeed when each partner benefits so it can be sustained.
Dr. Cathy Kemper—Pelle, President of Rogue Community College, in Grants Pass, OR said they partnered with local community to create a makerspace in the downtown area of the city. They bought an old manufacturing building and converted it into large Makerspace, and students are participating in Invent Oregon.
Cabrillo College in Aptos, near Monterrey Bay, partnered with local Goodwill for creating internships for makerspace students and held a joint internship fair.
Dr, Carlos Turner-Cortez. San Diego Continuing Ed. said that their Center provides noncredit training classes that are free.
Some insights from the session were:
- Artificial Intelligence is allowing companies to develop new products at a faster pace
- Transportation is going autonomous and vertical at the same time
- Mode of teaching is being disrupted by online learning and compressed learning
- Try non-credit training if you want to innovate
Next, I attended the breakout session, Building a Strong Workforce – A TED talk panel discussion – The Future is Happening Now – Cari Vinci of InVINcible Enterprises
In Ms. Vinci’s presentation, she noted that the goal of 70% of students is to go to college, but 75% are undecided about a major. In the 21st Century workplace, only 23% of future jobs will require 4-year college degree, 34% will require an associate degree or some college, 34% will require a High School diploma or less, and only 11% will require an advanced degree. Today’s education isn’t meeting the needs of the workplace. A Gallup poll showed that the role of higher education needs to be “purpose-based education.” A mindset of lifelong learning and an understanding of what’s going on globally will be necessary. The new ”Power Skills” for technical skills is to learn what robots and Artificial Intelligence can’t do yet. Students need to acquire the 21st Century Power Skills to ensure success. Her Playbook for Teens helps students become the CEO of their life and find their career sweet spot. Community Colleges and makerspaces are catalysts to connect the dots through internships, apprenticeships, and entrepreneurship.
Panelist Andy McCutcheon, Dean of the School of Humanities and Maker Space, College of the Canyons, shared that their MakerSpace is part an integrative learning model that encourages the development of 21st century technical and professional skills while connecting students with community and career paths. Their MakerSpace offers unique opportunities for helping students to connect classroom content and theory with real world problem solving while exploring career opportunities within and beyond their majors and foster connections that may lead to work-based learning opportunities like internships and apprenticeships. MakerSpace 100 is a project that has placed 25 COC students with two local community partners, JPL’s Mars Rover Team and the Santa Clarita City Hall “Green Streets” team. Students are working in teams to develop solutions related to a NASA payload project and the Sustainable Santa Clarita project gaining important workplace experience while earning college credit and being paid through the CCC Maker Grant.
Panelist, Sarah Boisvert has over 30 years’ experience in advanced manufacturing and is the author of the book, The New Collar Workforce. She is the co-founder of Potomac Photonics, Inc. a laser machine tool company, which she and her partners sold in 1999. Since “retiring”, she founded Fab Lab Hub, located in Santa Fe, NM, which is a member of America Makes, the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute. Ms. Boisvert highlighted the re-emergence of manufacturing and briefly presented a blueprint of how to leverage this new, new manufacturing in colleges. She explained that the new collar workforce is a combination of entrepreneurial, design, fabricators, business, and other skills that is turning the traditional workforce training model on its head. She said that where blue collar assembly line positions are being replaced by robots, a new collar job is being created to maintain and control the systems. She said that the evolution of traditional blue-collar jobs into new digitally minded jobs that work symbiotically with robots and intelligent technology will be the key to exponential growth, and many new collar workers are attending vocational schools and community colleges rather than attaining traditional four-year degrees.
The final session featured a discussion of sustainability and funding insights from Foundation leaders:
Stephanie Bowman, Manager, HP Foundation – she said that the HP Foundation provides HP Foundation provides core business and IT skills training free of charge for start-ups, students, and small businesses through HP LIFE (Learning Initiative for Entrepreneurs) Each module takes one hour and you get certificate when complete. They have awarded $23 million in grants in 42 countries. The mission of the HP Foundation is to make life better for undeserved and underrepresented communities by providing technology-related learning experiences and opportunities.
Rachel Burnnette, Program Officer, Lemelson Foundation (Portland, OR) – she said that the Foundation uses the power of invention to improve lives, by inspiring and enabling the next generation of inventors and invention-based enterprises to promote economic growth in the US, and social and economic progress for the poor in developing countries. The Foundation has provided or committed more than $185 million in grants and Program-Related Investments in support of its mission. They run their funding through Venturewell.
I’m very glad to see that community colleges are taking the lead in providing career technical training to bridge the widening gap of job skills for the 21st century workplace. Makerspaces are uniquely poised to foster real world connections between theory and practice and between the classroom and what a student might want to do with his or her life. What concerns me is that many of the 24 California Community Colleges may wind up struggling to keep their doors open at a time when colleges across the state are looking for ways to cut costs in response to the statewide shortfall caused by a new funding formula. New programs without ongoing funding may be the first to go as districts tighten their belts. I can only hope that private foundations like those mentioned above and collaborative industry partnerships will alleviate the funding gap.
Jelani Odlum, Michelson 20MM Foundation (Los Angeles) – she said the Foundation supports innovation in education and higher learning initiatives. The Foundation’s founder, Dr. Gary Michelson, has several hundred patents for his company. She explained that the vision for their Spark Grants program is to introduce an innovative just-in-time grantmaking process to fill urgent needs for education organizations that are well-aligned with their key target outcomes. They seek to fund highly impactful initiatives that would not be possible if they needed to wait through a traditional grant decision timeline.
After the NACCE Summit I attended on April 27th formally ended at 1:30 PM, I went on the optional tour of a nearby makerspace, the Urban Workshop in Costa Mesa. It is the largest makerspace I have visited in my travels around the country and is the largest makerspace in southern California.
“Urban workshop was born out of my engineering and manufacturing company called Automotive Technology Group Inc., which opened in 2001. Prior to the economic downturn, we were one of the top EV and hybrid vehicle engineering houses in the country doing advanced R&D for the large auto makers and smaller startups such as Fisker Automotive. We also did a small number of professional motorsports.
When the economy slowed, most of the engineering services and manufacturing dried up but the motorsport business swelled. The rich guys who were racing cars weren’t affected by the downturn of the economy so we did well. Around January 2013, I started doing STEM presentations to kids at local high schools and colleges to tell them about the race cars hoping to peak their interest in the sciences. I had heard about makerspaces and started asking some of the teachers their opinion about them. Jokingly, they started to introduce me as the guy who is opening “The Shop.” I didn’t correct them, and before I knew it, people were showing up at ATG asking if this was “The Shop” and if it was open yet.
The Urban Workshop was founded by, and is privately owned by, Steve Trindade. During the tour, Steve told the story of how he started the makerspace, and later emailed me the following story:
“By January 2014, I had become very frustrated with the engineering services business due to customers not paying or going out of business leaving me holding the bag. Simultaneously, three to five people per week were stopping by to look for “The Shop.” That was when I decided to go for it. We wound down the projects we were working on, and signed a lease for a 5,500 square foot R&D space in May 2014.”
Steve said, “Our facility was basically built, painted, and set up by volunteers. People who walked in the front door and asked, is this “The Shop?” I said, It’s Urban Workshop, but we aren’t open yet. Almost always they replied, can I help? I said yes, and put them to work.
In the end, we renovated the facility and got ready to open with nearly all volunteer help. Using all volunteer help, we set up the new facility and opened as Urban Workshop on July 2014. We had a similar experience with volunteer help when we moved into our current larger building in April 2015.
Since then, the business has grown significantly, and our membership is over 1,700. Our small business members do approximately $20M in annual revenue directly out of our facility, and collectively they have raised nearly $70M in angel and venture funding. In 2015, we added youth programing similar to the old school shop classes and now serve over 1,000 students age 10 to 16 years old annually.”
I was impressed by the kind of equipment and resources the Urban Workshop provides. It is a full-scale DIY workshop and makerspace meaning that it includes all aspects of engineering, prototyping and manufacturing equipment. Steve said, “We have nearly $1M worth of equipment and because we used to be a professional services company, all of the equipment is current state of the art industry relevant equipment as opposed to the typical hobby level equipment you find in all other makerspaces. We teach classes on all the equipment and continue to add classes as fast as we can generate the course materials.
The equipment I saw on the tour included computers and software, large format plotters and printers, 3D printers, laser etchers, sheet metal fabrication equipment, manual and CNC machines, MIG and TIG welding, a vacuum forming machine, an autoclave, a silicone molding pressure pot, an extensive wood shop with a large CNC router, a composites fabrication shop, a vinyl cutter, sewing equipment, an electronics lab, and an auto shop with five auto lifts.
On their website, the following companies are listed as commercial partners/supporters:
- Epilog Laser Etchers – Educational pricing on equipment and extended warranty support to Urban Workshop
When I asked what “Making” meant to him, he said, “In one word, opportunity. Opportunity for our members to learn new skills, open a new business, fix something, help others, learn a new skill, make a new friend, complete a personal project or who knows what. It has been very satisfying to watch people come in the shop with one idea and end up making five more things they never thought of before on equipment they have never used before with the help of someone they met at Urban Workshop.”
- Haas CNC Machines Educational – pricing on equipment, extended warranty support, free computerized training and simulation station to Urban Workshop.
- Autodesk HSMWorks – Free HSMWorks CNC programming software for members to use on site.
- SolidWorks – Free engineering software for members to use on site.
- Laguna Tools – Educational pricing on equipment, software and extended warranty support to Urban Workshop.
- National Instruments – Free Virtual Bench all-in-one test equipment and LabView software for members to use on site.
- Ingersoll-Rand – Educational discount on machine tooling and fixtures to Urban Workshop.·
Steve said, “The initial response to Urban Workshop was overwhelmingly positive, and the level of enthusiasm was incredible. The response continues to be great and the level of excitement and comradery continues to grow. Almost weekly a member comes to my office to thank me for opening the shop and enabling them to be able to make their dream project or start their new business. I knew this would be fun and satisfying, but I never imagined the extent that it would be so well received.”
One other observation he made is that whether you call it hacking, making, or tinkering, “the desire people have to use their hands is universal and fundamental. It is extremely satisfying to figure something out, address a problem or need one has or create something from scratch. I believe it has a therapeutic value and allows one to focus on something for a time without distraction. This is something that is unusual in these days of smart phones and social networking.”
In describing the projects his members are working on, he said, “They vary just as much as the members do. We have young professionals who are starting their own businesses all the way to the “burning man” crowd. It is impossible to nail it down and give a simple example. I have seen everything from ruggedized super tablets designed and manufactured in the shop to an Arduino controlled dog feeder and a talking Wi-Fi enabled Christmas tree. Urban Workshop’s membership is approximately 45% startups developing and manufacturing new products, 40% hobbyist, and 15% students. The hobbyists are the most diverse and work on home projects, vehicle restorations, boats, motorcycles, gifts, tons of wood working and cabinetry, arts and crafts, holiday decorations, cosplay, prop making, toys, and you name it.”
When I asked what his future plans are, he said, “Our long term the goal is to open additional locations. Currently, we are expanding our class offering to include many more project classes that will help guide people on the path of making. The youth program continues to grow, and additional levels will be added. Our most promising new product is the licensing of our operational procedures and class documentation to other makerspaces world-wide, providing operational training, and instructor training to enable them to prosper and help even more people.”
I’ve only visited one other makerspace about which I wrote, Vocademy in Riverside, that had a plan to expand to other locations, but its focus was on working with high schools to provide the career technical training that high schools used to provide. With the depth and breadth of Steve’s business experience, he is more likely to succeed with his future plans than others.